Durham county officials on Wednesday announced that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly will invest $450 million to expand its manufacturing facility at Research Triangle Park (RTP) and create 100 new jobs over the next five years.

The company has also announced an “aspirational goal” of committing $35 million in investments to businesses owned by people of color and women,” according to a county press release made public on Wednesday.

Company officials estimate that about 90 percent of the jobs will be entry level positions that pay an average wage of $56,408, plus benefits, according to the release.

The company says most of those jobs will be filled by applicants who have earned a BioWork certificate from Durham Tech, or have earned a high school diploma.

The mammoth project is being supported by a 10-year “performance agreement” with Durham County totalling up to $5 million that was approved by county commissioners on Tuesday during a regularly scheduled meeting.

The payments will “follow performance verification” by county officials who will determine if promised “jobs, investment and community benefits targets were achieved,” according to the release.

“We are very excited about Lilly’s robust expansion here in Durham County, and what it means for the Triangle region,” Brenda Howerton, chair of the county’s board of commissioners said in the release.

Howerton added that over the two years that the company has been at RTP, Eli Lilly “has demonstrated the corporate model that we aim to encourage through workforce partnerships with local schools and community college, investments in diverse vendors, and a commitment to environmental responsibility.

“By providing paid internships and apprenticeships, they will help prepare students for the project’s entry-level jobs that offer a career pathway.”

Wednesday’s press release indicates that “initial production at RTP will begin this year,” with preparations that are ongoing for inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The new jobs can’t come soon enough to address the growing need for jobs that pay a living wage for a great many high school graduates who end up struggling to make ends meet while working in low-paying, service-oriented jobs. 

“When we revised our business recruitment policy three years ago, this is exactly the project we hoped to recruit,” Andrew Miracle, Durham County’s economic development director said in the release.

Miracle noted that “with most of the new jobs only requiring a BioEWork certificate from Durham Tech, or a high school education,” Lilly “has consistently demonstrated their commitment to workforce development by raising industry awareness and offering training  opportunities investment.

“We are excited to see this significant investment move forward,” he added.

Gov. Roy Cooper also weighed in on the announcement.

“When companies already in North Carolina choose to expand here, it reaffirms our status as the best state to do business,” Cooper said in the release. “Our strong communities and dedicated, well-trained workforce will help Lilly continue to succeed.”

With its main offices in Indianapolis, Lilly’s expansion at RTP will include “device assembly and packaging capacity to support an increased demand for Lilly’s incretin products that treat diabetes,” according to the release.

Lilly officials say the company has introduced 18 new medicines since 2014 “to make life better for people living with diseases like diabetes and cancer, and intends to introduce “several new medicines” this year.

Since arriving in North Carolina in 2020, Lilly has earmarked about $4 billion to create new manufacturing facilities in the state, including $1.7 billion for the development and expansion of its RTP site, according to the release.

Edgardo Hernandez, Lilly’s executive vice-president who presides over its manufacturing operations, said the company this year is focused on finding innovative solutions to meet a growing demand for their medications.

“Expanding our operations at RTP will accelerate the rate at which we can produce medicines that patients can rely on to address serious health challenges like diabetes,” he said.

He added that expansion of Lilly’s manufacturing facilities at RTP “is key to ensuring even more patients will have access to medicines they need in the future.”

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