Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

A manufacturer of pharmaceutical ingredients in Petersburg is planning a $25 million expansion of its operations that is expected to add 156 new jobs.

AMPAC Fine Chemicals announced Tuesday the expansion plans for its plant on Normandy Drive in Petersburg. The expansion is one part of a larger project that state and local business leaders and economic development officials want to become a cluster of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the Petersburg area.

The company employs about 100 people at the factory now, having hired about 50 employees this year to ramp up production of pharmaceutical intermediaries.

“In the coming months, we are going to triple the size of the workforce here,” said Jeff Butler, president of AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a California-based company that is a top U.S. manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

“We are looking for all kinds of positions,” Butler said, adding that includes manufacturing operations staff. “We are also looking for engineers and chemists and quality control.”

The company expects to add the additional 156 jobs over the next two to three years.

The plant in Petersburg previously was owned by Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals Inc., which closed it in 2014, but AMPAC reopened the site in 2019.

The AMPAC plant expansion is part of a larger, planned cluster of pharmaceutical manufacturing resulting from a partnership between several businesses and organizations aimed at addressing chronic shortages of some medications in the United States by bringing pharmaceutical manufacturing that has moved overseas back to domestic production.

AMPAC has a partnership with the Richmond-based pharmaceutical development company Phlow Corp., which also is planning to open a production site adjacent to the AMPAC plant.

Phlow, which was co-founded last year by Eric Edwards, a Richmond entrepreneur and medical doctor, and VCU professor Frank Gupton, has a mission to build the supply of medicines that face shortages in the U.S. market.

The company has developed manufacturing processes that reduce the cost of production for active pharmaceutical ingredients. In May 2020, Phlow announced it had received a $354 million federal contract to help build a national, strategic reserve of essential medicines and to make active ingredients for more than a dozen medicines used to treat patients with COVID-19.

Another participant in the pharmaceutical manufacturing partnership is Civica Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by various U.S. health care providers to address chronic, generic drug shortages.

Civica announced in January that it plans to invest $124.5 million to establish its first in-house pharmaceutical manufacturing operation, which is also on Normandy Drive across from the AMPAC factory. Construction work is now underway on the Civica plant.

Tuesday’s AMPAC announcement was made at an event outside the plant attended by Gov. Ralph Northam and numerous other state and local officials.

“Over the past year of this pandemic, we learned a lot about our health system,” Northam said. “One of the things we learned is if we can make a critical product here in the United States, it is better for us. We were literally competing for supplies that were coming from all over the world. If we can make these products right here in Virginia, it is even better.”

“This will make Petersburg the cornerstone of a shared vision for American-based pharmaceutical manufacturing,” Northam said. “For our commonwealth, the result is new jobs and new innovation, and for the United States it means greater access to essential medications.”