Major drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb picks Hillsborough for nearly 600 jobs

Tampa Bay Times
Published July 25, 2013

Major pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to open a 70,000-square-foot facility in Hillsborough County and fill it with nearly 600 employees averaging $65,000 in annual wages.

The company announced late Thursday that it expects to move into its "North America Capability Center" in January at a to-be-determined location.

Area economic leaders, already riding a recent wave of business successes — including new international flights from Tampa International Airport — cheered the arrival of Bristol-Myers Squibb as a particular coup. The drug company is a global brand, No. 158 on the Fortune 500 of major corporations. But it is also expected to play a significant role in Tampa Bay's fast-emerging health care and personalized medicine industry now anchored by USF Health, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, M2Gen and others.

Bristol-Myers Squibb's site selection team met with those cutting edge medical organizations, which helped persuade the company to expand here, said Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

"Everyone at the EDC is on cloud nine," Homans said. "This is why I came here — for this kind of project."

Bristol-Myers Squibb, based in Princeton, N.J., and New York City, said its center will be staffed at first by about 250 workers in information technology, marketing and business services, and other functions supporting the company's bio-pharmaceutical business in the United States.

Most of those positions will be filled by people living in the Tampa Bay area.

By 2017, the company also plans to locate more than 325 additional jobs supporting scientific and technical activities at the site, the firm stated.

With nearly $18 billion in annual revenues and 28,000 employees, Bristol-Myers Squibb chose Hillsborough and the Tampa Bay market after considering potential locations in the central and eastern time zones. North Carolina was among the most serious competitors.

Hillsborough County commissioners approved more than $2 million to help recruit the pharmaceutical company. Those funds will complement a state incentive package. If the company creates all of the promised jobs, it could get about $6 million in total incentives paid out over several years.

Gareth Morgan, a Bristol-Myers Squibb senior vice president, said his company evaluated many locations before deciding that Florida was the "best state for our new facility." The company chose Hillsborough County, he said, for its "talented work force, strong university presence, the Tampa Bay region's business climate, economy and quality of life, and availability of the necessary logistics and office facilities."

Gov. Rick Scott called the company's decision to expand to Tampa "great news" for Florida and proof that "companies are taking notice of our economic turnaround."

"This announcement signals that Florida has the resources necessary to support the operations of the biggest companies in the world," added Gray Swoope, Florida commerce secretary and CEO of Enterprise Florida, the state's business recruiting arm.

Ken Hagan, chairman of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, praised the project as a testament to the region's growing life sciences industry.

He also credited the collaboration between the company, the county and Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC and the Tampa Bay Partnership — the region's economic marketer that first got the tip that Bristol-Myers Squibb was looking to expand.

County documents show the company expects to generate up to $21.2 million in capital investment at its new location. At full staff, it will have a payroll topping $37 million, with wages averaging 157 percent of Florida's private sector average wage.

So now that Hillsborough has landed the drug company, what exactly is the "North American Capability Center" going to be?

The company says the center, the first in the country, will encourage an innovative and entrepreneurial culture.

"In short, the North America Capability Center will help us improve the overall quality and efficiency of our internal services and enable us to reinvest in our core business," said spokesman Frederick J. Egengolf.

"The Tampa market, with its pool of highly skilled workers and competitive costs, is an ideal location for the center. The investments we make now, particularly by increasing our commercial investment in diabetes and research and development investment in our exciting immuno-oncology portfolio, will help sustain our position as a BioPharma leader," he said.

Some of Bristol-Myers Squibb's bestselling medicines are Yervoy (metastatic melanoma), Orencia (rheumatoid arthritis), Sprycel (chronic myeloid leukemia), Baraclude (hepatitis B) and Onglyza and Bydureon for type 2 diabetes.

Combined, its Abilify (depression and bi-polar disorder) and Plavix (blood thinner to prevent heart attacks) drugs generated more than $5 billion in sales last year.

At the EDC Thursday evening, Homans rattled off a long list of area medical innovators, including Draper Lab and Johns Hopkins-affiliated All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, that may benefit from the arrival of Bristol Myers-Squibb.

Said Homans: "They have come to be part of this community."

Robert Trigaux can be reached at