County approves incentive for Syngenta Biotechnology expansion

Jun. 24, 2013 @ 09:29 PM

To entice Syngenta Biotechnology to invest $94 million in a new administrative and research and development facility here and to add 100 or more jobs, county leaders approved Monday an incentive package for the company.

Based in the Research Triangle Park, Syngenta Biotechnology is the biotechnology research and development subsidiary of Switzerland-based Syngenta AG. The subsidiary is focused on developing genetic modifications for crops to boost their resistance to disease, insects or conditions such as drought.
The company has 364 employees in the park, according to information from the county. The incentive is tied to the addition of 100 additional net new full-time jobs with an average salary of $88,107.
Steven Goldsmith, a spokesman for Syngenta Biotechnology, said company officials hope that the number of jobs created would be greater than that. Speaking in support of the project at the meeting, Casey Steinbacher, president and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said the company is looking to add 150.
The expansion is targeted for the Durham County side of the Research Triangle Park on a site on Davis Drive where the company recently also completed a new $72 million greenhouse facility.
The county is competing with sites in Iowa, Minnesota as well as Brazil, China, London and France for the expansion.
Goldsmith said Syngenta has research and development operations at those locations. He said the sites in China and Brazil have expanded biotechnology research operations and are strong competitors with the park.
“The other sites also have strong plant research capabilities and the ability to grow,” Goldsmith said in an email.
County leaders voted unanimously to approve an incentive package of up to $375,000 for Syngenta. Of the total, $275,000 would be tied to the facility investment of $94 million. The additional $100,000 is tied to the training of Durham residents for jobs.
Steinbacher and others spoke in favor of the project. The meeting also drew Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, and Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, the head of biotechnology for Syngenta.
Several commissioners spoke in favor of the incentive. Brenda Howerton, board vice chair, asked company officials about the possibility of internships for Durham County students. Commissioner Ellen Reckhow was supportive of the idea of internships, and urged the company to take advantage of the portion of the incentive for training Durham County residents to take jobs at the facility.
“That would be the ultimate if we get a number of Durham County residents employed at your facility, and I think the concept of inviting and involving our young people to come out and see the facility and see what kind of job opportunities are available and also to possibly apprentice or intern at your facility would be a great marriage,” Reckhow said.
Goldsmith said Syngenta’s board will make a decision at an upcoming meeting on whether or not to support the project and if it is approved, where it would be located.
“We appreciate the consideration of the county commissioners and look forward to their decision,” Goldsmith said. “It would be inappropriate to share any other information about plans at this time as no decision has been made.”