Argos incentives get county OK

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 08:01 AM

County Commissioners voted unanimously to add $600,000 more to an business-incentive package for a Durham-based pharmaceutical company that’s developing new treatments for kidney cancer, HIV and lupus.
The decision matches a city pledge to Argos Therapeutics made last month. Officials are also expecting the state to pitch in, bringing the total offer to $3.6 million.
In return, they’re expecting Argos to “bring 236 new jobs to the community,” Deputy County Manager Marqueta Welton told the commissioners, who were quite plainly enthusastic about the prospect.
Estimates suggest that when it comes to jobs over the next decade, the “greatest growth is going to be in this particular sector,” Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said.
Argos is one of the companies that’s trying to tailor its drugs to the genetic profile of the tumors or diseases they’re supposed to fight.
It’s gearing up to produce them on the assumption a clinical trial of one cancer drug involving 100 patients is successful. The company’s also using the proceeds of a $39.3 million to pay for intermediate trials of an HIV drug.
That information appeared in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that accompanied a recent move to begin selling stock. It raised about $45 million from an initial public offering on Feb. 7.
The county’s incentive offer is payable over seven years and, as usual, will operate as a giveback of part of the increase in tax revenue officials expect from the expansion.
City and county officials agreed to the package to convince the company to stay in Durham instead of moving to another site in North Carolina or possibilities in Florida and Quebec.
Argos already employs 90 people here in Durham, Welton said.
To give Durham residents a better shot at the new jobs, officials are working with Durham Tech and N.C. Central University’s BRITE center to arrange training for them, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ted Conner said.
BRITE is an acronym for NCCU’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise.
Welton noted that Argos is a home-grown business, with roots at Duke University dating back about 15 years.
“It’s great to attract new companies, but it’e even better when an existing company has success and grows in our community,” Reckhow said.
The county’s estimate of 236 new jobs differed from that given City Council members last month. Kevin Dick, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, told them to expect 179.
Memos indicated that Welton was referring to a 2018 goal, while Dick was citing a target for 2017. Both governments are expecting 236 by 2018.