Syngenta has selected its Research Triangle Park site for an expansion of the agricultural biotechnology company’s R&D work on new varieties of plants that require less water and resist insects better.
The Switzerland-based company on Tuesday announced a $94 million expansion at its RTP campus projected to generate about 150 jobs.
Right now, the Syngenta’s RTP work is split between two locations; the main campus on East Cornwallis Road and leased laboratory space a few miles away. With the expansion, the roughly 200 people working off site can be brought onto the RTP campus. Bill Hlavac, head of site operations at RTP, said those off-site workers will benefit not only from working in modern facilities outfitted with the latest technology, they will also benefit from their proximity to colleagues in the rest of the company.
“We know that innovation happens at the intersection,” he said. “Ideas are exchanged through casual interaction. We’re missing that casual interaction that produces great ideas.”
The expansion follows the opening this year of Syngenta’s $72 million Advanced Crop Lab, which was built around 30 climate-controlled environments contained within glass greenhouses. The 136,000 square-foot facility was under construction for two years.
The lab and office expansion announced Tuesday will add 200,000 square feet of space. RTP was selected for the expansion from a short list that included Syngenta locations in Iowa, Minnesota and Brazil. Hlavac said that the first hurdle of the expansion plan was getting it approved within the company. The second hurdle was demonstrating that RTP was the right location.
Hlavac said that a number of factors about the Triangle made a convincing case including the low cost of living, culture and access to talent. Half of Syngenta’s RTP workforce relocated from somewhere else, which Hlavac said underscores the fact perception of the Triangle as an attractive place to live and work.
State and local incentives were also a factor. North Carolina awarded Syngenta a Jobs Development Investment Grant (JDIG) of $3 million if it meets job creation targets in the next 12 years. Hlavac said that by 2018, Syngenta will hire up to 150 new workers for the site. The average salary of the new jobs will be $81,624 a year, plus benefits. The positions include scientists, researchers and information technology specialists. In addition to the JDIG award, the North Carolina Community College System also will provide $210,000 in worker training.
Hlavac acknowledged that North Carolina has long had a big emphasis on agriculture. But the state has also recognized the importance of biotechnology in agriculture, he said, noting the support of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Research Triangle Park Foundation. That recognition makes it attractive for Syngenta and other agbiotech companies to put down their roots and grow in the region.
“It’s not a surprise that agbiotechs have been popping up here and expanding,” he said.