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County Commission approves Eli Lilly’s planned Triangle expansion

Durham County last week welcomed the expansion of a major pharmaceutical company, giving the corporation a multi-million dollar boost to aid the project. 

In a 5-0 vote, the Durham County Board of Commissioners awarded Eli Lilly $5-million during the board’s meeting on Jan. 23. Between now and 2027, the project will construct a new manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park, investing $450-million and creating 100 jobs. 

The positions at Lilly will pay an average salary of $56,408, along with benefits. 

Lilly’s plans to expand have been in the works for months, said Durham County Economic Development Director Andrew Miracle. Several factors influenced the company’s decision.

“Our local universities produce a quantity and quality of talent that makes the Triangle one of the premiere destinations for companies across a number of sectors,” he wrote in an email to the 9th Street Journal in response to a reporter’s questions.. “Additionally, our region’s quality of life, cost of living, commute times, and a number of other factors make our market highly attractive for locating companies.”

Since 2014, Lilly has spearheaded a dozen new medicines for people with diabetes and cancer. Recently, the company announced plans to launch up to five new treatments in 2023. It is the latest Fortune 500 company in recent years to either arrive, expand its presence, or express an interest in coming to the region, joining the likes of Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta.  

Lilly came to North Carolina in 2020. That year, the company invested $474 million to construct its first Triangle facility, at the Parmer RTP campus in Durham. This site initially housed 462 employees and manufactured two diabetes drugs, Trulicity™ (dulaglutide) and tirzepatide. 

“Expanding our operations at Research Triangle Park will accelerate the rate at which we can produce medicines that patients rely on to address serious health challenges like diabetes,” said Edgardo Hernandez, Lilly’s executive vice president and president of Lilly Manufacturing Operations, in a company press release.

With its planned expansion, Lilly  has agreed to make “reasonable efforts” to hire and help students from  North Carolina Central University, Durham Technical Community College, and the NC Works Center Durham. The company says it will participate in local job fairs and other efforts aimed at preparing students for jobs.  

In his  email, Miracle said that the county accepted Lilly’s pledge to create 100 jobs over five years in part because the company’s commitment of $450-million “well exceeded the County’s minimum investment threshold of $50-million.”

The company’s desire to generate mostly entry-level jobs also made the deal appealing. “Recruiting entry-level jobs with an opportunity to advance to a career pathway is a high priority for the County,” Miracle said. 

In addition, the company commits “to undertake good faith efforts” to use minority-and-women-owned business enterprises for 25 percent of local spending on construction projects and other expansion-related goods and services.

Lilly also pledges to provide paid internships and paid apprenticeships as a founding member of the NC Biotechnology Center’s Apprenticeship Consortium. 

“We’ve seen them donate to Durham Public Schools; we’ve seen them volunteer at Hillside [High School]…,” County Commissioner Nimasheena Burns said at the meeting. “The beauty is that Andy [Miracle] has two more people on his team that will be able to make sure that, as we make these investments, they [Eli Lilly] are doing the things that we’re asking them to do.”

Officials expect Lilly’s expansion to add more than $ 9.9 million in property tax revenue to Durham County’s coffers over five years. The company anticipates production at the new Research Triangle Park site will begin this year.