N.C Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland, county educators, local government leaders and economic development supporters joined executives from Novo Nordisk and Grifols Monday to celebrate the reopening of the newly-remodeled Johnston County Workforce Development Center in Clayton.
The ribbon-cutting comes after a $1.3 million design improvement of the 30,000-sq.-ft. training facility, which opened in 2005 to support Johnston County’s growing bio-manufacturing industry.
“Johnston County is a player in bio-pharma’s major leagues,” said Jeffrey Carver, chairman of Johnston County’s Board of Commissioners. “Now that we’ve gotten to the top we have to work every bit as hard to stay at the top, and that means keeping assets like the Workforce Development Center aligned with the fast-changing needs of the industry’s leading companies.”
Johnston County government, Johnston County’s Office of Economic Development and Johnston Community College (JCC) created the center in partnership with local bio-pharma firms. Today, Grifols and Novo Nordisk help fund the center’s operations through a special assessment as part of a state-created Research and Training Zone (RTZ).
“The creation of this state-of-the-art simulated drug manufacturing environment will improve how the college trains skilled employees for our bio-manufacturing industries,” said Dr. David Johnson, president of Johnston Community College, which operates the Workforce Development Center. “We remain so grateful to Grifols, Novo Nordisk, the RTZ and the Johnston County Office of Economic Development for their support in making this transformation a reality. Together, we’re filling the talent pipeline and ensuring the long-range success of our bio-pharma industry and Johnston County’s broader economy.”
Grifols, whose 1,600-worker campus in Clayton manufactures plasma-derived medications, is Johnston County’s largest private employer. The site is expanding in order to meet surging demand for Grifols’ therapeutic products. The company recently purchased 467 additional acres of land in Johnston County to accommodate future growth.
“The Workforce Development Center will open job opportunities and new career paths to residents in Johnston County and beyond,” said Sergi Roura, Grifols president of North America Facilities. “The Grifols Clayton site is investing in new facilities to double its current capacity, so we will need to increase significantly our workforce over the next few years. The Center will be critical in providing talented, skilled and highly-trained individuals to fill these roles. It will also enable us to provide better training opportunities to our current employees, allowing Grifols to train in a similar production environment without affecting our operations.”
Renovations to the center began in late April with a “sheetrock breaking” that attracted about 100 participants. The work has transformed the center from its previous academic layout to a design that replicates the bio-pharma workspaces its trainees will encounter when they go to work at Grifols or Novo Nordisk. The facility will offer hands-on lab training and simulation opportunities, for example, utilizing real-world bio-manufacturing environments.
Few workplaces are more advanced than that of Denmark-based Novo Nordisk. The company’s presence in Clayton began in 1993 and it now employs over 1,100 workers. In 2020, the company will open its $2 billion Diabetes Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients facility, adding 700 full-time jobs to the local economy. Across its quarter-century in Johnston County, Novo Nordisk has been a staunch supporter of workforce readiness. In 2003, the company donated to the county several acres of land to house the Johnston County Workforce Development Center.
“With Novo Nordisk’s capabilities in Clayton expanding to different processes, a facility uplift like the Workforce Development Center training lab will enable us to recruit and onboard new talent much faster,” said Chad Henry, general manager for Novo Nordisk operations in Clayton. “Collaboration with industry, JCC and the county helps create relevant, regional solutions to potential talent and training gaps. We are so fortunate to have this facility in our backyard to meet that exact need.”
The Johnston County Workforce Development Center opened in 2005 as a model for life sciences training and talent development. “Clayton has proven itself many times over as a conducive backdrop for bio-manufacturing in a state that is a recognized life sciences leader,” said Chris Johnson, director of the Johnston County Office of Economic Development. In recent months, Johnson’s office has begun collaborating with economic development counterparts in Nash, Pitt and Wilson counties. The group has developed a regional brand as North Carolina’s “BioCresent,” encompassing other large and growing pharma names such as Pfizer, Merck and Thermo Fisher. “One factor common to the success of companies and communities in the BioCresent has been ready and reliable talent,” Johnson says.