Charlottetown’s BioVectra has announced a major expansion project that is expected to bring more than 100 new jobs to Windsor.
It is projected the $144.6-million project, including a $37.5 million contribution through the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, will see a total of 150 jobs added to the company’s roster.
The funding will help BioVectra Inc. move forward with a five-year expansion to enhance its biopharmaceutical capabilities in both Charlottetown, P.E.I. and Windsor, N.S.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in Charlottetown on March 4, while a messy mix of winter weather swept across the region.
The $37.5 million contribution from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) represents the single largest SIF Project ever awarded in Atlantic Canada.
“Thanks to innovations in life sciences, Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Canadian companies like BioVectra are creating new jobs and establishing themselves as global leaders in producing life-saving treatments for serious illnesses that affect millions of people around the world,” said Trudeau in a press release.
“Today, we are not only investing in an innovative Canadian business, but also in Canadians and the future prosperity of our country.”
The five-year project is intended to support BioVectra’s ongoing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) production capacity expansion in Charlottetown, as well as an expansion of its biologics capabilities in Windsor, including a mammalian cell culture facility.
According to a press release from the company, the plan calls for the addition of 150 high-skilled full-time jobs over the project’s lifespan between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
“We are pleased to announce plans to create 150 additional jobs, 110 to be located at our Windsor site and 40 in Charlottetown,” BioVectra President Oliver Technow said in a press release. “This is an extremely proud day for BioVectra, and we are deeply appreciative of the government’s support.”
The company has invested roughly $25 million in expansion work and technological improvements each year since 2015, Technow said.
“Today’s announcement is a continuation of our commitment to growth right here in Atlantic Canada.”
BioVectra develops and sells biochemical products to a global client base, including some of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies in the world, according to a press release.
“Our clients develop important, life-saving medicines for people all around the globe,” BioVectra’s Windsor general manager, Heather Delage, said in a prepared statement.
“This exciting expansion project is designed to help propel us toward being a top-tier player in the biologics field, where many therapies are advancing rapidly, and changing the way health care is delivered.”
The Windsor facility will expand in size over the development of this project.
Delage said the vision for the facility was always to have it grow in three stages.
“We are now operating Stage 1, inside the 50,000-foot footprint that exists on 24 Ivey Lane,” Delage said.
In 2019, their second-stage expansion will consist of approximately 10,000 square feet that will be added onto the existing building.
“This allows us to undertake large-scale purification of very complex products that are produced in the existing fermentation production unit at the facility,” she said.
Between 2020 and 2021, the third stage of expansion will include added fermentation capacity at the site. A free-standing facility of 20,000 square feet will be built to house mammalian cell culture production capacity.
Bernadette Jordan, the newly appointed minister of rural economic development, said the investment in BioVectra shows that the federal government is taking the rural economy seriously.
“Making sure that we keep jobs in rural Canada is part of my mandate,” Jordan said. “We have a vibrant rural economy and keeping jobs in places like Windsor or on P.E.I. is key.”
The minister said the company, which will market its products to the U.S., Europe and Japan, shows that rural companies can compete on the world stage.
Some of the challenges when it comes to attracting new businesses or expanding existing ones in rural areas is a lack of broadband internet and cell phone service access, that’s something Jordan is hoping to address during her mandate as the minister.
“Innovation doesn’t have to happen in a major urban area, it can happen in a rural community,” she added. “We have an ageing population, and young people who are moving to our cities, so it’s also about making sure we have a workforce available to all.”
Jordan also said broader issues like access to childcare and affordable housing have also been coming up across the country.
West Hants warden Abraham Zebian said he was anticipating more jobs coming to the area after Scott Brison announced the federal government's loan through ACOA last year.
"This is important for the area as these jobs will mean young families will be joining our community, investing in housing, becoming patrons of all the great shops and services, and use our many great trails and recreation facilities," Zebian said. "The growth is starting, which means a very prosperous future for Hants County."