Jun 4, 2015

Optimistic officials cut ribbon on new Cody Labs warehouse

Heralding the unique new jobs it’s bringing to the area, officials on Monday welcomed a new $3.7 million warehouse that expands Cody Laboratories.

“It’s a magnificent thing, it’s a magnificent story, because it provides (economic) diversity,” said Gov. Matt Mead at a ribbon-cutting for the Cody pharmaceutical manufacturer's new 11,000 square-foot facility. It’s located just off Road 2AB on the northern edge of Cody.

Cody Labs President Bernhard Optiz (second from right) visits with Gov. Matt Mead while the company's Ryan Osborne (second from left) talks with others during Monday's walk-through of the new warehouse. Photo by CJ Baker
The completed warehouse represents a partnership between government and private enterprise — the Wyoming Business Council provided what’s effectively a $2.53 million low-interest loan for the project. State leaders say it can be an example for other communities. There's also hope the warehouse is just the first phase of a much larger Cody Labs campus at the Road 2AB site.

The optimism shone through on an otherwise overcast afternoon.

Cody Labs President Bernhard Opitz thanked the gathered officials for “the help you all gave us in building a home in Cody.”

“Your help really made it happen,” Opitz added later.

“This is a very very special occasion here that we’re sharing today in Cody,” said Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown, referring to it as a “game-changing project.”

Cody Labs, owned by Philadelphia-based Lannett Company, has already hired 45 more people who will help man the new warehouse. The high-tech facility will house hundreds of pallets of raw materials and other items needed to make medications like painkillers.

The hires mean Cody Labs now has close to 130 employees and a nearly $7 million annual payroll, according to information from the economic development group, Forward Cody, which helped push the project.

It’s a long ways from 2000, when founder Ric Asherman started the business in his Cody garage.

Governor Mead welcomed the new jobs that are outside the state’s primary industries of mineral production, tourism and agriculture. He said growing other types of businesses can help smooth out any ups and downs in those three main industries. Further, Mead said having different types of available jobs can help keep Wyoming’s young people in the state; he said about 60 percent of 18-year-olds leave within their next decade.

“We want diversity to give those young people as many chances to say yes to staying in Wyoming as possible — to give them as many different industries, as many different looks at different career opportunities as possible so they can say, ‘Yes, I have an opportunity to stay and raise my family in the best state in the union,” Mead said.

Cody Labs President Bernhard Optiz beams after cutting the ribbon on the company's new warehouse off Road 2AB. Photo by CJ Baker
The public-private warehouse project was years in the making and, for reasons that included conflict with the since-ousted Asherman, changed significantly from its initial concept. The original plan was to erect the warehouse right next to Cody Labs' existing operations on the city's west strip, in the former Walmart building. However, it was ultimately decided that Road 2AB would be a better site.

“We have a lot to learn from this project,” Wyoming Business Council CEO Shawn Reese said, adding that one of those lessons is that it's possible to overcome challenges.

Beyond the $2.53 million from the business council, Forward Cody chipped in $450,000 and Cody Labs paid the roughly $756,000 remainder, said Forward Cody CEO James Klessens.

Under the partnership, Forward Cody actually owns the building and land and will lease it to Cody Labs. The pharmaceutical company will have the option of buying the property after five years, Klessens said, with Forward Cody able to use the proceeds for future economic development.

“That got us into the discussion on the next phase,” Klessens said. The “next phase” is Cody Labs' possible plan to build a $100 million campus for making active pharmaceutical ingredients just east of the warehouse.

Monday's event offered perhaps the only chance for the general public to tour the facility, which will eventually house hundreds of pallets of materials used to make drugs. Photo by CJ Baker

Even as the officials celebrated the warehouse's completion, the vision of the broader campus — and the scores of new jobs that would come with it — was on everyone's minds.

“All of these people, all of these factions came together and taken this dream  created a plan and then they acted on that plan and here we are,” mayor Brown said, as she stood in the doorway of the warehouse. “And with hope and the good Lord willing, in the next couple years, this dream will grow again.”

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