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Pfizer announces 300 new jobs amid a $750 million expansion near Kalamazoo

Pfizer
Pfizer said it expects to hire another 300 workers in Portage, near Kalamazoo, as it plans to expand production capacity for sterile injectables. The increase represents a 10-percent increase in workers at its Portage campus. (Flowersandtraveling / Shutterstock.com)
  • Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Portage is its largest, and soon will expand
  • The factory was instrumental in COVID-19 vaccine production, which is expected to decline as the pandemic wanes 
  • Adding production capacity will allow the global pharmaceutical company to add as many as 19 new products by mid-2024

Pfizer Inc. announced Monday it will add another 300 workers as it expands capacity of injectable medications at its Kalamazoo-area manufacturing complex. The move comes as the pharmaceutical giant expects its COVID-19 revenue to fall.

About $750 million will be invested in Pfizer’s campus in Portage, just south of Kalamazoo. The company said the new positions will be added to 450 already planned hires at the recently opened complex that makes sterile injectable medications and vaccines.

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The positions are said to include operating technicians, process engineers and scientists, adding hundreds more high-tech positions to the global company’s largest manufacturing facility. About 3,000 people now work across the west Michigan site.

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The expansion will be to the company’s new, 400,000-square-foot modular aseptic processing center (or MAP), a production facility that company officials had announced in 2018 along with an initial $465 million investment. Beyond that, the Pfizer campus most recently underwent $120 million in investment in June as the company ramped up its production of Paxlovid, the COVID-19 antiviral medication.

The facility in Portage ​​is “one of the most technologically advanced sterile injectable facilities in the world,” David Breen, Pfizer Kalamazoo vice president, said Monday morning at a press conference in which he stood beside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.;

For Michigan, the expansion news boosts its growing biotech industry as the state is trying to diversify its jobs base. Kalamazoo already has the most concentrated area of pharma workers in the U.S., according to national biotech data. 

“I’m very excited about what this means in medicine, what it means in life sciences in Michigan and generally what it means for west Michigan in terms of jobs and growth,” Whitmer said at the press conference. 

Pfizer’s [NYSE: PFE] announced plans for Michigan come just days after it announced $2.5 billion in combined expansion to sites in Ireland and Belgium. The $284 billion company is based in New York.

Increasing manufacturing capacity is critical to Pfizer as it plans to roll out 19 new products over the next 18 months to counterbalance declining sales of COVID-19-related products — which will reach $55 billion in sales this year — along with medications that will be coming off of patent protection. 

Pfizer’s revenue doubled in 2021 to $81.3 billion, due in part to its early development of an approved COVID vaccine. 

Pfizer stands to lose $17 billion in revenue between 2025 and 2030, CEO Albert Bourla said on a Nov. 1 investor conference call, solely based on loss of exclusivity in its existing medication and vaccine lineup.

Also declining are sales of the COVID-19 vaccine collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech, of which some of the U.S. production is taking place in Portage. Bourla in November would not say how far revenue for the vaccine is expected to fall as death risk and pandemic vaccination urgency fades, and vaccination becomes more like a routine flu shot. About 80 percent of Americans have received at least one of three COVID-19 vaccinations available in the U.S., and Pfizer just asked for federal approval for an updated vaccine for children ages 5 and under.

“(COVID-19) products, both from a vaccine and the therapy perspective that Pfizer has developed, are going to be quite relevant for many years to come,” Bourla said on the investor call. Still, he added, the company is preparing financial guidance for 2023 and beyond.

At the same time, he said, the company is excited about its pipeline of new medications and vaccines which offer the potential for revenue growth beyond what could be lost in the next few years. Among them over the next two years could be the only RSV maternal vaccine on the market, Bourla said, along with an RSV vaccine for older adults.

“More than two-thirds (of the new products) have the potential to be blockbusters,” Bourla said of the Pfizer development pipeline. That, he added, “is the most ever in Pfizer's history.”

The success of the company’s COVID-19-related processing in Portage also likely played into the company’s decision to fulfill the injectable expansion plans, said Stephen Rapundalo, president and CEO of MichBIO, the state’s life sciences advocacy organization. 

“They wouldn’t be doing this (expansion) unless there was a good, solid business need,” he said. 

“It’s just further commitment to the facility and the community,” Rapundalo added.

The site has about 300 existing openings for workers, and the new initiative adds another 300 to the total that will be recruited, Breen said. So far, he said, the company has not sought tax incentives from the state to help fund the expansion. 

Perrigo, a drug-maker and nutritional product manufacturer with a new U.S.-based headquarters in Grand Rapids, recently had to extend its hiring timeline to fulfill conditions of a $2 million state expansion grant

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Rapundalo said the hiring difficulty spans Michigan’s biotech industry and beyond, and is not reflective of the jobs or the market in west Michigan.

Total life science employment statewide grew by 5.6 percent over the past two years to 44,340 and Michigan is in the top 15 states nationally, according to a recent national biotech report cited by Rapundalo. Overall private sector employment in Michigan decreased by almost 5 percent during the same time, he added.

Pfizer helped fuel that growth as it expanded COVID-19 vaccine production, but Rapundalo noted that other pandemic-era companies also expanded to meet demand. 

Pfizer stock closed on Monday at $50.74 per share. Its year-to-date high was $55.72 on January 3, before the year-long bumpy ride for the stock market.

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