Jobs at Amgen to add to Wake boom, but housing poses challenge
A new drug manufacturing plant in Wake County recently announced by Amgen is expected to create more than 350 jobs in Holly Springs.
However, increased development in the region has raised concerns about affordable housing and who can afford to live there.
Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., On Aug. 3 announced plans to expand its operations to North Carolina, stating that the new 220,000 square foot facility will be operational by 2025. Located at Friendship Innovation Park near the intersection of NC 540 and US 1, the facility will be the first to be undertaken in the field.
The 400-acre park will join the already established Holly Springs Business Park, home to the $ 2 billion campus of Seqirus and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, currently under construction.
Amgen marks the 47th life sciences project the state has recruited since 2017, totaling 7,200 jobs.
The average salary for Amgen’s 355 jobs will be $ 119,510, almost double the Wake County average salary of $ 63,966, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The company expects its median salary at the site to be $ 89,000 according to official documents.
The facility will mark the company’s first venture in North Carolina; however, it already has around 140 remote workers in the state. The majority of employees are in sales, not manufacturing.
Wake County has one of the strongest county economies in the state, being part of the Research Triangle and the center of state government. According to the 2020 census, the county’s median income was $ 84,215, well above the state average of $ 57,341.
State financial assistance
Amgen has received financial incentives from the state through the Employment Development Investment Grant approved by the State Economic Investment Committee. In total, the North Carolina Department of Commerce offered approximately $ 12 million in grants paid over a 12-year period.
The Commerce Department has estimated that the project could grow the state’s economy by $ 2.5 billion. The state incentives were approved on August 3 at the meeting of the State Economic Investment Committee in Raleigh.
Under the grant, the business is eligible for potential reimbursement based on a number of factors, such as tax rates, availability of labor, and the overall cost of developing the business. project.
The state only uses the grant in competitive situations, such as an outside investor considering locations other than North Carolina or an existing North Carolina business considering expansion out of state. In both of these cases, the grant is an incentive for companies to choose North Carolina, said David Rhoades, director of communication at the Ministry of Commerce.
Before deciding on North Carolina, Amgen considered Houston, according to official documents. The city of Houston offered the company $ 110 million in incentives in the form of property tax rebates and cash grants.
To receive the North Carolina grant each year, the company must meet certain criteria and continue to maintain them each year. Amgen is due to complete the minimum investment of $ 380.5 million and have hired all 355 employees by the end of 2029.
The 355 jobs will be divided into 26 manufacturing and quality managers, 220 engineers, 40 quality inspectors and 69 administrative positions. Amgen did not provide annual salaries for each of the positions.
Local financing and balance
Locally, Wake County and Holly Springs have offered approximately $ 23 million in incentives to the company over an eight-year period.
Through the Wake County Business Development Grant, Amgen will pay 100% of its property taxes based on new investments in the county based on an assessment by the Wake County Director’s office, said Michael haley, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development and Senior Vice President of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.
Once the payment is made, the company would be refunded 50% of those taxes, for a total of $ 13.2 million.
The city will follow a similar approach by reimbursing 50% of the taxes paid for eight years, but only up to $ 9.5 million.
The city will also provide all necessary easements and coordinate with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on construction of highway improvements identified in a future traffic impact assessment.
City officials approved the grant on August 17. The Wake County Council of Commissioners was due to vote on grant approval today.
The Wake County housing market is under pressure from all sides, said Lorena McDowell, County Director of Affordable Housing and Community Revitalization. Currently, it is not uncommon for homes to sell within a day of being put on the market, with multiple offers submitted on the same day.
The median selling price of real estate has increased every month since January, according to a report from the county deeds registry. The median June selling price was $ 383,000 compared to the January median of $ 302,000, with no indication of lower prices.
According to a 2019 NC Housing Coalition study, about 1 in 4 households in Wake County and 41% of renters are overcharged, meaning they pay more than 30% of their monthly income for housing and public services. And these numbers predate the recent housing price boom.
The county has become a popular destination for outside developers, as well as for individual owners, McDowell said. As a result, developers bought large plots of land, leaving Wake County with less space to build affordable housing.
The situation affects both workers and students seeking vocational training. Wake Technical Community College recently donated 6 acres to the county for the purpose of building affordable housing, with 30% of the units being reserved for Wake Tech students who meet certain criteria.
According to a survey carried out in 2020, 48% of students experienced some form of housing insecurity and 14% identified themselves as homeless.
As better paying jobs continue to arrive in the area, housing costs continue to rise. Unfortunately, the county has a bad history of economic mobility. Even when better paying jobs arrive in the county, the people who need them most won’t get them, McDowell said.
There is a significant gap between renting and owning in Wake County due to the capital required to buy a home. As a result, she fears that people in well-paying jobs above the county average, like those who will work for Amgen, may be lifelong tenants because they are unable to break into the market.
To help alleviate the situation, the city and its outside partners will need to continue investing in apartments and mixed-income housing programs for first-time buyers so that people can eventually move from renters to owners.
Recruit black employees
Amgen made a public company-wide pledge in October 2020 to hire more black employees into high-paying jobs, with a focus on those without a four-year college degree.
Amgen is a founding member of OneTen, a coalition of large national and international companies dedicated to hiring a million black Americans into family careers, according to the coalition’s website.
According to the 2020 Amgen Workforce Diversity Report, black employees were the second least racially represented demographic, just ahead of Native American employees.
Amgen did not provide information on how the company will recruit black employees or what percentage, if any, of new jobs would be reserved for black applicants.
Companies announcing new commitments to hire more diverse candidates, especially black employees, became common in the months following the death of a black Minneapolis resident George floyd, noted Henry mckoy, director of entrepreneurship at NC Central University.
âI hope someone who has to die isn’t the hurdle we have to go through to get people to buy ice cream from a black merchant,â McKoy said.
The company’s commitment to recruiting also coincides with the fact that nearly every industry in the country faces labor shortages and scrambles to encourage people to return to work.
McKoy believes black communities have historically been left out of the hiring practices of many companies, wasting readily available labor.