Press-Republican

August 17, 2013

Company expects to bring 80 jobs to Plattsburgh

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — A Malone company is expanding in Plattsburgh and plans to create 80 jobs within two years.

Asept Pak, which was founded in Malone in 2005 by Dr. Gary Hanley, has a lease with an option to buy the former Pfizer facility at 141 Idaho Ave. on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. 

The company uses advanced Rommelag blow-fill-seal machines to manufacture and fill vials and containers for pharmaceutical and other purposes in one operation, which reduces the risk of contamination.

Terry Wiley, head of manufacturing at Asept Pak, said the Plattsburgh facility will allow them to expand into the pharmaceutical market. The Plattsburgh branch of the company will be called SterRx.

Wiley said plans call for it to start operation by the end of this year or early next year. He said the first product will be an ophthalmic product they plan to market in the United States, Canada and certain other countries around the world.

“We are moving equipment in as we speak,” Wiley said Friday. 

‘GOOD TIMING’

The company will continue its Malone operation, he said, where 30 employees and three machines are in place focusing on medical-device products. The Plattsburgh venture is an excellent opportunity for two main reasons, he noted.

In 2011, the firm won a contract to produce 220 million vials yearly for five years of a product for treatment of cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

The former Pfizer facility, at 50,000 square feet, has infrastructure already in place that is well suited for the pharmaceutical industry. 

In addition, employees faced with the upcoming closure of the Rouses Point manufacturing plant have many of the skills needed for employment at SterRx. Wiley said SterRx will be looking for those with skills in laboratory chemistry, microbiology and pharmaceutical manufacturing, including both formulation and packaging.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” Wiley said. “They understand the industry.” 

SHROUDED CHAMBER

The Rommelag machines start at about $1.5 million and can cost up to $5 million. Four of the five that will be installed in Plattsburgh are due to arrive within four to five weeks.

According to the Asept Pak website, the blow-seal-fill process allows them to package a client’s product in liquid-unit-dose form, which helps reduce the possibility of human error in preparing doses. Because the containers are aseptically sealed, there is no need for preservatives in the product.

The containers are formed by extrusion of pharmaceutical-grade resin into a tube shape. Air is forced into the tube to form the desired shape and size container.

A mandrel is used to fill the container, which is then capped with a safety seal. All of that takes place within a sterile, shrouded chamber inside the machine.

SEEKS PRIORITY STATUS

Wiley said the company has submitted a Consolidated Funding Application through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for more than $1 million to be used for equipment acquisition. It has also applied to the council for Priority Project status, based on the number of jobs created and amount of investment.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas welcomed Asept Pak’s announcement.

“We’ve been pleased to work with Asept Pak over the last few years as they have developed and grown, and we look forward to assisting them with what we hope can be continued growth at both North Country locations,” he said by email.

CCC PARTNERSHIP

Also, the company has entered into a partnership with Clinton Community College to develop training programs geared toward employment at SerRx. That will also include internships, Wiley said.

Clinton Community College President John Jablonski said he is delighted with the arrangement.

“It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on, to respond quickly to meet the training needs of our local employers,” he said.

Jablonski noted it takes a certain degree of skill to operate advanced machinery such as SterRx plans to use, and CCC can help provide that expertise.

Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said he is glad to see a pharmaceutical company coming to Plattsburgh to reuse a facility dedicated to that industry.

“The facility they are using is absolutely perfect for their project,” he said after he toured the building earlier this week.

Bassett was also pleased about the agreement with the college. He said the relationship between local businesses and educational institutions gives the region another advantage in attracting investment.

Email Dan Heathdheath@pressrepublican.com