Drug firm to transform Flint auto plant, bring in 1,000 jobs

 

 

 

Posted: 12 a.m. April 20, 2010 | Updated: 12:14 a.m. April 20, 2010

Drug firm to transform Flint auto plant, bring in 1,000 jobs

 

 

 

Tenfold jobs gain: Why not?

"It’s pretty bold," Phil Hagerman told me, "for a company that has 400 employees today to say that we’re going to hire 1,000 in five years and 4,000 in 18 years, but the reality is, we’re in an industry where the tide is rising at 15% to 20% a year."

 

Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy of Swartz Creek, founded 35 years ago by Hagerman and his father, is growing sales at a 50% annual clip by focusing on the delivery of high-cost drugs and follow-up care to people with complex medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, severe rheumatoid arthritis and various cancers.

"While that sounds like a pie-in-the-sky number," Hagerman said of the 4,000 new jobs by 2028, "we were able to convince the state that it’s really not a leap, and it’s very doable, and we’re the guys that are going to do it."

In return for that job-creation promise, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority is expected today to approve an extensive 18-year package of tax and workforce training incentives for Diplomat. The company plans to invest $12 million to relocate its headquarters and expand operations in a deserted automotive complex in Flint.
There’s room to grow

General Motors sold the former Fisher Body plant in 1988 to developers who renovated and renamed it the Great Lakes Technology Center. Thousands of engineers and other GM workers occupied it, but that number dwindled until the last 400 or so were moved out as GM retrenched following bankruptcy. The complex was sold at auction in December, and Diplomat decided in March to buy a 360,000-square-foot chunk of it.

Hagerman said it was "an unbelievable value" to acquire so much Class A space for $880,000. The purchase is expected to close in the next 30 days, he said.

"We’re going to be creating a new national distribution center, moving all our education and training, all of our call center people, and we’re going to use this space as a footprint to expand our business over the next 10 years," he said. "Normally, you can’t make those kinds of decisions because the cost of real estate and the cost of upkeep is so great. You very rarely have the luxury to buy a home that you’ll take five to 10 years to grow into."

Nurses and others needed

Diplomat is primarily a nationwide distributor of mostly very-high-cost biological drugs to patients who need a lot of follow-up consultation. These drugs, which tend to cost between $1,500 and $3,000 a month for treatment of cancers and debilitating diseases, are very powerful and often have serious side effects.

 

"Specialty pharmacy revolves around taking care of 1% of the nation’s sickest people," Hagerman said. "These people who are on our services, like MS patients, get a patient care continuum where we are calling them monthly. We have care plans and contracts to manage their medication usage."

That means Diplomat must hire nurses, pharmacists and even software programmers, along with call-center workers. Some of the jobs may be filled by former autoworkers.

The company expects sales to reach $600 million this year and double to $1.2 billion in 2010. It has hired 66 employees so far this year. People interested in jobs can apply at

 

www.diplomatpharmacy.com (click on "Career with Diplomat" at the bottom of the page) or by e-mailing a résumé to resume@diplomatpharmacy.com.
No. 6 so far, with plans to rise

According to Inc. magazine’s 2009 list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America, Diplomat was tops in revenue growth among 43 firms listed in the health care field.

Diplomat’s biggest competitors include mail-order giant Medco and retail chains such as Walgreens, which have specialty divisions. Overall, Hagerman said, his firm is the sixth largest in the specialty pharmacy space nationwide.

Obviously, he doesn’t intend to settle for staying there.

 

 

 

Drug firm to transform Flint auto plant, bring in 1,000 jobs

 

 

Posted: 12 a.m. April 20, 2010 | Updated: 12:14 a.m. April 20, 2010

 

 

 

A huge, twice-abandoned General Motors complex in Flint will soon be home to a fast-growing pharmaceutical company that vows to create more than 1,000 jobs there in five years — and as many as 4,000 jobs by 2028.

 

Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, a family-owned firm near Swartz Creek, about 10 miles west of Flint, is expected to receive approval today for about $75 million in state tax credits and workforce training funds to relocate its headquarters and launch a big expansion on the site of a former Fisher Body plant.

"We’re flipping our model around, and we’re going to put every job we can in Genesee County, Michigan," instead of scattering sites around the nation, as is common in the drug industry, said Phil Hagerman, Diplomat’s president and co-founder.

If Diplomat grows as fast as Hagerman predicts, transformation of the Flint site for nonautomotive use would rival the conversion now under way of Ford’s Wixom assembly plant into a renewable-energy park for grid-power storage and solar panels.

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