Janesville still could land isotope plant

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
— Janesville is still in the running for a medical isotope plant that would create 100 or more high-paying jobs.

Gregory Piefer, founder and chief executive officer of SHINE Medical Technologies, said Monday that Janesville, Stevens Point and Chippewa Falls are the three contenders for the plant that will source molybdenum-99, an isotope needed for detecting heart disease and treating cancer.

One media report last week seemed to indicate that Janesville had been eliminated. Another said SHINE had narrowed its list of three candidates to two.

Piefer said SHINE plans to make a decision in September.

"When we do decide on a community, we will make a choice and not do it by a process of eliminating the others," Piefer said.

All three communities are believed to be putting together aggressive incentive packages for SHINE, a medical manufacturing company that is well on its way to raising the cash portion of what's expected to be an $80 million startup operation.

Last week, the Stevens Point City Council met in closed session to discuss its incentive package, which hasn't been made public.

"We've put together a great pool of incentives from different angles that we hope will work in attracting them to the city," Mayor Andrew Halverson told the Stevens Point Journal.

"We're being very aggressive in the incentives that we're looking at."

Janesville officials, too, are tight-lipped about their incentive package for SHINE.

Earlier this summer, SHINE got a significant boost with a $10 million commitment from Knox LLC of Las Vegas, the investment vehicle of Stevens Point native and UW-Madison alum Frederick Mancheski.

Piefer said Monday that just because Stevens Point is Mancheski's hometown does not give the city an advantage over either Janesville or Chippewa Falls.

"Fred is a businessman above all else, and he's done well for himself by sticking to solid business principles," Piefer said.

SHINE's decision will rest on the best overall package that includes logistics, location, financial incentives and other considerations, he said.

"All three communities are doing a good job and working hard," he said. "We will pick the community that will maximize our success.

"We're a startup, not a huge corporation that's trying to bleed a community dry. Whatever city we select, we will certainly give back to the community."

The addition of SHINE and its high-paying jobs—$50,000 to $60,000 annually—would be a boon for Rock County, which learned in June that NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes—a SHINE competitor—would build a $194 million plant in Beloit and create more than 150 jobs by 2016.

With financial backing from Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply and Hendricks Holdings, NorthStar plans to break ground in 2012 for an 82,000-square-foot building on the city's northeast side. Production would start the next year with the company using linear accelerators to make radioisotopes for medical imaging.

Both NorthStar and SHINE plan to produce molybdenum-99, an isotope needed for detecting heart disease and staging cancer. Mo-99, as it is called, decays to produce technetium-99m, which is used in approximately 50,000 nuclear medicine procedures each day in the United States.

NorthStar will produce Mo-99 without using uranium as the source material. NorthStar officials said any production method using enriched uranium creates waste that's difficult and costly to handle, and it can exist for thousands of years.

SHINE officials said their method of Mo-99 production does not use highly enriched uranium, does not require a nuclear reactor, uses a "greener" method for production and fits well with the nation's existing supply chain.

SHINE is working with the private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research and other public and private collaborators to reach its financial goals.

Last fall, it signed a $500,000 cooperative agreement with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's Global Threat Reduction Initiative to advance novel technology for production of Mo-99 without using highly enriched uranium.

As it meets technical and financial milestones, SHINE becomes eligible for up to $25 million in federal matching funds, Piefer said.

Last updated: 6:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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