Janesville21.2°

Medical company to build new plant in Beloit, create hundreds of high-paying jobs

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 23, 2011
— Rock County is one step closer to becoming the medical "isotope capital of North America" and the home of several hundred new high-paying jobs.

NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes said Wednesday that it would build a $194 million plant in Beloit and create more than 150 jobs by 2016.


Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of SHINE Medical Technologies—a NorthStar competitor—said Wednesday that his company still is considering Janesville for an isotope plant that would create 100 or more high-paying jobs.


"Both companies can be in Rock County," said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville, which hosted SHINE CEO Greg Piefer at its annual dinner in March.


"The North American market for this particular product is underserved, and from an economic development standpoint, it would be a remarkable transformation for Rock County to become the isotope capital of North America.


"It's a growing market, the size of the pie will get bigger and there are no pie makers in North America. To land two in Rock County would be remarkable."


But Beckord isn't counting his pies before they're baked. He's thrilled NorthStar selected Beloit over a competing parcel in Illinois, and he hopes SHINE lands in Janesville.


"These are great jobs," Beckord said.


NorthStar plans to break ground in 2012 for an 82,000-square-foot building on the city's northeast side. Production would start the following 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 for 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.


Beckord said that while the companies might ultimately be competitors, both could locate in Rock County. The marketplace—not geography—will determine their success, he said.


The companies say their production methods will differ.


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


SHINE plans to produce Mo-99 using highly enriched uranium without using the nuclear reactor that creates environmental and safety concerns, company officials have said.


NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes

The Greater Beloit Economic Development Corp. worked closely with NorthStar to site the production facility in Beloit.


So did the city of Beloit, which will pursue a $50,000 training grant and provide other incentives, including 33 acres that it will sell to NorthStar for $1.


The site is next to a new electric substation that Alliant Energy is developing. It will give NorthStar access to large quantities of affordable and redundant electrical energy.


The Wisconsin Department of Commerce plans to establish the project site as an Enterprise Zone, which could translate into income tax credits of up to $14 million.


"The addition of a high-tech company like NorthStar will be an excellent addition to Beloit's industry mix and will greatly aid in the continued diversification of our economic base," said Andrew Janke, executive director of Greater Beloit Economic Development Corp.


George Messina, NorthStar's president, said Beloit will make an excellent home for NorthStar.


"We at NorthStar believe that our technology will establish a more secure, cost-effective and redundant domestic source of molybdenum-99," Messina said. "Rock County has a higher than average unemployment rate, and, as a citizen of the county, I am pleased to be able to make this announcement.


"The choice of this site was made easy for us by the attitude and willingness of the leaders of the Beloit city government. They have consistently worked with us in identify the best possible location and facilitated the entire process as we considered sites in both Wisconsin and Illinois."


NorthStar got a boost earlier this year when it received a "substantial" investment from Hendricks Holdings, a global holding company based in Beloit.


"I am delighted to be an investor in such an entrepreneurial and innovative business," Diane Hendricks, chairman of Hendricks Holdings, said at the time. "The U.S. is currently dependent upon foreign countries for its entire supply of molybdenum-99, and NorthStar has the technology to become a reliable domestic supplier of this critical isotope."


SHINE Medical Technologies

Piefer, CEO of SHINE, said Wednesday he was well aware of NorthStar's interest in Rock County.


But, he said, the county is big enough for both if he decides to locate his company in Janesville.


"One does not preclude the other," Piefer said. "This is a big market, and a lot of the existing capacity will be going offline in the next five years, so there will be a big void.


"There's room for both."


Earlier this month, Piefer said SHINE is considering locations in Janesville, Chippewa Falls and Stevens Point for a plant that would create 100 jobs with the possibility of more in the future.


Salaries, he said, could be in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.


Wednesday, Piefer said a decision is expected this summer.


"(NorthStar's announcement) doesn't change anything for us," he said. "Janesville is still in a favorable position on a very short list."


James Otterstein, Rock County's economic development manager, said the addition of NorthStar and the possibility of adding SHINE is welcome news for a county that's had its share of economic troubles.


"This is further evidence that our economy continues to diversify," Otterstein said. "In the last five or 10 years, we've seen more and more of that.


"This is certainly a market segment we would like to grow, and these types of projects serve as catalysts and anchors for other developments."



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