A Canadian drug company could employ more than 100 people in Suffolk County by 2018 if its plans for two buildings once used by another pharmaceutical business go through, officials said Thursday.
Ropack Inc. of Montreal wants to manufacture, package and test drugs at 49 Mall Dr. in Commack and 155 Commerce Dr. in Hauppauge. The facilities, totaling 213,700 square feet, have been used by Forest Laboratories Inc., which is decamping to New Jersey after being taken over by another drugmaker.
Ropack's $43.6 million project is significant because Long Island has struggled to attract businesses from out of state -- let alone out of the country.
Paul Dupont, Ropack's vice president of marketing and business development, said it has been looking at sites for about five years and chose to locate its first U.S. factory in Suffolk because the Forest buildings are modern and ready for use. "We've never come across facilities of this quality," he said.
Ropack's customers are large drug companies looking to outsource the production, packaging and testing of products.
Records show that Ropack expects the new operation to add nearly $40 million to its annual sales.
The company has already shown the Suffolk facilities to one customer and interviewed 15 people for management jobs, Dupont told a meeting of the county's Industrial Development Agency.
The IDA board Thursday approved $3.1 million in tax breaks, including $2.5 million, or 29 percent, off property tax bills over 15 years. In return, Ropack pledged to create 103 jobs in two years that pay, on average, $45,883 annually.
Ropack also is seeking help from New York State, which could approach $2 million. A spokesman for Empire State Development said Thursday agency staff have "met with Ropack and we believe they would be a great addition" to Long Island.
Ropack would join a group of generic drugmakers, including Contract Pharmacal Corp. in Hauppauge and Amneal Pharmaceuticals in Yaphank, that have hired hundreds of people in the past few years.
Ropack's "investment reinforces the fact that Suffolk County is becoming increasingly popular as a pharmaceutical and nutraceutical hub as companies seek to find an educated workforce and superior quality of life," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said after the tax breaks were adopted.
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), speaking at the IDA meeting, said the incentives weren't necessary because Ropack has committed to coming here. "My taxes just went up because someone has to make up for the taxes the company won't be paying," he said.
IDA members responded that Ropack would create jobs and possibly attract other Canadian businesses. Vice chairman Grant Hendricks said, "If those buildings go vacant, you lose everything."
Ropack was established in 1976 by Roger Massicotte and a partner to produce private-label sugar pouches. Massicotte's son, Yves, is the private company's chief executive and led its entry into pharmaceuticals.
Ropack mixes ingredients, and then puts them into capsules, bottles, vials and other packaging. Its business of providing services to drug companies has grown as the industry has embraced outsourcing.
Ropack's four facilities in Montreal, which total 241,000 square feet, employ 350 people and are looking for 25 more now.
In 2011, the Canadian government provided $1.2 million to Ropack to purchase new equipment