It was touted as a multi-million dollar investment, promising to bring more than one-thousand high-tech, high-paying jobs to Western New York.
But, it seems Athenex, a major pharmaceutical company, may be thinking twice about its commitment to Western New York and could actually be taking its business elsewhere.
The company's COO, Flint Besecker, was quoted in the Buffalo News Wednesday, as saying, "I am actively talking to someone else, actually, and it's in the U.K." The article goes on to cite lack of progress or payments by the state to get the project rolling.
7 Eyewitness News contacted the company and even went to its North American Headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo but was denied an on camera interview or comment by the company.
When news of the company's investment was first announced in February of 2016 Governor Cuomo called it a "game changer." First and foremost, it would be a game changer for the struggling City of Dunkirk, which stood to gain 900 jobs over the coming years, with the building of a drug manufacturing plant. In Buffalo, an estimated 500 jobs were set to be created.
We reached out to the state for comment and received this written statement in response.
"The state has recently completed its approval process for the disbursement of funds for the Conventus project and funding has been released and payments made. As such, all outstanding payments are up to date. The first half of the project was to establish the Athenex corporate office on the 6th floor and the company is already utilizing that space. The next phase of the project is the creation of the pilot labs, which will commence soon as a result of the recent funding approval. It should be noted, there were changes to the company’s requirements for the lab space which resulted in adjustments to the project scope and timeline, while maintaining the cost as is.
Regarding Dunkirk – The state funding is in the process of being finalized along the standard state funding timeline. Most or all of the site discovery work (environmental/historical due diligence, geo-technical and other associated testing) has been completed on the site. Conceptual design and engineering work has been done and we are currently preparing to move into the next phase which entails further and more detailed design and engineering."
Empire State Development now says it will take a lead role on these projects adding,
“The State remains strongly committed to ensuring both Athenex projects come to fruition in Western New York. Empire State Development will now take on the State’s lead role in overseeing the projects and we are optimistic that they will successfully move forward in an efficient and timely manner.”
City of Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas is concerned about the possibility that Athenex is rethinking its decision to open a plant in the city.
"It would have a devastating impact on our city if this doesn't happen," he said. "The project has given us all hope."
Mayor Rosas said the decision to open a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant was the best news he's ever received since taking office.
"This is a major boost for our economy in this whole region, but particularly here in the city of Dunkirk," he said. "It's real important. Probably the biggest and best news we've had in the city. Period. Ever."
Mayor Rosas said state officials have assured him they're doing everything they can to move the project forward. He's optimistic the expansion will continue as planned.
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