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Novo Nordisk plans record expansion in North Carolina, promising 1,000 more jobs

Brian Gordon, The News & Observer on

Published in Business News

Novo Nordisk announced the largest private life science investment in North Carolina's history Monday, committing $4.1 billion to expand its Johnston County facility, a project the Danish drugmaker says will add 1,000 jobs to one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing counties.

In the town of Clayton, Novo Nordisk plans to build an additional 1.4 million square feet of production space, about twice the size of the company’s three existing North Carolina manufacturing buildings combined. Construction has already begun, with foundational beams erected on one of the nine structures Novo Nordisk expects to open at the site between 2027 and 2029.

The campus is located about 20 miles southeast of Raleigh, and county officials Monday said the new jobs will pay an average salary of at least $69,000.

Novo Nordisk is historically known for making insulin to treat diabetes, but in the past few years, it has seen soaring demand for its injectable weight-loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy. In 2023, the latter generated around $4.5 billion in sales, and Novo Nordisk this spring said approximately 25,000 new people in the U.S. start taking Wegovy each week.

“The importance of this facility we’re making is ensuring that we are flexible to both produce weight-loss products but also other chronic diseases,” Novo Nordisk vice president Niels Laurbjerg Nielsen said in an interview. “This is both the products we’re producing now and the ones in the (research and development) pipeline.”

The company has two current sites in Johnston County and a third in north Durham. Together, these facilities employ close to 2,500 people.

An ‘audacious notion’ benefits Johnston

Novo Nordisk opened its first Clayton facility in 1993 where in makes injectable finished products (IFPs) like insulin pens.

 

In 2015, the drugmaker announced plans to double its facility space in Johnston County with a $1.85 billion investment, then the largest manufacturing commitment in state history. This project completed in 2020 and was the company’s first facility outside of Denmark to manufacture active drugs.

Attending the on-site announcement event Monday, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis credited those in the 1950s who had the “audacious notion” for the Research Triangle Park with laying a groundwork for the area to attract global businesses decades later.

“Now I’m seeing a coalescing in terms of business decisions to move to North Carolina in the past 10 or 12 years is almost unprecedented,” said Tillis, a Republican, who went on to praise the North Carolina General Assembly for sending a “business-friendly” message.

This week’s expansion in Johnston had been foreshadowed; the company added land throughout last year near its two existing facilities on Powhatan Road, southeast of downtown Clayton.

On Monday morning, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners approved incentives for “Project Ace,” the nickname for the latest expansion plan Novo Nordisk introduced to the county in late 2022. These incentives offer the company cash grants equivalent to certain percentage of property taxes if Novo Nordisk achieves its investment goals.

“Thirty years of being here, I think y’all have found a home in Johnston County,” county board chair Butch Lawter said shortly before he and his colleagues approved the deal.


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