By John Josey, (C) News-Topic

The local economy got a dose of good news Thursday. Gov. Bev Perdue announced that Exela Pharma Sciences will expand its facility in Lenoir. The pharmaceutical manufacturer plans to create 38 jobs and invest $8.5 million over the next three years. The project was made possible thanks, in part, to a grant of $189,000 from the One North Carolina Fund.

"North Carolina has a proud and celebrated history in manufacturing," said Gov. Perdue. "North Carolina's biotech industry is thriving because of our highly skilled workforce and strong business climate."

Exela Pharma Sciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of Exela PharmSci Inc. Exela develops and manufactures injectable and ophthalmic pharmaceutical products. The company currently employs more than 40 people at its Lenoir facility. Salaries will vary by job function, but the average annual wage for the new jobs will be $47,395 plus benefits. The average annual wage in Caldwell County is $29,640.

"Exela is pleased to be in a position to pursue its expansion plans and create these high-paying jobs in Caldwell County," said Phanesh Koneru, Exela's president and chief executive officer. "Exela is thankful to the officials of the City of Lenoir, Caldwell County, and the State of North Carolina for their continued support of Exela's businesses."

Local officials were pleased about the announcement of new jobs coming to a county hit hard by the economy as well as the continuing evolution of the county's industrial base.

"Exela represents a diversification we have long strived for, and we couldn't be more pleased they are now in a position to expand and create new, well-paying jobs," said William Howard, chairman of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Board of Directors. "Not only is this a wonderful way to usher in 2013, it is a testament to our entire community's ability to support an organization of the caliber of Exela."

Caldwell EDC Executive Director Deborah Murray echoed those sentiments.

"This first announcement of 2013 is especially exciting because it marks significant development in pharmaceutical manufacturing and pharmaceutical research and development for the entire western North Carolina region," she said. "We are proud to assist and support Exela as a part of diversifying and growing our local economy and wage base."

The One NC Fund provides financial assistance through local governments to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for fund grants. These grants also require and are contingent upon local matches.

Through use of the One NC Fund, more than 65,000 jobs and $12 billion in investment have been created since 2001. Other state and local agencies that helped with this project include the N.C. Department of Commerce, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Caldwell County government, City of Lenoir and the Caldwell EDC.