Nephron Pharmaceuticals, a contract manufacturer and maker of generic medications, has moved its corporate headquarters to the company’s West Columbia operation.
Lou Kennedy, CEO of the privately held company, announced the move Friday during EngenuitySC's presentation of its third annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report. Nephron is owned by South Carolina natives Lou and Bill Kennedy.
“The business atmosphere is so friendly here, it’s the best talent pool I’ve ever seen, and our automation is so great at Nephron here that we have lowered our costs of goods considerably,” Lou Kennedy said in an interview. “We’re using people for programming equipment and so forth rather than stuffing boxes.”
When the Kennedys announced in October 2011 plans to invest $313 million and build a 414,000-square-foot plant at Saxe Gotha Industrial Park, they also said the company’s headquarters would remain in Orlando, Fla., where Nephron was founded.
One reason why the headquarters’ mailing address would remain in Florida was that the Sunshine State doesn’t have an income tax, Lou Kennedy said at the time. South Carolina, though, still has an income tax.
Nephron opened its West Columbia plant in June 2014 and has gradually hired staff and moved manufacturing operations to the Midlands.
In October 2015, Nephron received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start shipping medications produced at the Saxe Gotha facility. The first drug manufactured at the facility was albuterol ipratropium bromide, an inhalant used to treat diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.
About the same time, Nephron began issuing layoff notices to its Orlando workforce, and by August of this year the company had filed Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notifications with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for 710 employees, according to the Orlando Business Journal. The last round of WARN notices, for 20-30 employees, was filed in August, the Business Journal reported. About 25 workers transferred to West Columbia from Orlando, Lou Kennedy said.
Nephron employs about 330 people locally.
Nephron still has some equipment in the Orlando facility waiting to be shipped to West Columbia, Lou Kennedy said.
The facility is located on a 60-acre site on 12th Street Extension and down the road from the 1.25 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center and SCANA corporate headquarters.
According to the company’s website, Nephron “specializes in blow-fill-seal (BFS) manufacturing.” It’s a technology that “allows a vial of medication to be formed, filled and sealed in a continuous process without human intervention in a sterile, enclosed area,” the website said.
The Kennedys are both graduates of the University of South Carolina. Lou Kennedy grew up in Lexington County and Bill Kennedy is an Upstate native.
In September 2010, the Kennedys announced plans to give $30 million to the S.C. College of Pharmacy to add entrepreneurial expertise to the program. The gift is the second-largest in USC history, behind Darla Moore’s $45 million pledge to the business school that now bears her name.