Filling Vacated Sanofi Building Key to Economy, Officials Say
Sanofi-Aventis is moving research facilities out of Bridgewater, but finding new tenants is important for the area's business community.
With laboratory activities ended and employees already having moved out of the 1.2-million-square-foot Sanofi-Aventis research and development site on Route 202/206 in Bridgewater earlier this year, the company is moving forward with completing the transfer of certain work out of that site, set to be done by the end of this year.
The property is now up for sale.
Sanofi has approximately 3,000 employees in New Jersey, approximately 5,000 in Massachusetts and more than 18,000 in the United States, Elizabeth Baxter, with communications of Sanofi-Aventis, said.
Approximately 135 employees have accepted moves to Cambridge, Mass., as part of a shifting that is all due to a change in Sanofi’s research and development strategy, Baxter said.
Even so, Mike Kerwin, president and CEO of the Somerset County Business Partnership, said he considers it key that Sanofi's North American Corporate headquarters will remain at 55 Corporate Drive in Bridgewater, still a member of the county's business community.
"They've been very good and actively engaged corporate citizens, and I don't see that changing," Kerwin said.
Nevertheless, at a Business Partnership meeting with invited guest Sen. Tom Kean, R-21, earlier this year, Kerwin emphasized that finding occupants for the 20 buildings vacated by Sanofi is key to the local business environment.
Both Kerwin and Kean, speaking separately, said that they agree with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's initiative of the past few years to make New Jersey a place where technology and science-oriented businesses are eager to locate.
In Somerset County's case, that has meant already making contact and extending an invitation to a business partnership meeting with Rutgers Dean of Environmental and Biological Sciences Bob Goodman, Kerwin said.
Goodman already attended a meeting with the partnership in June.
The business partnership is also participating in Rutgers' "Sustainable Raritan" program, which has the goal of encouraging economic development in towns along the Raritan River, Kerwin said.
The business partnership also is looking to develop a "synergy" with the region's hospitals.
As for Sanofi-Aventis, in November 2011 Baxter said, the company began a strategy to create a model that is more “open-innovation” for the purpose of increasing innovation in research and development, pursuing growth opportunities and adapting for future challenges.
“The company created a new North America Research and Development structure, including the Sanofi Boston R&D Hub, which will consolidate North America discovery and early clinical development,” she said. “At the same time, the company established a North America Development Center, which includes clinical development, regulatory affairs and other development platforms.”
That development center, Baxter said, is located in Bridgewater, but the changes in the company require the closing of the site at 1041 Route 202/206 by the fourth quarter of the year.
According to Baxter, the North America Development Center will consolidate development operations and support activities at the Bridgewater headquarters.
“Proximity with the business, including policy makers, payers, patient advocacy specialists and market access experts will help research and development transform its ideas into effective solutions for patients and society,” she said.
Baxter said the headquarters on Corporate Drive will remain in Bridgewater, along with the newly created Global Services Division for North America.
“The 55 Corporate Drive offices serve as the overall North American Headquarters and house the North America branch of Global Services Division, which provides critical operational support to Sanofi’s five businesses in the U.S. and Canada,” she said.
Kerwin said he is pleased that Sanofi will remain a part of Bridgewater and the county in general.
"I am confident that their decision to keep their corporate headquarters in Bridgewater is a deep commitment to the area," he said.
As for employees, Baxter said that, in this process, some Bridgewater-based research and development employees are staying at the North America Headquarters in Bridgewater, while others “have been separated from the company.”
And some research projects that have been previously based in Bridgewater will be transferred to the Boston hub of Sanofi-Aventis, while the rest remains in Bridgewater.
"This [move] is a serious issue, and I don't want to minimize it," Kerwin said.
He said New Jersey—and particularly Somerset County—must begin marketing its advantages, which include access to major highways and an educated work force.
But Kerwin said the state must take steps to develop more of a partnership with its institutions of higher educaton, as Cambridge has already done with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sanofi's departure will be noted by more than the business community.
Sanofi has been the primary presenter for Music at Moorland, an important fundraiser for the Somerset Medical Center held each spring at Moorland Farm in Far Hills, for the past 11 years.
"We do not have a commitment for 2013, but hope that Sanofi will partner with us again next year and future years," said a response earlier this summer from the Somerset Medical Center’s Foundation, which makes an annual request for support.
The medical center does have other sponsors as well for the event, including Open Road Auto Group, and several companies that purchase corporate tents, including Arch Reinsurance Company; Bentley Parsippany and Paul Miller Rolls-Royce; C&H Agency Inc.; DeSapio Properties; Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLC; Fiduciary Trust Company; Peapack-Gladstone Bank; and PNC Wealth Management.