Pensacola lab expanding, adding jobs
A longtime member of the Pensacola-area business community is getting $2.5 million for its expansion.
The money is compliments of the BP oil spill settlement and the local economic development organization.
The Triumph grant is coming to Pegasus Laboratories, which produces animal health products and pharmaceuticals, and conducts drug research, and development through the Pensacola-Escambia Promotion and Development Commission or PEDC. Scott Luth, the president and CEO of the Florida West, says the grant will help pay for expansion.
“That was a perfect project that was designed to receive those funds, and so we pretty much put together a financing package which allows us to secure those dollars,” Luth said. “And so Florida West worked with them [to] make sure that they actually grew here, instead of all the other options that all of our companies have.”
PEDC began working with Pegasus on the project about a year ago. The hard negotiations and putting the financial package together took place in the last six months. The new Pegasus facility is moving to the building that formerly housed Hitachi Cable, which Luth says is moving out of the Pensacola area.
“Pegasus has an offer to purchase it, and they transferred the offer to PDC, so PDC actually bought the building on behalf of the Pegasus project,” he said. “We secured the Triumph funds, and we secured the remaining debt — also from Pegasus. And then we’re now doing a long-term lease back to the company in exchange for another 63 jobs coming to the community, and about another $11 million total capital investment.”
Pegasus Laboratories has been in operation in Pensacola for 37 years and currently has a 140-member workforce. The company is a subsidiary of Kansas City-based PBI-Gordon Companies Inc. While tourism is head and shoulders the top industry in Northwest Florida, Luth adds that manufacturing and other sectors also pull their weight in forming the region’s economy.
“Here in Escambia County, obviously our tourism industry is wonderful,” Luth said. “It gives our quality of life, it brings so many people to town. But as we found out, with the recession and the oil spill and [other] things that happened here — the pandemic recently — our tourism industry can be shut down overnight. It always comes back and it comes back strong.
"What’s good about our manufacturing base, the military and others is they’re a little more sustainable when those things happen and they continue to operate and continue to manufacture their products — and therefore, our citizens continue to be employed.
"Having an economy with that diversity of wealth and economic development just makes a lot of sense.”
In a written statement Steve Clifford, president and CEO of Pegasus’ parent firm PBI-Gordon, said the expansion will give the lab to the ability to “scale production and achieve future goals.”
As with other projects, Scott Luth at Florida West is hoping the Pegasus project can attract other firms to investigate expanding or bringing operations to the Panhandle.
“We have a number of companies that we continue to work within our pipeline; but this one here, they’re an FDA-oversight-type company, making pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals for the pet industry,” Luth explained. “But a new kind of partner with the Circulogene project that he had, it’s always kind of good to see a cluster develop in our community."
Circulogene is an innovative medical technology company transforming precision medicine through the rapid delivery of results, such as a liquid biopsy that provides a prediction of immunotherapy responses. The Birmingham-based firm announced an expansion to Pensacola last fall.
While a number of areas have suffered through industry declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic the past two years, Luth says the opposite has happened here. Pointing to companies thinking about coming to the U.S. and to the South in particular, the region’s opportunities have never been higher.
“The only thing I can attribute to that is the pandemic," he said. "So you’ve got companies ... beginning to diversify and protect their interests,” Luth said. “So they want to make sure they have a manufacturing interest back in the U.S.
"We’re also seeing some shift in some of the companies up North, in the rethink of what is their long-term strategy, and so we’re seeing a lot of those companies as well, making investments in the South, and specifically, in Pensacola and Escambia County.”
Luth said Florida West will use the Pegasus deal to try to lure other firms to the Panhandle.