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WVU Innovation Corp. takes over ownership of former Mylan plant in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN – The WVU Innovation Corp. has officially taken ownership of the former Mylan pharmaceuticals plant on Chestnut Ridge Road, WVU announced on Thursday.

Viatris – formed by the merger of Mylan and Upjohn – closed the plant July 31, putting about 1,500 people out of work. Viatris and WVU announced in August that they had begun talks on transferring ownership to WVU

The transfer purchase price was $1, WVU said Thursday.

WVU and the WVU Health System, known as WVU Medicine, will work together to oversee future development through a reconfigured WVU Innovation Corp., which will handle the daily operations at the facility, WVU said.

WVU said that both parties intend the finalized agreement to result in the development of short-, medium- and long-term academic, employment and community opportunities for Morgantown and surrounding areas, as well as tuition scholarships for impacted Mylan employees.

Discussions are already underway with potential tenants to lease space within the 1.1 million square foot facility, said WVU Health System President and CEO Albert Wright.

During a press conference on the transfer, The Dominion Post asked if a portion of the facility might be re-devoted to making pharmaceuticals – the plant specialized in oral solid doses, better known as pills.

Wright said that they came to realize early in the process that there is no organization that could reuse the entire plant for that purpose. But there is significant interest from many parties and they will be working up a lot of possibilities for the space.

They are looking at something like a mall, he said, with anchor tenants and other smaller businesses. It’s absolutely possible that there could be some pharmaceutical preparation in the mix.

Viatris Executive Chairman Robert J. Coury said, “Our goal has always been to identify a responsible new steward for this unique site that would secure the best possible future for the facility, our impacted employees and the Morgantown community, a community that continues to play an important and vital role for Viatris.”

They want the facility to be an economic engine, Wright said during the press conference, with the anchor companies in mind. But there will be a business incubator component to provide some infrastructure for startups. The startups don’t have to be health care related, but they’d like those businesses like to have a health sciences tie.

They’ve hired a president to oversee the innovation corp function of the facility.

What opportunities might be offered to the former Mylan employees – union and non-union – has been a question since the potential transfer was announced.

WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop expanded on the tuition scholarships. Viatris wanted a focus on opportunities for its former employees, he said.

Former employees who qualify for the scholarships, he said, will be able to pursue associate, bachelor and master’s degrees at no cost for tuition or fees. This is a way to provide education to those workers to make sure they are ready for the jobs the new tenants will offer.

The Dominion Post asked if those former workers will be given any kind of preferential status in any jobs that open there. They said there’s nothing in place for that, but the employees will be in a good position to apply for jobs that open through the retraining opportunities.

There have been no conversations with the union – United Steelworkers Local 8-957 – yet about the scholarships, they said, but they are working with Viatris to get a list of employees eligible to apply.

Under WVU-WVU Medicine ownership, the property moves off the tax rolls. Alsop said that when that’s happened in the past, they’ve made arrangements with the private business to include an amount equivalent to property taxes in the lease terms, and they’ll do the same for the Mylan building.

Personal property taxes for business inventory, equipment and machinery will be the responsibility of each tenant, he said.

Wright said that the new vision for this property has caught the attention of potential tenants who might otherwise not have looked at West Viginia. “It’s an exceptional conversation starter.”

Coury said, “I would like to personally recognize Gordon Gee and his entire leadership team for their extensive amount of work and research to outline a vision for the future of this site that does just that. Today’s announcement has the potential to create new academic, economic and job-creation opportunities not only for Morgantown but for the entire state of West Virginia.

“I would also like to thank the university for its commitment to provide our impacted employees with a path to further their education and retraining to enhance their future employment opportunities,” he said.

Alsop and Wright both credited Gov. Jim Justice, the Department of Economic Development, Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, and Rep. David McKinley, along with local leaders for their partnership as they develop plans and identify occupants for the site.

Wright said, “This property holds a lot of potential for Morgantown, the region and the state. There is already a tremendous level of pioneering research being done through the university and the WVU Health System. We hope the WVU Innovation Corp. will be a business incubator that will harness that research, create jobs and lead to the development of goods and services that will benefit the people of West Virginia. … We look forward to seeing the space buzzing with activity once again.”

The WVU Innovation Corporation will reorganize its board of directors in the coming days and begin day-to-day management of the property, WVU said.

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