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Charles River Laboratories buys building for expansion

John Seelmeyer

While consultants suggested last week that northern Nevada work to attract more life-sciences companies, a major player in the industry quietly went about a major expansion.

Charles River Laboratories last month closed on its purchase of the former State Farm distribution center building on Longley Lane in south Reno.

The company plans to begin addition of a mezzanine to the 293,000-square-foot building, which has been vacant since 2004. That will add about 175,000 square feet of space without affecting the exterior appearance of the building, said Greg Beattie, executive director of site operations for Charles River Laboratories.

The work, scheduled for completion in 2007, will clear the way for the company to add about 245 employees maybe a few more to its current staff of 350 in northern Nevada.

“This is the first in a series of planned expansions to fully occupy this building, which will quickly become a state-of-the-art research facility,” Beattie said.

Charles River Laboratories currently occupies about 145,000 square feet at 587 Dunn Circle, near Glendale and East McCarran.

“We’ve outgrown the confines of our current location,” Beattie said.

The northern Nevada operation provides pre-clinical testing of the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. Beattie said its customers include drug and biotechnology companies throughout the world.

About 10 percent of the northern Nevada staff holds advanced degrees, Beattie said, and more than half are university educated.

In an application for economic incentives the company filed with the Nevada Commission on Higher Education, Charles River Laboratories said the average wage of the workers to be added in its expansion is $23.90.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada estimated that the initial additions to its staff and the retention of Charles River Laboratories in northern Nevada represents more than $89 million in annual economic impact to the region.

Beattie said the company decided to invest in northern Nevada during 14 years because of the region’s access to Pacific Rim nations as well as Pacific Coast markets of the United States.

The company has thrived in northern Nevada since it acquired Sierra Biomedical Inc. of Sparks .

Sierra Biomedical was established in 1992 as an eight-person firm working in 12,000 square feet. Charles River Laboratories purchased it in 1999.

“We’ve grown quite dramatically,” Beattie said.

The company has identified its northern Nevada facilities as one of its four centers of excellence worldwide that are expected to grow.

Based at Wilmington, Mass., Charles River Laboratories operates 101 laboratories, production facilities and offices in 21 nations. It employs about 8,000 worldwide.

Charles River Laboratories’ purchase of the former State Farm building which distributed paper forms before that business moved to the Internet removes one of the largest available industrial properties from a regional market that already is getting tight.