ELLSWORTH, Maine — More than 350 people welcomed the Jackson Laboratory’s $200 million vivarium in a ribbon-cutting ceremony heralding what state leaders called a new era for Ellsworth.
The completion of the first phase of the Charles E. Hewett Center had state leaders, including Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, hoping that it would become an anchor to a host of science research and business ventures.
Called JAX® Mice, the center’s product will be used in science research worldwide. JAX Mice bred over the past half-century have been integral parts of research leading to 26 Nobel Prizes, said Hewett, Jackson’s executive vice president and strategic advisor.
“This will be the most state-of-the-art, next generation [mice-breeding] facility in the world,” Hewett said during a speech prior to the ribbon-cutting. “It will set a new global standard for human safety and humane, total care of research mice.”
The lab held a ribbon-cutting and gave visitors a brief tour of the new facility.
JAX Mice are being used around the world in research of a wide variety of diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s, Hewett said.
The project is expected to bring 350 jobs to Ellsworth, another 135 to Jackson’s Bar Harbor campus, and add to the $14 million in state and local tax revenues it generates annually. It’s the largest single investment in Ellsworth in city history, city council Chairman Marc Blanchette said.
Jackson Lab bought the 17-acre facility, a former Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Kingsland Crossing, for $3.2 million in 2012. It originally hoped to finish the 200,000-square-foot lab for about $120 million in January.
Laboratory officials offered a brief tour of the still-unfinished facility Thursday, showing a purified water bottling machine that will be used when the center starts breeding mice by early next year. About two dozen workers are employed there now.
Gov. Paul LePage called Jackson Lab “a mainstay” and iconic Maine enterprise. He and other speakers praised Jackson Lab and Hewett for their dedication to the state.
“When we are advocating to try to bring jobs to Maine, Jackson Lab is always in the conversation,” LePage said.
According to a recent study, Jackson Lab already has an estimated economic impact of $758 million on the state in just 2017, officials said.
The new center is expected to create $544 million in economic activity between this year and 2026, the target date for the completion of the five-phase project, with all the hiring to have occurred by 2028.
The new jobs created by the center will pay an average $62,000 annually — compared, center officials said, to Maine’s average salary of $26,000. An estimated 28 percent of new employees come from outside Maine, officials said.
This will add to the more than 1,500 Mainers already employed by Jackson, which also has facilities in California and Connecticut. Of those, 300 employees live in Ellsworth and contribute about $600,000 in property taxes to the city annually, officials said.
The new center will create space that will allow the company to grow its research and education efforts in Bar Harbor.
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