The Jackson Laboratory Thursday celebrated the completion of the first phase of its new $200 million mouse breeding facility in Ellsworth.
Over the next eight years the facility is expected to create up to 350 jobs, and local officials are hailing the new lab as the largest single development project the city has seen in recent years. They also think that the community is poised to benefit from what they hope will be an expanding bio-tech development corridor.
Ellsworth City Manager David Cole says that his community has always embraced its role as a service-centered community for the Downeast region. But the new mouse-breeding facility may signal a new chapter in the story of the city's future economic development.
"Of course we want to continue to be that service-center, but this project gives us the opportunity to diversify," Cole said.
That means the city will now begin to attract a new type of worker to the research center, named for JAX's Executive Vice President Charles Hewitt. It will also expand the company’s mouse export business. It is estimated that the facility will generate more than 500,000 mice representing 10,000 different varieties, depending on a client's needs. Orders come into the lab from all over the world to meet specific research demands, and Cole says that bodes well for Ellsworth.
"We have our first Union River Center for Innovation, which is for biotech technology businesses, start-ups,” says Sumpterand. “And that building's full with four different start-up companies now that they're working, so we're really working with JAX on that project so we can build upon what they're doing."
Charles Hewitt says he expects other related research enterprises to follow the JAX lead.
"I don't think we know of any specific new ones that might be here already that might be coming," Hewitt said. "But the hope would be that our commitment to Ellsworth, the fact that we're creating a group of employees here, not only in animal care, but in automation and facilities maintenance, IT infrastructure, that sort of thing, it should be a magnet for other businesses."
According to Jackson Lab officials, Phase two of the plan should be complete by 2020. The first mice are expected to enter the facility, called a vivarium, in October.