Tax break spurs Thermo Fisher’s $18 million relocation to Tewksbury industrial park
A scientific instruments firm plans to invest $18.2 million to relocate part of its operations to a Tewksbury industrial park adjacent to Interstate 495.
Thermo Fisher Scientific on Oct. 12 closed on the purchase of a vacant 156,000-square-foot building in the Ames Pond Corporate Park off Route 133. The Waltham-based firm plans to renovate the building to serve as the new consolidated site of its portable analytical instruments business, now housed at two buildings in Wilmington and one in Billerica.
The project, at 2 Radcliffe Road, is being welcomed by Tewksbury, which has agreed to provide Thermo Fisher a tax break for its investment.
“We’re very supportive of it,’’ said Steven Sadwick, the town’s community development director. He said it means the relocation of 400 jobs to Tewksbury, with a promise by the company to add another 100 jobs over five years.
“The town sees that as a big benefit. It will help with our tax base and those employees will frequent the restaurants and hotels that are up in that area,’’ he said.
Tewksbury was able to offer the tax incentive because the town earned state designation - with Andover in September 2010 - as an economic target area.
A Special Town Meeting Oct. 4 authorized the town to enter into the “tax increment financing’’ agreement with Thermo Fisher by approving the development as a certified project in the Radcliffe Road Economic Opportunity Area, the designation selectmen plan to give the site next month.
Under the 15-year agreement, Thermo Fisher would be exempted in the first year from taxes on 50 percent of the increased value of the property resulting from its investment. That exemption would be reduced by 5 percent per year until reaching 5 percent in the 10th year, and remain at that level through the 15th year, according to Sadwick.
The tax agreement still requires the approval of the state’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council, which will take it up at its Dec. 21 meeting. Should the council approve the agreement, it could also grant Thermo Fisher up to a 10 percent state investment tax credit.
Peter Milano, senior regional director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, said it was likely the council would approve the property tax agreement “because that is the town’s wishes.’’ He said it was premature to speculate on whether it would agree to the state tax credit.
Milano observed, though, of Thermo Fisher: “It’s a manufacturing entity which has been very well received by this board, and it’s been an industry we’ve supported. While they are not a certified life sciences entity, they support the life sciences industry, which has been of great interest to us.’’
Sadwick said the property tax incentive will save Thermo Fisher an estimated $484,000 over 15 years. But he said the town in that time will reap an estimated $2.1 million in added taxes as a result of the development, along with about $73,000 in permit fees.
The building purchased was formerly part of a three-building complex that housed Avid until that company relocated its Tewksbury operations to Burlington two years ago, according to Sadwick. All three buildings have been vacant since. In addition to I-495, the site abuts Ames Pond and Lodge at Ames Pond, a new apartment development.
Thermo Fisher acquired its building and the land beneath it for $8.6 million. It plans to spend $7.3 million on the construction, and another $2.2 million on furniture, equipment, and other costs, according to company spokesman Ron O’Brien.
Sadwick said the firm’s plan is a permitted use of the site, which is zoned for office research. As a result, it does not need a site plan special permit, but would require one if it sought to expand later.
Thermo Fisher plans to begin construction as soon as its building permits are in hand. It expects to have moved most of its employees into the building by next spring, and have all of them in place by next fall, O’Brien said.
An $11 billion-a-year company with about 37,000 employees worldwide, Thermo Fisher makes scientific instruments for customers ranging from pharmaceutical and biotech companies to hospitals, universities, government agencies, and clinical diagnostic labs.
The Thermo Fisher entity relocating to Tewksbury develops and manufactures portable instruments that can be used for chemical analysis in the field. O’Brien said customers range from pharmaceutical companies that use it to test incoming materials to law enforcement agencies that use it to determine whether chemicals may be dangerous to handle.
The relocation to Tewksbury offers the company a chance to bring under one roof all its employees working in the hand-held instrument business, O’Brien said, and in so doing to “reduce our footprint in the north of Boston area by three buildings.
“We have an excellent site in Tewksbury and we think it’s a win-win for everybody,’’ he said.
Planning Board chairwoman Nancy Reed called the project “a fantastic opportunity for our town’’ and one that fits with what Tewksbury had in mind when it sought designation as an economic target area.
“It’s providing good jobs for people in the town, not to speak of tax revenue,’’ she said. “And it’s going to help the businesses that provide services in the town such as restaurants. The ripple effect is much needed.’’