Bausch & Lomb surprised local officials Tuesday by announcing plans to spend $150 million and hire as many as 200 people expanding its contact lens solution plant in Greenville and related distribution center.
Greenville County officials went to a jobs announcement at the plant along Pelham Road expecting lower numbers – a capital expenditure of at least $20 million and about 30 jobs – because those were the numbers included in an incentives agreement the county negotiated with Bausch & Lomb.
It was the bigger figures, however, that fell from the lips of J. Michael Pearson, chairman and chief executive officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Bausch & Lomb’s parent company, during the brief ceremony.
Pearson told The Greenville News that Bausch & Lomb’s contact lens solution business is growing around the world and the Greenville plant is a “great facility.”
“It’s one of the most-efficient, best work forces we have in the world,” he said.
Bausch & Lomb, which also makes contact lenses and eye surgery instruments, already employs more than 500 people at the 32-year-old plant.
About 40 percent of the plant's product is exported “and as the population grows around the world we expect this business to continue growing,” Pearson said.
He said Bausch & Lomb would likely close a small contact lens solution manufacturing operation in Italy because the Greenville plant is “much more efficient.”
Mike Schrader, a Bausch & Lomb vice president over Greenville operations, said the lower figures pertain to installing an eighth assembly line at the plant over the next two and a half years.
Two county officials involved with economic development – Butch Kirven, chairman of County Council’s Finance Committee, and Mark Farris, president of the Greenville Area Development Corp., the county’s economic development department -- both said they were surprised by the larger numbers.
Farris said a property tax break already negotiated with Bausch & Lomb to cover the eighth assembly line could be expanded to include the entire planned capital expenditure of $150 million over the next five years.
“It’s always a testament to the vitality of the area when a company chooses to re-invest precious capital into the community,” Farris said.