ABC11 Investigates

I-TEAM: Rocky Mount plant adds jobs amid safety questions

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gov. Pat McCrory and several state leaders are celebrating over news that 200 new jobs are coming to a long-time Rocky Mount pharmaceutical plant.

A ribbon cutting at Hospira Wednesday drew dozens of dignitaries, but as the ABC11 I-Team reports the announcement comes as the FDA is questioning safety at the plant.

It was a celebration that cuts right to the bottom line of one of the state's most economically challenged regions.

"Any job that is located here, especially good paying jobs with benefits, makes a difference to our community," said Rocky Mount City Council member Reuben Blackwell.

A long-time employer in Rocky Mount, Hospira is the world's largest maker of injectable drugs -- pouring $85 million into upgrades for a new laboratory. With the help of millions of state and local incentives, 200 mostly managerial and technical jobs were created with an average annual salary of $52,000.

"It's a great sign that we have the talent, the quality of life and education needed to have a successful company continue their investment in Rocky Mount when they could've gone any place in the United States," said McCrory.

However, there are some concerns about the future of those jobs and whether the company can meet FDA standards.

Earlier this year, Hospira was hit with yet another warning from the FDA focused on the safety of the drug products it makes. In a 22 page report, inspectors said glass particulates were found in some products.

During a recent inspection, FDA investigators raised questions about contamination and compliance testing after discovering other quality control problems such as:

  • No written procedures for workers to follow
  • Inadequate training
  • No employee oversight
  • The wrong equipment used in some processes
  • Poorly maintained buildings

The I-Team asked the company's CEO Michael Ball about the FDA's warning.

"We feel very confident as we move forward that our plant is operating in a very good way and that the products that it makes here are essential to the health care of Americans," said Ball.

So the new facility opens with the promise of not only new jobs but also much the needed change to keep them.

"This is a high quality company," said McCrory. "It's outstanding. By the way, we have the best labor and talent to make sure that happens right here in North Carolina."

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