Argon closure about space, not local costs, official says


Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.

Argon Medical Devices' decision to move production from its newly acquired Gainesville medical needles manufacturing facility came down to the extra space the company already had at its facility in Athens, Texas, a company vice president said Wednesday.

The Texas facility has 160,000 square feet, including more than 10,000 square feet of unused clean-room space needed for medical manufacturing, said Bill Morgan, vice president of operations. The Gainesville facility has 43,000 square feet at 3600 SW 47th Ave., behind the 34th Street post office.

Morgan said the relocation decision came after a "rigorous analysis" of how to best consolidate duplicate overhead costs.

He said the decision was based on a need to make better use of existing facilities and not about the costs of doing business in Gainesville. He described the labor costs at the two locations as "very similar" and said local utility and tax costs were not a factor.

"If there was a differential, it wasn't enough to make a decision," he said.

The closure will affect 111 local jobs, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification required of large layoffs that was filed Monday. Employees were informed during a June 4 meeting.

Most operations will be transferred by the end of the year, Morgan said.

The company is adding 60 jobs at the Texas plant to handle the added production, and Morgan said those jobs are available to Gainesville employees who want to apply. The company will provide some relocation assistance, he said.

Argon is interested in having those employees with a knowledge of the products and processes transfer to help with the transition, he said.

"We have made that understood to the employees that we do desire to retain people who have a desire to relocate," he said. "I think there has been some interest."

Once the transfer is complete, the Texas facility will have about 300 jobs, he said.

Susan Davenport, vice president of economic development for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber's priority is to try to retain Argon's talent for other employers in the area.

FloridaWorks is holding a job fair at Argon on Aug. 6-8, and so far five local manufacturers have signed up to recruit employees.

Morgan said the Gainesville employees include assembly workers, distribution, office and clerical, accounting, engineering, customer service and a quality/regulatory group.

Argon, headquartered in Plano, Texas, bought the Interventional Products Business from Vancouver, British Columbia-based Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in a $363 million deal that closed in April. In addition to the Gainesville plant, the acquisition included facilities in Denmark and Illinois. Argon also is closing the Denmark plant and moving its production to Illinois.

The manufacturing operation opened in Gainesville in 1986 as Medical Device Technologies, or MD Tech, and built its current facility in 1998. It went through a series of ownership changes and became part of Angiotech in 2006 as part of a larger acquisition.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top