Covance to close Vienna facility

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 6:12 PM

The drug manufacturing services firm Covance will close its Vienna facility and lay off more than 200 people after more than 60 years in the community, Covance officials said Wednesday.

Melissa Thompson, spokeswoman for the company, said Covance officials notified the 220 employees at the Vienna facility Tuesday that the company will be closing its doors. The facility in Chantilly will remain open, but Covance has withdrawn its plan to build a $175 million drug development laboratory in Prince William County, which would have housed existing employees from Northern Virginia as well as created an additional 100 jobs.

Thompson said company officials chose to close the Vienna facility because of a decline in demand in the toxicology market. The Vienna facility is one of the company's older ones, she said, so it is more costly to maintain.

Thompson said employees will remain with the company for the next "several months" as Covance gradually shuts down the facility. Employees have been encouraged to apply to similar jobs within the company, however they would be at locations outside Virginia, she said.

"We certainly value all our employees' hard work, and we are providing resources and support," Thompson said. "This [decision to close] is dictated strictly by the current market. The demand has slowed, and the industry capacity now exceeds demand."

Covance, with headquarters in Princeton, N.J., announced its plans to move to Prince William in 2007 and had received about $3.7 million in incentives from the state and county.

At that time, Wendel Barr, now chief operating officer for Covance, said: "The increased demand from our biopharmaceutical clients for our preclinical safety service offerings has led Covance to seek opportunities to enhance and expand our operations in Northern Virginia. . . . With our long history in the area, we are looking forward to continuing our relationships as a member of the community as well as contributing to the diversification of the local economy."

State and local funding for Covance was never officially released to the company.

Covance has operations in more than 20 states and 25 countries. The company has more than 10,000 employees and an annual revenue of more than $1.8 billion.

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