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AUSTIN-A major drug company is scouting Austin for a site for a 100,000-sf manufacturing plant. The company, said to be a member of the Fortune 500, is working through the Austin Chamber of Commerce and a consultant to size up local properties.

The chamber acknowledges that a search is under way, but declines to speak about it, citing a confidentiality agreement. Brokers contacted by GlobeSt.com have said they know little about the project. “I wish they were looking at my site, but they’re not,” said a broker. “I just hope somebody gets it.”

The City of Austin, at the request of the chamber, has produced incentives for the prospect. They include as much as $6.7 million in breaks on electricity costs and development fees.

So far, the manufacturer’s interest reportedly has centered on undeveloped land in the city’s desired development zones–areas targeted for industrial growth so development of that type is kept away from environmentally sensitive areas situated west of the city. The four zones are in East Austin. One is around Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, another is between Riverside Drive and the Colorado River and two others are north and south of US Highway 290 East on the east side of US Highway 183.

Getting such a plant would be a shot in the arm for the area’s economy and a major step toward the chamber’s goal of establishing biotechnology as a thriving sector of the area’s economy. Several economic development experts have said that winning one such facility can pave the way for others. After Sematech, now known as International Sematech, came to Austin following a nationwide search in the late 1980s, a number of supporting companies sprang up around it.

A drug-making operation could also provide a start for industry in Austin similar to that of the high-tech industry. Although Austin had several homegrown technology companies, it wasn’t until IBM, Texas Instruments and Motorola Inc. set up manufacturing facilities that tech began to grow.

Workers employed by a drug plant could be similar in some ways to high-tech workers, Half of all workers for drug-making companies have a bachelor’s, master’s, professional, or doctorate degree, about double the proportion for all industries combined, according to the US Department of Labor.

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