"Alabama is open for business," said Rosalyn Rivera-Valentin, the director of the Opelika Baxter International facility, as she introduced Gov. Kay Ivey at the facility's expansion celebration on Tuesday morning.
Ivey, who travelled from the capital to attend the expansion and ribbon-cutting ceremony, said she was immensely proud of the efforts put forth by the Baxter team in bringing jobs to the state of Alabama and, more specifically, to the Opelika community.
"It speaks volumes about our business climate ... No firm is going to thrive, much less come to Alabama and expand, without a positive business climate in which to operate," Ivey said.
She praised local leaders for their hard work and willingness to partner with educational initiatives to both "identify and train the workforce of our future."
The $270 million investment made by Baxter helped bring more than 130 new jobs to the facility. The expansion itself, in terms of size, grew the facility from a square footage of 230,000 to more than 400,000.
"We are thrilled to have her here ... celebrating with us," Rivera-Valentin said of Ivey. "Our individual efforts have significant impact on our patients through our day to day work. We are proud to do it here in Opelika."
Baxter, a hospital products business manufacturer that specializes in dialyzers, has been present in Opelika since 2008, and it announced its plans for expansion in 2014. Employees and guests attended the culmination of that expansion this morning.
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Ivey was joined by Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Opelika Chamber of Commerce Director Ronnie Wilson, among Baxter officials.
"This is a proud moment for Baxter because in our efforts to save and sustain lives, there is nothing more important than clinical medicine and addressing the needs of the millions of people who have chronic kidney disease," said James R. Gavin III, a member of the Baxter Board of Directors.
"This plant plays a huge role in addressing that need globally, and we are just as proud as we can be of the quality of work that comes out of this plant. The faith in Opelika that is demonstrated by this expanded investment – it means a lot to Baxter, and it certainly means a lot to the people of this community, but most importantly, it means the world to people with chronic kidney disease who are benefitting from what is being done here."
The expansion allows for more than 350 employees to work within the newly renovated space. Of those new jobs created, 96 of the new, full-time positions have been filled, and 90 more are hoped to be filled in coming weeks.
"We are interested in jobs that support our community. We want people to build careers here... We partner with our community to both identify and train the workforce of our future," Rivera-Valentin said.
Fuller approached the microphone and said, "We are so glad to have y'all here!"
During his presentation, he told the attendees about the history of the company's influence and expansion within the Opelika community and expressed his gratitude for the company's efforts in the community and in the global market.
Before the ceremony, Ivey hinted at her thoughts of a possible run for re-election.
"We are seriously considering it and are taking steps to be successful," Ivey said.
When asked what the hold-up was on any announcement, she quickly diverted further questions by responding, "I am busy governing. ... I am trying to be a good governor and attend to the business of state."
When asked what she thought the next ten years would look like for expansion in the state, after slight elaboration, she laughed and said, "Everyone loves coming home to sweet home Alabama."
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