Friday, April 16, 2004

LabOne stays in Cincinnati

Medical testing firm to add 400 jobs in 10 years

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LabOne Inc. waited until after Cincinnati City Council passed a $2.6 million package of tax incentives to decide it wasn't moving to Kentucky after all.

The medical testing company announced Thursday - the day after City Council's 8-1 vote - that it would keep its 562 jobs in Cincinnati and add 400 new ones over the next 10 years.

But it hasn't decided where in the city those jobs will be. The city's proposed site in the Tech Solve Business Park, in Bond Hill, is considered the top contender, but the company said it's looking at other, undisclosed sites in Cincinnati.

The city thinks Bond Hill, with up to 20 acres of undeveloped land on which to build a new, $21 million facility, would fit well with the city's efforts to build new housing nearby and provide jobs in outlying neighborhoods.

But the company is also looking at sites closer to its current location, in the former Jewish Hospital in Avondale, where it would be closer to hospitals and the University of Cincinnati.

"From a cooperative research perspective and employment perspective, it's important. It's a factor," said LabOne's executive vice president, John McCarty.

The company, based in Kansas, bought the medical testing division of the Health Alliance this year and named the new subsidiary Lab Alliance. Blood samples and other specimens will be flown into Cincinnati from all over the East Coast for next-day test results.

The city's incentives, which include property tax abatement and a refund of earnings taxes paid by the new jobs, combined with a similar state package of $4.2 million in grants and tax breaks, and $9.4 million in low-interest loans.

The LabOne deal is a fraction of the $196.4 million state and city deal offered to Convergys Corp. to keep its headquarters and add 1,450 jobs here over 15 years.

But the high-growth nature of LabOne's business and the number of jobs created gives the city's new economic development team a boost.

"It's a huge win, and one of a series of pretty big wins we've had lately, to get major employers to commit to doing business here even in the face of competition from Kentucky," said Chad Munitz, the city's development director.

Keeping LabOne in Ohio was also a high priority for UC.

Dr. William Martin, dean of UC's College of Medicine, said the lab's resources would help UC and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center compete for more grants through Gov. Bob Taft's Third Frontier program, which is designed to promote high-tech economic development in Ohio.

"It's not just job creation. By bringing in more research grants, this will help lead to more discoveries and better treatments," Martin said. "I think we'll look back five years from now and say this decision was not just good for the University of Cincinnati, but great for the city and the state of Ohio."

Tim Bonfield contributed. E-mail

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