FDA approval of new weight loss drug would bring jobs to Aiken County

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A new weight loss drug means big gains for Aiken County's job market.

The drug is bringing a $65 million expansion at a local plant that was once near closing.

This is the sound of expansion.

150 new jobs and $65 million of infrastructure are being added to Aiken's GlaxoSmithKline plant.

A small weight loss pill called Alli is bringing the big expansion. If the FDA approves it, it will be the only over-the-counter weight loss drug in the country.

Good news for the job market, and the 300 plus existing employees like Jessie Barton.

"Jobs coming here is job security for me. It makes me feel better that I'm working for a company that's looking at expanding versus tearing down," Barton says.

A few years ago, the Aiken plant was scaling back.

In 1995, they cut 18 percent of their jobs.

Things were so bad that until last year they had a plan in case they needed to close.

The competition: 80 other GlaxoSmithKline plants across the world.

Fred Humes with the Economic Development Partnership says landing this expansion was not a slam-dunk.

"In this global society it literally can go worldwide," Humes says.

He credits the local workforce and the incentive package, which includes a property tax break.

Plant manager Carson Sublett says the company worked hard to make Aiken's facility stand out.

"Really get good at business development and bring in new products and learn to find our niche within GlaxoSmithKline that one of the other eighty plants wasn't fulfilling," Sublett says.

Governor Mark Sanford attended Wednesday's announcement and says this is part of a trend.

He says South Carolina has gained a net of 112,000 jobs in the last three years, putting the state in the top third in the U.S. for employment gains.

If you're interested in working at GlaxoSmithKline, visit Aiken's One Stop Career Center on Richland Avenue.