Boone County Commission advances Chapter 100 request for Northwest Medical Isotopes

Article written by: Roger McKinney
Publication - Columbia Daily Tribune
Date Posted - Sept. 18, 2018
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The Boone County Commission on Tuesday advanced the tax abatement application of Northwest Medical Isotopes for its planned $108 million medical radioisotope production plant in Columbia.

The Commission will give final consideration Thursday for the application for Chapter 100 bond financing in a meeting that starts at 1:30 p.m. in the commission chambers of the Boone County Government Center.

The production facility is planned for 7.4 acres in the Discovery Ridge Research Park. In its application, the company stated it plans to create 104 new jobs at an average pay of $35 an hour.

“These jobs are almost twice the average county wage,” said Dave Griggs, chairman of the Regional Economic Development Inc. incentives committee.

According to the employment breakdown in the application, there would be 32 technical support workers making an average of $70,000 annually; 52 production workers making $55,000; eight in production support making $35,000; eight in administrative support at $30,000; and four managers making an average of $85,000.

Carolyn Haas, chief operating officer of Northwest Medical Isotopes, presented the project to the commissioners. She said the number of employees will increase beyond 104 in the first several years of production.

Chapter 100 industrial bonds allow cities or counties to purchase or pay for projects with bond proceeds and then lease or sell the project back to the company. The lease payments are used to retire the bonds. The company receives a tax break on the property during the lease period.

Northwest is requesting a 50 percent property tax abatement from Boone County and its taxing districts. The abatement will be in place for 10 years on the building and for three years, five years or seven years on equipment, depending on the depreciation schedule. During the 10 years, Columbia Public Schools will receive new property tax revenue of $1.275 million. Other entities receiving new funds include Boone County, $25,240; Columbia, $86,324; the Daniel Boone Regional Library District, $65,117; and Boone County Family Resources, $24,195.

The Chapter 100 Taxing District review panel, with a representative from each taxing district, voted last monthto recommend that the commission approve the tax abatement.

Northwest Medical Isotopes will produce molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m, used in medical scans for heart disease, cancer and bone and kidney disease. The isotopes decay quickly, so they can’t be stored and need to produced continuously. The isotopes haven’t been produced in the U.S. since the 1980s.

The company plans to start full construction in 2019, with commercial operations starting in the first quarter in 2021.

Haas provided the commissioners with a caveat regarding the schedule.

“Unfortunately I have no control over the NRC,” Haas said, referring to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must still approve an operating license. She said the process can take 18 months to two years.

“It’s a very set process, very arduous,” Haas said.

The NRC has already approved the company’s construction permit.

Haas explained that the plant will receive uranium from the U.S. Department of Energy and Northwest will produce material which will be irradiated at the University of Missouri Research Reactor. Then it would be transported back to the Columbia plant to produce a product that can be shipped to a nuclear pharmacy and then on to hospitals. She said each step is secure and well-documented.

She said the company is based in Oregon, but 99 percent of employees will be here in Columbia.

Ralph Butler, senior adviser to the company, has said at a previous meeting that the plant will produce some radioactive waste, but there would be no long-term storage on-site.

rmckinney@columbiatribune.com

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