GRAND RAPIDS — Perrigo Co. plc’s planned North America headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids adds a major new player to the Medical Mile academic, research and health care cluster as well as a potential new partner for Michigan State University.
Under CEO Murray Kessler, Perrigo’s strategic focus on wellness and affordable “self-care” consumer products aligns “so much with what our mission is,” said Norman Beauchamp, MSU’s executive vice president for health sciences.
MSU and Perrigo are already preliminarily discussing potential collaborations and partnerships, Beauchamp said. Perrigo represents the kind of private sector partner that MSU has sought for years as it built a broader research base at the downtown Grand Rapids Innovation Park, he said.
“It was exactly consistent with our vision of who we wanted to bring to the Innovation Park,” Beauchamp said. “We couldn’t have found a company more aligned with what we’re trying to do.”
Beauchamp lists a number of potential areas of collaboration between MSU and Perrigo, such as accelerating discovery and the process to bring innovations to market. He envisions combining the university’s “discovery-driven culture with the kind of drive to innovate and bring-to-the-customer culture of industry.”
Perrigo’s consumer focus can help MSU researchers better understand: “What is really needed by people? What is missing in the market?” Beauchamp said.
“So, if a big focus of MSU’s discovery is how do we make and come up with affordable solutions (in health care), and Perrigo’s is to distribute those, you can see how it actually comes together in a wonderful way to hasten the pace of bringing health to people faster,” he said. “It’ll increase product viability and decrease product cycle time by connecting like that.”
Beauchamp also sees potential alignment with MSU’s biomedical engineering department that’s developing smart sensors used in homes to monitor patients’ medical condition and transmit data to care providers.
Logistics and supply chain management also could become another area of collaboration, he said.
Perrigo’s nearly $44.8 million, 63,550-square-foot facility will rise at 430 Monroe Ave. NW in MSU’s downtown Grand Rapids Innovation Park. Rockford Construction Co. will build the facility.
Perrigo, which also considered the Chicago area and southeast Florida for the North American headquarters, received a $2 million state grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund to offset higher costs of building in the state. Perrigo (NYSE: PRGO) expects the project will create 170 jobs.
In addition to the state grant, the city of Grand Rapids will consider a $1.5 million property tax abatement for the company.
As Perrigo proceeds with plans for the new North American headquarters, the next step for possible collaborations with MSU is to identify goals and potential mutual benefits and create a common vision, Beauchamp said.
“We need to look at the strengths in the university that could bring value in terms of innovation to Perrigo, and what areas of work that Perrigo has that it’s compelling for us to connect to,” Beauchamp said. “It’s really going to be cultivating those personal ties that are going to lead to the most creative and promising collaborations.”
Beauchamp also described “very positive conversations” so far with Ranir LLC, a Grand Rapids-based producer of oral care products that Perrigo acquired in 2019.
In an interview with MiBiz, Kessler said he believes the company’s new North American headquarters will fit in neatly with Grand Rapids’ burgeoning health care and research sector along the Medical Mile.
“In my mind, (Medical Mile) could become the Silicon Valley of self-care,” Kessler said. “It’s a huge opportunity with like-minded people that all see the value in health care and wellness.”
The headquarters plan comes two years after Kessler became CEO and started Perrigo’s transformation into a self-care company. Kessler said the Medical Mile is a modernized environment that will help it recruit diverse talent and help continue its shift to self-care products.
“Over the past two years, we have changed almost everything at Perrigo across the system,” Kessler said. “This is another key component of that (to) reshape ourselves and create that new energy.”
Kessler said Grand Rapids offers talent-attraction benefits compared to its current North American headquarters in rural Allegan. Perrigo is domiciled in Dublin, Ireland, but is run from its existing offices in Allegan, where the company was founded more than 130 years ago.
Meanwhile, the company’s new headquarters would remain relatively close to its facility in Holland Township, where it invested $13.6 million in a 66,000-square-foot expansion earlier this year.
“People that are coming and helping to reconfigure the company would all stay in Grand Rapids,” Kessler said. “Grand Rapids has already been effective in drawing people.”
Kessler lived in Grand Rapids briefly and says he was surprised by its amenities and nightlife.
“Grand Rapids doesn’t jump off the page at me when I’m thinking of metro areas, but it has everything,” Kessler said. “We were going to see Broadway shows, the symphony, opera, and going to great restaurants. That creates energy and a greater opportunity.”
Grand Rapids’ amenities and affordable cost of living have also helped MSU attract research talent from places like Stanford University, Harvard University and New York, Beauchamp said.
“It’s got such an engaging environment from the arts, sports, the outdoors and the schools, and then you look at beautiful facilities,” Beauchamp said. “It almost gives us an unfair (advantage) on the folks on the coasts.”