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GSK Expands Consumer Healthcare Research and Development in Virginia

Global Healthcare Company Joint Venture Explores R&D Hubs

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, and live longer. Beginning as an apothecary shop in London and growing into one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies specializing in the research, development, and manufacturing of advanced medicines, vaccines, and other consumer healthcare products, innovation in medicine and healthcare has always been at the forefront of GSK’s mission.

A joint venture with Pfizer in August 2019 led to GSK Consumer Healthcare becoming one of the largest over-the-counter healthcare companies in the world, with iconic brands including Advil, Caltrate, Centrum, ChapStick, Emergen-C, Excedrin, Flonase, Nexium, Robitussin, Sensodyne, and Theraflu. As a result of the transaction, company leadership began an evaluation of all consumer healthcare R&D facilities across both businesses with a vision to build leading research and development capabilities into the future. Key decision drivers: world-class talent acquisition and retention. The global R&D headquarters for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare in the City of Richmond, now operated by the new joint venture, quickly stood out as a contender for an expansion.

The Virginia Solution

A Customized Workforce Advantage

Surrounded by three esteemed universities, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, and University of Richmond, and within a few hours’ drive of several highly ranked colleges — notably the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, and Virginia Tech — Virginia’s capital city is a magnet for talent. The established and skilled workforce at the Pfizer operation, lower operating expenses, and a favorable cost of living were apparent to GSK during its evaluation process. What ultimately differentiated Virginia from competitors was VEDP’s innovative custom talent recruitment and training incentive, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program.

GSK

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program is a partnership between VEDP and the Virginia Community College System that provides world-class, turnkey training and recruitment solutions that are fully customized to a company’s unique operations, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation. 

The [Virginia Talent Accelerator Program] team was so responsive. And they deliver on their commitments. They do what they say they're going to do.

Dana Allison Human Resources Director, GSK Consumer Healthcare

Renowned Livability

With a 300-year history of making lives better, GSK understands that an attractive location for employees to live and work leads to quality products, technical advancements, and the longevity and evolution of an immensely successful company. The Richmond location had an extensive history of driving innovation and product development for Pfizer’s Consumer Healthcare business, but GSK wanted to also ensure quality-of-life amenities to attract and retain the high caliber of talent the company required.

VEDP was quick to point out why Richmond’s central location, infrastructure, and unique assets continue to attract businesses from across the globe. Whether planning a trip to the mountains, the ocean, or a major city, Richmond provides the access to reach any travel destination. Interstates 95 and 64 run directly through the city, Richmond International Airport is located less than 20 minutes from downtown, and Amtrak trains departing from two stations carry passengers to any corner of the nation.

The Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond provide an environment for GSK Consumer Healthcare to build leading R&D capabilities, including access to world-class talent and universities, while also offering an attractive cost of living and favorable business operating costs. 

Dr. Peter John Ramsey, PhD Vice President and Head, GSK Consumer Healthcare R&D, The Americas

Within the city limits, Richmond boasts features like historic neighborhoods, centuries-old cobblestone streets, acclaimed arts and culture, and a nationally recognized food and beverage scene, including award-winning restaurants and more than 30 breweries. Adventure seekers can also take a ride down the James River against a unique skyline backdrop — the rapids at the fall line in downtown Richmond are billed as the only urban Class III-IV rapids in the country.

Virginia Talent Accelerator Program Takes Off

Confident in the ability to recruit and retain skilled talent for years to come, GSK announced plans to invest $16.7 million to expand its research and development center in the City of Richmond in 2019. GSK selected Virginia as one of three R&D laboratory hubs for its global Consumer Healthcare business and will create approximately 150 new jobs at the site.

Shortly after the expansion announcement, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team met with Dana Allison, a human resources director for GSK Consumer Healthcare, to begin work on a recruitment campaign. Having the expertise of GSK scientists well-versed in company processes and culture to help the transition at the Richmond site was a top priority. Virginia’s video production services team quickly partnered with city officials to produce a sleek video and other marketing materials showcasing the region’s quality of life to help recruit scientists considering relocation to the Richmond facility from other GSK locations. Their efforts were rewarded; 17 employees decided to make the move, far surpassing the companies goals.

Additionally, staff members from the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program provided the GSK recruitment team with detailed talent-acquisition analytics.

“That data enabled us to do targeted recruitment, to target the types of skills and experience that we needed,” Allison said. “So we had nice-sized talent pools. For harder-to-fill positions, the data helped us go to the right places to find skilled professionals.”

Knowing GSK’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program also put GSK leadership in touch with an organization that connects companies with students and alumni from historically Black colleges and universities. As the company fills its remaining positions, GSK’s Richmond leadership is preparing to work with the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team on an organizational development effort designed to introduce new employees to the company’s values and culture.

A Hub for the Life Sciences Industry

GSK’s expansion is part of a life sciences renaissance in the Richmond region. Since the GSK announcement, numerous companies in the industry have elected to locate operations in the area, drawn by research clusters like the Virginia Bio+Tech Park and the Medicines for All Institute, along with Greater Richmond’s talent pipeline. These recent investments have solidified Richmond as a hub for life sciences research and development for the future.

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