German chemical giant to open agricultural research and development center in West Sacramento

Published: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 10:14 am

West Sacramento scored a major gain at the expense of nearby neighbor Davis on Thursday.

Germany-based agrochemical company Bayer CropScience announced that it will move its U.S.-based research and development operations for vegetable seed and crop-protection products into an existing 164,000-square-foot facility in West Sacramento.

The move into the shuttered Affymetrix Inc. plant on nearly 10 acres of land is scheduled to happen in next year's first quarter.

Bayer did not say how many workers the facility would have initially, but noted that it has the capacity to employ 300.

The building at 890 Embarcadero Drive was abandoned in 2009 as part of a consolidation move by Affymetrix, a biotech firm based in Santa Clara.

Bayer, a subsidiary of German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG with annual sales of more than $1.5 billion, also said it plans to acquire additional, as-yet-unidentified, land nearby in West Sacramento to build a greenhouse and test plot facility.

The move will relocate Bayer's vegetable seeds research and business management operations, which are currently housed in multiple facilities in Davis – the primary one comprising about 30,000 square feet in south Davis.

Bayer CropScience said it has big plans for the West Sacramento site.

"Integrated crop solutions, with biologics and vegetable seeds as key components, will give growers worldwide new tools to manage the diverse demands of the food chain while maximizing the yield and quality of their crops," said Mike Miille, a business management executive with Bayer.

"It is exciting that the new jobs that will be created in greater Sacramento through this investment and expansion will have such a wide-reaching impact."

The Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization said the move will have an annual economic impact of more than $127 million in the region.

SACTO was one of multiple entities working to land Bayer in the region.

"The commitment to the Sacramento region that this investment represents by a company with the global stature of Bayer AG validates the region's strength in agriculture, biotech and related sciences and paves the way for more companies to follow," said Gary Bradus, SACTO's board chairman.

"We're thrilled with Bayer's decision to locate in West Sacramento. The location will bring new jobs, revenue and opportunities for other businesses and industry sectors in the area," said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

The West Sacramento property was acquired late last year by real estate investor Ethan Conrad, head of Ethan Conrad Properties. The reported purchase price was less than $6 million; the Bayer acquisition reportedly is in the neighborhood of $11 million.

Scott Kingston, vice president of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank, represented Conrad and declined to confirm the sale price, but he did say this: "It's a win for the seller, for the buyer and for West Sacramento and the greater Sacramento region as a whole."

For the city of Davis, however, it was a day of mixed emotions.

Over 17 years, Davis was ground zero for AgraQuest Inc., which grew from a humble startup making chemical free pesticides and fungicides to a company purchased by Bayer CropScience in 2012 for $425 million.

Kemble Pope, executive director of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that the Davis community will always be proud "of this huge success story for the region" and of the Davis/UC Davis reputation as an incubator of successful startups.

He said the city and UCD "are great for small- and medium-size businesses, but we're never going to be able to accommodate wildly successful" companies that outgrow the area's "smart, slow" approach to development.

"From our perspective, (Bayer's move) is a little bittersweet. We're sad to see them go."

Johan Peleman, head of vegetable seeds research and development for Bayer, did offer this: "The new location offers top-notch equipment and allows for a stimulating exchange across disciplines. At the same time, we can further strengthen our bonds with the University of California at Davis, one of the world's top plant science institutes."

Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

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