Cody Laboratories, producer of ingredients for pain medications, ponders expansion plans

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Owners of a major laboratory that makes painkillers have informed state officials that they don't intend to apply to the state for a loan to help underwrite expansion costs this year.

The Wyoming Legislature last year appropriated $25 million to pay for a loan program intended to help Cody Laboratories Inc. to expand its operations.

Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon said Wednesday his office has developed rules for the loan program that are now awaiting final approval from Gov. Matt Mead. Gordon said the state hasn't received any applications yet for program.

Cody Laboratories is a subsidiary of Lannett Co., a publicly traded company based in Pennsylvania.

Cody Laboratories President Bernhard Optiz and Lannett CEO Arthur P. Bedrosian wrote to Mead in February saying the companies are reviewing their expansion plans but didn't expect to apply for any state funding this year.

Opitz said Wednesday the company still plans to expand its operations in Cody. It currently has around 130 employees, and that number could exceed 200 under possible expansion scenarios.

"The plan to move forward has not changed at all," Optiz said. The companies are preparing a study of expansion options that will go to the Lannett board of directors for review, he said. Optiz said he expects action late this year.

It's not clear yet whether Cody Laboratories will apply to the state for financing, Optiz said. "When the path forward is defined, we will consider all financing options," he said.

In any case, Wyoming's action last year in approving the loan program sent an important signal to the companies that the state appreciates them and wants to bring in new industry, Optiz said.

"That signal is the most important part of the law, and we totally appreciate it," he said. "And we'll see how the total financial model for this project can be set up."

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, sponsored the bill to create the loan program. As originally drafted, it was carefully tailored to steer money to Lannett Co. Inc. However, several legislators protested that the original bill would have violated a constitutional prohibition on special legislation designed to benefit a single entity.

Through amendments, Coe's bill emerged as a generic large-project loan program open to a range of private industries.

Coe said Wednesday that he's confident that whether the companies apply for the money or not, that his bill sent a clear message that Wyoming wants and will support a pharmaceutical industry presence.

"We have a lot of really attractive reasons to locate here, from taxes, quality of life, whatever you want to look at," Coe said of Wyoming. "So whether or not they'll use the money or not, I'm not quite sure. Very bluntly, they could probably go a jillion places and get money, because they're that successful."

James Klessens is chief executive officer and president of Forward Cody, an economic development organization that's been developing infrastructure for the Cody Laboratories project. Work was recently completed on a $3.7 million, 11,000-foot warehouse for laboratory operations, Klessens said Wednesday.

"The project's gone quiet. It hasn't died at all," Klessens said of the overall laboratory expansion. "We haven't lost any momentum, or anything. Right now, it's that final checklist of things you have to answer before you come to a decision."

A recent state economic analysis concluded that expanding the laboratory could have a total economic effect of $100 million a year, Klessens said. "It is going to be a tremendous development for the community, in building fulltime year-round development for people," he said.

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