Pfizer to close Henrico plant, Lay off 550 employees

Published: May. 18, 2010 at 4:59 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2010 at 9:47 PM EDT
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By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Stunning news for hundreds of local people who make the medicine found in homes around the world. Today, Pfizer announced it will close the former Wyeth plant on Darbytown Road, eliminating hundreds of jobs.

Pfizer just acquired the plant nine months ago. But the company says it is ill-equipped for future needs. So today, 550 employees were told operations here are wrapping up.

Employees went home early today, not long after finding out their jobs were being cut.

"Anytime you make a change like this it's certainly difficult for the company, the employees, and the community," said Kristen Neese, Director of Communications for the drug maker.

Pfizer is closing its Richmond plant, along with seven others around the world. 550 people will lose their jobs here making the products found in millions of American medicine cabinets.

"For years, things like ChapStick and Robitussin have been hallmarks of the Richmond pharmaceutical business. And so anytime a plant like that closes down and you know those things aren't gonna be made here anymore, that's something a little bit different," said Dr. David Urban of the VCU School of Business.

Urban says, even though the economy show signs of a rebound, manufacturers are becoming leaner. Indeed, Pfizer says the closings will make the company more efficient.

"Our decision really isn't a reflection of the work that's done here or the people who work here. Really it's a look at how we manufacture our products, where we manufacture them, and where people use them," Neese said.

Pfizer's products, including Dimetapp and Preparation H, are selling better in other countries. So, manufacturing is being shifted there. It is a major blow to the Richmond economy and, perhaps, to local pride.

"We have this wistful feeling about things that once were, and no longer are. And it's always sad," Urban said.

The shut-down here will take two to three years. Workers will receive severance packages and the chance to work elsewhere in the company. Pfizer will keep its product development facility near I-95, in North Richmond. About 300 people work there.

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