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Isotope maker plans $40M project in Noblesville

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Radiopharmaceuticals maker Zevacor Molecular plans to open a $40 million isotope-production facility in Noblesville, creating nearly 50 good-paying jobs within five years.

Noblesville will provide an estimated $1.9 million—about 85 percent of the new property taxes the project should produce—in equipment and other necessities, according to a development deal the Common Council unanimously approved Tuesday.

The agreement also calls for Zevacor to get a 95-percent abatement on personal property taxes for 10 years.

If the company fails to deliver on its promises, so-called clawback provisions allow the city to recoup its investment, municipal attorney Mike Howard told the council.

Zevacor, which has eight employees and an office in Fishers, is a for-profit subsidiary of Decatur, Ill.-based not-for-profit Illinois Health & Science—also the parent of Decatur Memorial Hospital. It operates hospital cyclotrons and nuclear pharmacies in several states, said Kenneth Smithmier, Illinois Health’s president and CEO.

The 70-million-electron-volt cyclotron now being built in Belgium is the first of that size to be used primarily for commercial purposes, he said. The others are used mostly for research.

Officials evaluated several potential sites nationwide including Los Alamos, N.M., Smithmier said, but chose Noblesville because of its central location and proximity to the major FedEx hub in Indianapolis.

Isotopes have a limited shelf life, he said, so time is of the essence. “Logistics made a big difference.”

Illinois Health & Science plans to spend more than $7 million to acquire and renovate a vacant 71,000-square-foot building at 14395 Bergen Blvd., which it will lease to Zevacor. A concrete-walled vault to be erected inside the building will house the $30 million particle accelerator, expected to arrive in fall 2015.

Production should begin by early 2017.

Zevacor said it would have a total of 25 employees—and a total payroll of $2.5 million—by the end of next year. It promised to more than double its staff by the end of 2018.

The company has cash on hand to pay for the project, Smithmier said, including the $10 million or so it already has spent.

“We have no outside investors and we’re not seeking any,” he said.

That’s one big difference between Zevacor and Positron Corp., which planned a similar facility in Noblesville three years ago but couldn’t line up the necessary backing.

City officials are optimistic about Zevacor’s prospects—and what its success might mean for Noblesville.

“We think this is a catalyst for future growth,” said Economic Development Director Judi Johnson, citing the potential for related development nearby.

Indiana Economic Development Corp. also has offered tax credits and training funds, Smithmier said.

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  • RE: Lee
    I assume your assumptions have been properly vetted in the assumed assumption-vetting failsafes? If said assumptions have not been assumed and taking into consideration your unassumed dangers of such a facility if there ever is an incident Noblesville could lay claim to the first Superhero if someone, for example, steps between the isotopic ray and the radioactive soup. Hulk anyone?
  • Doh!
    You have nothing to worry about. I've heard they are bringing in Homer Simpson into run the joint.
  • how radioactive are the isotopes produced
    Typically, a facility like this would be outside a populated area due to the regulatory nature, I assume they have passed all Nuclear Regulatory requirements for an Isotope facility. I also assume that the building they will be using has all the necessary safety precautions to make sure that it is a self-sustained facility with the necessary air handling to keep all potentially contaiminated air within the facility. Given it is a cyclotron, one would assume the isotopes produced are radioactive and contained in a failsafe room with multiple failsafes in case of venting into the outside of the building. What exactly are the isotopes, their toxicity, and how will they be handled within the facility for packaging, shipping, and logistics through Noblesville and then to customers. I believe the citizens of Noblesville have a right to know exactly what type facility has been approvedand the dangers involved if any. WOuld have thought this facility would have gone through a proper vetting with the public and voting prior to approval. A cyclotron of this size produces a sizable magnetic field as well as consuming energy on the order of a small town. How do they propose to provide enought shielding that the magnetic fields do not escape the facility. What are the potential health and environmental impacts to this facility and does it pose any issue as an isotope facility with the NRC and the Department of Homeland Security. One would hope the security of the facility will be high given it is producing radioactive isotopes.

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