EDITORIAL: Cook dealmaking puts community first

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It’s impressive that in just 13 years Bloomington-based Cook Group built the biopharmaceutical manufacturer Cook Pharmica from nothing into a company with $167 million in revenue and such promise that a publicly traded suitor was willing to buy it for nearly $1 billion.

But it’s equally impressive that Cook Group execs analyzed the $950 million deal with New Jersey-based Catalent Inc. far more broadly than from a dollars-and-cents perspective. As Cook Group President Pete Yonkman put it on Sept. 19, “We only consider opportunities like this when it clearly benefits the patients we serve, our employees, the community, and both companies.”

While cynics might dismiss such statements as PR yammer, Cook has a long record of admirable corporate citizenship to back it up. And the facts in this circumstance appear to support the upbeat tone. The head of Cook Pharmica is remaining in place, all 750 workers are keeping their jobs, and a Catalent executive is promising to “invest aggressively” in the Bloomington operation.

On the same day it announced the Cook Pharmica sale, Cook Group disclosed that it might add 500 jobs in Bloomington over the next decade. To accommodate the growth, it’s buying General Electric’s former refrigerator factory in Bloomington—finding a new use for what could have been a community eyesore for years to come.

We recount all these twists and turns because the developments to our south reinforce in a resounding way the importance of locally based, community-minded companies to a region’s long-term vitality.

It’s an unsettling point to ponder these days, given the large number of local companies lately that have agreed to be acquired or have folded. Those agreeing to sales included Angie’s List and Interactive Intelligence, while HHGregg, Marsh Supermarkets and ITT Educational Services all failed.

Making matters worse: IPOs, which in yesteryear would restock our roster of major Indiana companies, have fallen out of favor—leaving many up-and-coming firms to opt instead for sales to out-of-state rivals.

To be sure, many firms based across the country take corporate citizenship seriously. But it’s human nature for executives of those firms to put the best jobs—and to show the greatest corporate engagement—in their headquarters towns.

All of which brings us back to Cook, which employs more than 12,000 workers, nearly two-thirds of them in Indiana.

Bill Cook, who founded the company in a spare bedroom of his Bloomington apartment in 1963 and established its corporate culture, died in 2011. Fortunately for Bloomington, and our state, the philosophy with which he built the business lives on.•


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