Archive for Friday, October 13, 2006

Identigen ramps up growth

New customers increase demand for employees

October 13, 2006


Identigen Ltd. is speeding up plans to hire employees, rev up training programs and move in high-tech equipment for its North American headquarters in Lawrence.

All after less than three months in town.

The moves come now that major customers are signing up to use the Ireland-based company's DNA-tracking technology for livestock meat products.

"We called this one right," said Donald Marvin, the company's president and chief executive officer for North American operations, during a break from interviewing job candidates Thursday afternoon in the Eldridge Hotel. "We're starting to see traction for our product in the marketplace. We will be rapidly ramping up our staff."

The company is moving faster than expected after landing an undisclosed number of North American customers for its products, which provide detailed genetic profiles of individual animals, Marvin said. The Kansas City area is a hub for animal-science companies, and meat-packers have major operations elsewhere in Kansas.

Within the next 12 to 24 months, Marvin said, Identigen could be accommodating tests and other products worth "several million dollars" from its North American headquarters, which already is expanding at 4824 Quail Crest Place in western Lawrence. By the end of the year, the company's laboratory and office space will be three times as large as when Identigen arrived back in July.

This week, Identigen officials gathering at the Eldridge discussed possibilities for occupying more room on Quail Crest Place, branching out into other sites in town or finding space elsewhere in the area.

"We're just having some of those conversations now, in terms of what our long-term needs are," Marvin said. "We'd certainly like to stay in the Lawrence area. I think it's a little premature to think where we might go, but we've been very pleased with the Lawrence area so far, and we look forward to expanding our operations here - in that same building or perhaps other buildings in the general area."

The company received dozens of applications for technicians and other scientific jobs that are opening up, and brought in about two dozen candidates this week to be interviewed by a handful of Identigen managers at the Eldridge. Marvin reported being "very pleased" with the pool of candidates, drawing from Lawrence, Topeka and the Kansas City area and often including graduates of Kansas and Kansas State universities.

The company hadn't expected to be hiring so many employees so soon, he said, but market realities couldn't be ignored.

"They're all very good problems to have, and the fact that the company is commercial now : speaks to the value that customers are starting to see in our technology," said Marvin, who described some of the customers as being "very dramatic in size."

Identigen has yet to settle on its incentive package with the Kansas Department of Commerce, which has worked out arrangements for providing a forgivable loan, training assistance, tax credits and a remodeling tax exemption. Levels of assistance won't be set until Identigen's hiring levels are clear, said Caleb Asher, a department spokesman.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority also has agreed to give the company research vouchers for doing work with Kansas State University.


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