Roche Expanding in Tucson, AZ

Drug giant Roche will spend about $180 million in Oro Valley on new buildings and other capital investments while creating 500 jobs there over the next five years.

The jobs, to pay an average salary of $75,000, will include positions in science, administration and manufacturing, as the heavyweight bioscience and pharmaceutical firm grows to meet the demands of an aging population, the Swiss-based company recently announced.

The new jobs will increase the work force of Oro Valley-based Ventana Medical Systems—which was bought by Roche in 2008—by up to 50 percent.

The Tucson area is believed to have won out over three other regions that also have a Roche workforce, in Indianapolis, Southern California and northern New Jersey, said Joe Snell, president and CEO of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. or TREO.

Community and business leaders close to the deal said it’s been in the works for nearly a year and hinges on Pima County and the state providing key incentives.

Pima County Supervisor Ann Day, whose district includes Oro Valley, said the county and state were able to put together generous incentives to entice the company to expand its work force at Innovation Park. The county will waive $8.5 million in property taxes and the state is offering $2 million in stimulus funds, Day said. Pima County will also offer work force training.

“These are 400 to 500 high-tech positions that have a median wage of more than $70,000 a year,” Day said. “I just think it’s remarkable to have companies like Ventana Medical and Roche in our region because they are at the forefront of creating new medicine to treat previously untreatable diseases. Just think, it’s developed right here in our county.”

Innovation Park has become a hub for bioscience research. Sanofi-Aventis also has a research center at the 535-acre campus, and the University of Arizona recently acquired Sanofi-Aventis’ older, smaller lab space a few miles from the park. Plans for that lab call for drug research, but the lab will also be used as a business incubator.