MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first group of workers with pharmaceutical company Viatris will be laid off at the end of July, but one Monongalia County lawmaker is hoping to use coronavirus relief funding to save the facility’s 1,500 jobs.
Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, is pushing for using a portion of the $678 million West Virginia recently received to keep the plant open.
The funding is part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that lawmakers approved in March. West Virginia will receive more than $1.3 billion, and the state will get the second allocation next year.
The plant has been in operation since 1965 and part of Mylan Pharmaceuticals until November 2020 when Mylan and Pfizer Inc. subsidiary Upjohn merged to become Viatris. The new company announced a month later the plant’s closure as part of a global restructuring plan.
Beach told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM the $25 million could be set aside to entice a new company to the plant.
“They could use the money for taxes or retooling the facility — which would probably be more likely than anything — just to get folks in the door,” he said.
Beach said the facility will have to be presented as an ideal opportunity with an emphasis on its proximity to West Virginia University and the state’s recreation options.
Workers, union leaders and elected officials have previously met to discuss possible solutions, but there has not been a proposed resolution. Beach said the plant’s future will be discussed during next week’s legislative interim meetings.
“We’ll be caucusing on Monday, and I’ll be pitching this idea to both my caucus and eventually the governor,” he said.
Other states are considering using coronavirus relief funding for economic projects; North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed using $30 million for improving race tracks Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway and the Rock. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, but the last races at North Wilkesboro Speedway and the Rock — known previously as Rockingham Speedway — took place in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
“There are 1,500 employees that are going to lose their jobs,” Beach said. “Right now, they’re in limbo as to what the future holds for them. We want to put some stability in their lives again and try to get this secured before the end of July.”