SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 10, 2012

Biotech gets foothold

US Biological builds big facility here, hopes to attract more

BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — SALEM — When you see the large glass and steel edifice that Warren Shore built on Technology Way as the new headquarters of United States Biological Corp., it’s hard to imagine where he began.

Shore started, would you believe, in the attic of his Swampscott home.

“We had to leave my attic when we had nine people,” the USBio president said.

He took the company to Texas, Baltimore and then Marblehead, where he stayed for 11 years, before deciding to pick up his test tubes and head to a much larger space in Salem. He recently moved into an 86,000-square-foot building across the street from Salem Glass Co. and Thermal Circuits.

Although he didn’t exactly plan it this way, Shore’s building is so large it has room for tenants, who are starting to come. In time, this could become the first biotech center in Salem.

“I’m filling up pretty quickly,” Shore said.

A small diagnostic company, Akrivis Technologies of Cambridge, which recently formed a strategic partnership with USBio, plans to move in next month. Akrivis, which develops technology and research tools for the early detection of cancer, currently has lab space at North Shore InnoVentures in Beverly.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the city to start tapping into the biotech ecosystem,” said Joel Berniac, the president and co-founder of Akrivis.

Other small companies, which Shore declined to disclose, are apparently getting ready to make the same move.

“We’re the next logical step when a company comes out of an incubator,” Shore said. “It’s part of the ‘build it and they will come’” theory, he said of his large building with lots of lab space. “We’re now at the forefront of making Salem a logical choice for biotech companies.”

He concedes, however, that he did not have a master plan when he decided to construct this large building.

“It was a big gamble,” he said. “I didn’t have any tenants in mind when I did it.”

USBio, with 30 employees, is clearly the anchor of this burgeoning biotech community.

The company describes itself as “a world leader in the manufacture and distribution of antibodies and biochemicals used in research laboratories and production facilities.” Its customers include universities and biotech labs.

The larger space will allow the company to take on larger projects, Shore said.

USBio made a $7 million investment in Salem with financing help from a state agency, MassDevelopment, and financial incentives from the city of Salem, which gave the company a TIF, or tax increment financing, deal to help draw them here.

Under the deal, the company pays a base tax bill, but gets a break on future growth. It is estimated that USBio will save $190,000 over 13 years, while the city will collect more than $750,000 in new tax revenue over that same period.

The move to a larger space is also expected to create more jobs.

Shore is confident USBio will keep growing, and not just because it is a world leader in its field. It also has a secret weapon.

Continuing a tradition begun in his Texas days, Shore gives customers his own brand of hot salsa — free salsa — with every order.

“People get hooked on it,” he said with a grin. “They have to buy more chemicals to get more salsa.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.