Gurnee facility to manufacture Abbott rapid COVID-19 tests
Emergency authorization for use in the U.S. came Wednesday but Abbott Laboratories has been preparing for months to equip a huge empty building in Gurnee to make and ship its newly developed 15-minute covid test.
A campaign to hire 2,000 workers also is on a fast track as Abbott said it will ship tens of millions of tests in September and intends to manufacture 50 million tests a month at the beginning of October.
The White House on Thursday announced a $760 million deal with Abbott to produce 150 million tests.
Work has been proceeding rapidly since early May to convert a 255,000-square-foot building at 605 Tri-State Parkway. Abbott has applied for a certificate of occupancy inspection. If approved, occupancy will be granted for the facility to be at 50% of the operating capacity by next weekend, according to the village.
"I'm thrilled we were able to accommodate them and our community development staff could meet their deadlines so they can get this to market," said Mayor Kristina Kovarik. "It sounds groundbreaking."
According to information submitted to the village, the value of the interior work is $18 million, said Jack Linehan, assistant to the village administrator.
"They've been working pretty much around the clock on this facility," he said. "Our team and community development department has worked tirelessly to make this happen in a short amount of time."
The Gurnee facility is one of two where the test, called BinaxNOW, will be made. It will be sold for $5, is about the size of a credit card, offers results in 15 minutes and is available as an aid to quickly diagnose the virus that causes COVID-19, according to Abbott. So far, it's estimated by the Covid Tracking Project about 74 million tests have been conducted, so the ability to produce 50 million tests a month would be a huge boost in capacity.
A complimentary mobile app for iPhone and Android devices called NAVICA will allow people who test negative to display a temporary digital health pass that is renewed each time a person is tested through their health care provider with the date of the result, according to a company news release.
"We intentionally designed the BinaxNOW test and NAVICA app so we could offer a comprehensive testing solution to help Americans feel more confident about their health and lives," Robert B. Ford, Abbott president and CEO said in the statement.
Abbott approached Gurnee about using the building;, which was built in 2004. It was occupied by a pharmaceutical company through 2018 but has since been vacant.
"We've been working with them since the beginning of May," said David Ziegler, community development director.
"It was a different order of how we typically do things with this project," he said. "Knowing the importance, we partnered with them on a design/build (basis) making sure our concerns were met and their timeline was met."
The facility will operate 24 hours and employ 2,000 in positions that don't require previous experience.
Wages will be $15 an hour for the day shift and $18 an hour for nights, Kovarik said.
There also will be a $2,500 retention bonus paid over time, according to Kevin Considine, president and CEO of Lake County Partners, the county's development arm.
"That becomes the herculean task -- hiring 2,000 in a couple of weeks," he said. He said virtual and drive through job fairs are being planned.
"It's not an exaggeration to say they're helping to save the world," Considine added. "It's a big deal."