12/25/18 – Magazine notes Lenoir company’s success

Posted on: January 2nd, 2019 by admin


December 25, 2018


By Virginia Annabel





Locally, Exela Pharma Sciences has been seen as a standout example of the growth and diversification of Caldwell County’s economy. In 10 years the pharmaceutical company went from a handful of employees to 300 employees, putting it on the crest of growing life sciences and biotechnology industry in the region.


Now, the company and county have been recognized statewide in an economic development magazine, much to the pleasure of Phanesh Koneru, the CEO of Exela.


Being presented on the front page of the North Carolina 2019 Economic Development Guide as a prime example of business growth was an honor, Koneru said.


“We take a lot of pride in this,” he said. “It also humbled us in a way — it’s a lot of responsibility.”


The cover article touts Exela as a success that has been part of the 25 percent growth in biotechnology jobs in western North Carolina since 2013, and told Koneru’s success story — from being raised in a small town in India with no running water or electricity to becoming the founder of a successful American company. This story only marks a step in his journey, though, he said.


“We are not looking for this attention, … it just happens,” he said. “We take this all in stride, but we need to keep focused on the goals. We need to keep going.”


When Koneru started Exela in Lenoir in 2008, the economy still leaned heavily toward furniture, Koneru said. He didn’t expect as much diversification as Caldwell County has seen since then, but local and state government has helped his and other businesses start up and succeed, as the magazine article detailed.


The article mentioned other Caldwell County biotech companies, including Stallergenes Greer, a maker of allergy-related pharmaceuticals that has been in Lenoir for decades, and Adhezion Biomedical, which came to Hudson iin 2002 and makes medical skin adhesives used in surgery and other medical applications.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said seeing Caldwell County displayed as an example of biotechnology industry growth was gratifying.


“We’ve known for a long time, but this is a feather in our cap,” Murray said.


Local entities like the EDC have been working to grow the biotech and life sciences field in Caldwell, she said. Local governments have provided incentives and grants to these companies, including Exela, and Exela is a prime example of those incentives’ success as well as Caldwell County’s ability to foster companies like Exela, Murray said.


“It’s a litmus test,” she said. “It proves that we can bring to the table the kind of workforce … and everything he’s needed.”


Exela has long been a company Murray is happy to show off, or present to companies interested in establishing in Lenoir. Now, it’s been used for the purpose statewide, but not without a lot of hard work, elbow grease and investments, Koneru said.


“All this reflects on our work,” he said.


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