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Last updateFri, 26 Sep 2014 6pm

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Alachua secures transportation grant for road improvements

ALACHUAThe City of Alachua will be literally paving the way for the new Nanotherapeutics facility to be built in town.

The biotech company Nanotherapeutics announced in March it had secured a contract from the Department of Defense (DOD) for $135 million up to $358 million over 10 years to develop drugs protecting against bioterrorism and disease epidemics at a new manufacturing plant. The City of Alachua now plans to renovate some roads to improve access to the plant.

The City wants to make sure roads, such as the one that will go into the plant from County Road 2054, are acceptable for long-term use, said Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

“Right now, there's only one access point to the site,” said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari. In order for Nanotherapeutics to get their contract, they needed the City to make certain road improvements, Boukari said.

To do this, the City was awarded a grant totaling just a little over $1 million from the Florida Department of Transportation's Economic Development Transportation Fund.

Work hasn't been started yet, but Mayor Coerper said it would focus on improving existing roads rather than building new ones connecting to the plant.

The Alachua City Commission will officially accept the grant on June 10, and will make a decision on when to start construction after that, Boukari said.

“Right now, it's real preliminary,” he said. “We have not done any of the formal engineering.”

The cost of the road improvements are expected to be close to the $1 million granted to the City.

The renovations are expected to be completed between December and early spring 2014.

“It will absolutely be finished by the time the plant opens,” he said.

Nanotherapeutics started life in the early 2000's at the University of Florida Sid Martin Incubator, which aims to help bioscience startup companies. The new facility will be adjacent to Progress Corporate Park, where the company is currently located.

The new 145,000-square-foot expansion location will cost about $150 million and is expected to create 150 new jobs, according to press releases from the company. The firm will research and develop ways of treating chemical and biological attacks and outbreaks for the DOD.

Representatives of Nanotherapeutics could not be reached for comment.

The decision to remain in Alachua is huge news, not just for the city, but for the state, said Mayor Coerper. “I still haven't wiped the smile off my face when I learned they were building it here,” he said. The 150 jobs to be created are expected to have an average salary of $90,000, and the nearby Santa Fe College satellite campus will offer courses to train people to work those jobs, Coerper said.

The plant will be a huge opportunity for Alachua, Fla., and the entire country, said assistant city manager Boukari.

“Nanotherapeutics is going to be a big part of Alachua's future,” he said.

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