Bayer has already started relocating some of the 500 workers it has committed to moving to the St. Louis area. The agricultural megabusiness expects to move the bulk of those positions over the next two years, said Liam Condon, president of the company’s crop science division.
“People are literally, physically moving now — this summer,” Condon said during a visit to the company’s agronomy center in Jerseyville, Illinois.
The jobs coming to St. Louis are high-paying, with an average annual salary of $110,000. Condon described some of the people moving as “highly qualified” scientists. The new employees include staff coming from Germany — where Bayer is based — as well as North Carolina, where the company is shutting down one of its other facilities. Some of the positions will also be new hires for Bayer.
The new employees will be spread across the facilities in Creve Coeur and Chesterfield, Condon said.
Missouri and St. Louis County sought to sweeten the pot for Bayer, by offering the multinational business millions of dollars in tax breaks and other advantages for the additional jobs. Gov. Mike Parson put together a $44 million tax package for Bayer in exchange for moving the positions to the St. Louis area. The county government offered up additional tax relief.
Brett Begemann, chief operating office for the company’s crop science division, said the business tax breaks were a component of — but not the only factor in — Bayer’s decision to expand in St. Louis.
“I’m proud to say that Missouri stepped up aggressively to encourage that,” Begemann said. “It definitely was a part of the consideration, but it wasn’t the only thing that we looked at.”
Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto, an agribusiness giant and St. Louis institution, left a lot of anxiety over the German-based company’s plans for its facilities in the region and its 4,400 employees. Eleven months after the sale, though, political leaders are cautiously optimistic about Bayer’s commitment to remaining in St. Louis.
“I remember vividly being told about the InBev experience and being told not to make promises we couldn’t keep,” Condon said, adding that the transferred empolyees “really like living in St. Louis. We’ve gotten some very positive feedback.”
Other aspects of the Bayer/Monsanto purchase haven’t necessarily gone as smoothly. The company has been hit with thousands of lawsuits concerning one of Monsanto’s legacy products, weed killer Roundup, and its alleged link to cancer. In March, a California jury ruled that Bayer owed $81 million to one man with cancer who regularly used the product.
“Very honestly, it’s been a little bit more noisy than we expected,” Condon told reporters.
Begemann called the Roundup lawsuits a “distraction.”
“It’s a disappointment for many people because the product is well known. It’s been around for 40 years,” Begemann said. “It’s got a stellar track record. Every regulatory agency in the world has said it doesn’t cause cancer.”
“It’s a very important product for agriculture. We will continue to fight to make sure it gets its fair day in court,” he added.
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