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Corixa expansion: $800,000 grant propels Hamilton project closer to reality

City and county officials are one step closer to funding a $2.2 million
infrastructure project intended to court the biotech company Corixa
Corp. into expanding its manufacture and research facility in Hamilton.

By JENNY JOHNSON Ravalli Republic Staff Reporter

Officials Thursday learned that $800,000 of state money is slated to pay
for water and sewer lines out to the northeast Hamilton company and job
training for more than 100 estimated positions created.

The Montana Department of Commerce committed to the project by
awarding the city and county a Community Development Block Grant for
the project, including $140,000 for employee training. Hamilton’s special
projects officer Dale Huhtanen said he expects most of the project – $1.4
million – to be funded through a federal economic development grant.

City officials and the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority
have been trying to fund infrastructure costs along Old Corvallis Road to
the Corixa plant since the company approached them about expansion
plans earlier this year. In order to expand its facility, which currently
employs about 100 people, Corixa officials say it needs to be connected
to city water and sewer. And city and county officials teamed up to
provide an infrastructure solution to Corixa, which is courted by other
states for its non-extractive and clean industry, according to Betty Davis,
executive director the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority.

Total costs for running 1,300 feet of 12-inch water line from Fairgrounds
Road to the Corixa manufacturing plant, crossing both the railroad
tracks and the Corvallis Canal, and sewer collection lines are estimated
at $2.2 million. With an engineering study in hand, city and county
officials started to look for sources to fund the project in February.

Construction costs are estimated at $1.6 million, and another $300,000
will go toward engineering costs, Huhtanen said. Of the $800,000
awarded to the project from the state, $140,000 is slated for job training,
both from Workforce Investment Act funds and economic development
money. Huhtanen said the federal application for funding is forthcoming.
He and Davis met with federal officials in Denver in June along with
representatives from Sen. Max Baucus’ office, he said.

The project will create 32 jobs initially, according to Corixa officials. And
once the two phases of expansion are completed, Corixa projects to add
more than 100 employees to its payroll if it decides to house the new
manufacturing plant in Hamilton.

Corixa develops immunotherapeutics and sponsors research and
manufacturing at its Hamilton facility while headquartered in Seattle.
Formerly known as Ribi Immunochem, Corixa is looking at expanding its
Hamilton location rather than facilities in Seattle or San Francisco. But
first the company is addressing concerns ranging from personal and
business taxes to finding an educated and highly motivated workforce.

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