Manufacturer of COVID Tests Wants to Develop Facility in Hudson, NH

I was pleasantly surprised to see press release last week announcing plans for Virginia based MicroGEM acquiring the Nashua based Jump Start Manufacturing LCC and announcing plans to develop a manufacturing facility here in Hudson. From the press release, they are planning on building a manufacturing facility to produce Covid saliva test kits – a hot topic in the current environment. They also announced plans for a similar production facility in Ogden UT. Plans are 500 employees between both locations with capability to produce 160K tests per day.

I was particularly interested in the potential for quality of jobs that they may bring. Personally having spent ~20 years in the laser micromachining industry, I have had opportunity to work alongside and sell laser manufacturing equipment to a number of companies involved in diagnostics and drug discovery. The technology to drill a 2 micron diameter hole for patch clamp technology, as an example, is appreciable. If you have trouble with the dimension, a human hair is about 70 microns in diameter. I can envision high level e product development scientists and engineers, production engineers, material planners and purchasing agents, along with technical roles running and maintaining production equipment with appreciable path toward professional development.

Quality of jobs and job retention

Quality of jobs, I think, would be very high. I would think pay scales would be competitive and with the technical levels some of the companies I have worked with, employee retention would be key.

If we compare and contrast – the proposed distribution complex will employee something around 1100-1400 employees and ~ 95% will be warehouse workers, 5% higher level management roles. Rounding things off, ~ 50-70 employees, in my opinion, in a role allowing for appreciable professional development. For the 95% - employee retention isn’t a given.

For career development and wages, I would tip my hand toward MicroGEM.

But are the jobs real and how many, really?

But are the promises of jobs real? We don’t know exactly how many people may be employed for MicroGEM. There is just a brief press release with general figures split across the two proposed factories.

Let us take a look at a recent Amazon development in Haverhill. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini estimated the number of new jobs at 250. After announcing the project Amazon, itself, has revised the figure to expected only more than 100 full- and part-time jobs. How many full and how many part time?

As these projects develop there just isn’t enough information to know just how many employees will be needed. Promises are easy to make, reality will not be certain until the project is successful.

And not all is gold

As for the aforementioned diagnostics and drug discovery industry, not all is gold. I have worked with a number of companies working in these areas - not all panned out and some struggle for years.

Let us take a look at ArrayIt out is Sunnyvale CA. Years ago, I did a number of projects with them (at that time known as Telechem International). Very promising technology and I got to know the team very well – however you can see here that the CEO has recently been charged in alleged “scheme to mislead investors and commit health care fraud by filing more than $69 million in false and fraudulent claims for COVID-19 testing”. This is a truly saddening turn of events for a promising company and brilliant scientists. You can read the article here.

I would like to think MicroGEM will thrive and bring some quality jobs to our community at professional levels that residents of Hudson would aspire to work there. Call me cautiously optimistic.