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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 31, 201512:00 PM EST

Vistakon's Phase 7 at least $19M expansion


Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. is exploring another manufacturing expansion at its growing Deerwood Park campus that would cost an estimated $19 million to build and likely much more to equip.

The campus, at 7500 Centurion Parkway, makes Acuvue disposable contact lenses and employs about 2,000 people full-time, part-time and as temporary workers in Jacksonville.

Sizewise, the proposed “Phase 7 Project Expansion” is larger than the previous addition approved for city and state incentives in 2013 and its construction cost is higher.

Phase 6 was about 20,000 square feet of new space and 15,000 square feet of renovated space, and the site work and construction costs were about $16.7 million. Construction should be completed in several months.

The newest project is a 35,000-square-foot addition and the base construction cost is more than $2 million higher.

That raises the question of just how significant Phase 7 could become because the previous expansion was valued at a $218 million overall investment.

Phase 6 earned more than $8.6 million in city and state incentives to create up to 100 jobs at an average wage of $65,000 plus benefits. For that, the company outlined the addition of five new production lines and an upgrade of two more, in addition to the construction costs.

Vistakon said then that project would make the latest generation of its Acuvue disposable contact lenses.

Building plans filed last week for the “Phase 7 Project Expansion” show the addition could accommodate 115 people and would include manufacturing, materials staging, polymerization, resin silos and other functions, as well as shell space for later growth.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is reserved in its comments.

Global Communications Manager Leyla Goodsell said the company always thinks about planning its future and how it could best use its property at its Jacksonville headquarters.

“As a result we are looking at a potential expansion. It’s just an exploration at this point,” she said.

Goodsell said Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is trying to determine whether it can expand. She said that to prepare, it needed to apply for the building permit.

“Right now we have not made any final determination whether we’re going to expand or not,” she said.

However, the company has submitted the permit application and detailed building plans with the city, indicating an advanced exploration.

Gilbane Building is listed as the contractor and Flad Architects of Tampa is the architect.

Those plans also show the phases of how the plant, which was first developed in 1993, has added manufacturing, offices, distribution center space and research and development functions over the years.

Goodsell said the company does not discuss the specific investment costs for a project and referred to the publicly filed information. She also did not have a time frame for the decision to expand.

Asked whether the company would seek incentives for Phase 7, Goodsell said she could not speak to that. “The results of our exploration will give us some direction on that,” she said.

For Phase 6, City Council approved a $6.9 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant. State assistance comprised a $1.5 million Quick Action Closing Fund contribution and $225,000 in workforce training.

The company is one of the area’s largest manufacturing employers and plants.

It occupies more than 836,000 square feet of space at its almost 69-acre campus. The proposed project boosts that to almost 871,000 square feet of space.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care in Jacksonville has been best known as Vistakon, which is a division. Goodsell said the company has been moving toward using its overall corporate identity.

Johnson & Johnson bought Frontier Contact Lenses in Jacksonville in 1981 and renamed it Vistakon.

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