Drug maker Merck says it's pulling-out of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The company's headquarters is moving about 25 miles away from Whitehouse Station to another Merck site in Summit, New Jersey.
Merck says the move will help lower operating expenses and consolidate properties. But it's a huge blow to Hunterdon County, and could mean higher taxes.
"It's not good, you can't sugar coat this, this is bad for Hunterdon County," said Robert Walton, Director of Hunterdon County's Board of Chosen Freeholders
For two decades he says drug maker Merck has been a great addition to the Whitehouse Station area, employing about 2,000 workers and contractors.
"They have been active in civic organizations, participating both monetarily and with their personal presence in a lot of civic organization," added Walton.
Local officials say they were blindsided.
"It came as a complete surprise," said Walton. "There was no forewarning, there was no indication they were looking to make this change, just came out of the clear blue."
In-fact he found out about the move through an email I sent him.
The 1-million square foot building in Whitehouse Station will close, relocating to Summit, New Jersey. Merck released a statement saying in part, "the relocation of our headquarters will help us achieve our future vision, reduce the size of our operating footprint, and increase agility as we adapt to our changing business environment." Merck merged with Schering Plough in 2009.
The move will put the company closer to New York City, major transportation hubs, and operations. The Summit property houses research, manufacturing, animal health and consumer care operations.
"Losing that from our tax base is going to have to make Readington Township and the County either cut more or raise taxes," explained Walton.
Not to mention another empty commercial property in the County. Walton call's Merck's decision disappointing.
"It also hurts all the local businesses that are in and around Whitehouse Station that depend on the employees from Merck for lunch, for dry cleaning, all those kinds of activities," he said.
Merck says the move is expected to start in 2014 and be complete by mid 2015. About 2,000 workers will be transferred to Summit, or other facilities in Branchburg and Cokesbury, New Jersey.