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VOL. 124 | NO. 241 | Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Esoteric Labs Takes Next Step for Expansion Project

By Andy Meek

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After winning a tax break last month to support the development of a new business campus, American Esoteric Laboratories of Memphis now is seeking approval of design plans for the project.
AEL, a provider of clinical laboratory services to hospitals and doctors throughout the region, has proposed building a one-story, 70,000-square-foot office building near Whitten Road and Interstate 40.
The development is slated for the north side of Century Center Drive, west of Whitten, and the plans are on tap to be voted on at Thursday’s Memphis-Shelby County Land Use Control Board meeting.
The board’s meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Arts and sciences

AEL last month won a six-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) award from the city-county Industrial Development Board to support the expansion project, for which the company is making a capital investment of about $14 million. The reason for its planned move from what it says is a cramped facility on Distribution Drive in Southeast Memphis is simple.
Executives told IDB board members the company is out of space.
AEL has about 33,000 square feet of space now at 5846 Distribution Drive, with that capacity more than doubling in the new facility. And the 60-year-old venture needs the space.
“You can barely turn around without bumping into workers or equipment,” said Charles Gulotta, executive director of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Economic Development.
The current facility is east of Memphis International Airport and about 20 minutes from Downtown.
AEL representatives told the IDB last month it’s poised to grow this year in spite of the recession. In 2002, the company’s net revenue was $25 million, a number that’s grown to $90 million in the current fiscal year.
Six years from now, the project will have an estimated economic impact of more than $2 million, according to an estimate from the IDB.
AEL’s expansion would create 60 new jobs, bolstering the company’s existing local work force of 470 people to 530. A report from planning staff affiliated with the LUCB describes the company’s predominant activities as “forensic toxicology services, comprehensive microbiology services and related testing.”
In 2004, AEL acquired Memphis Pathology Laboratory, a joint venture clinical lab service owned by MDS Inc., Baptist Memorial Health Care and Methodist Healthcare.
The move allowed AEL to immediately bolster its size across several states, given MPL’s service of customers elsewhere in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and beyond.
AEL, a division of Sonic Healthcare USA, has locations in Tennessee that include labs in Memphis, Morristown, and Lebanon. AEL’s Web site says the company primarily “provides clinical information to aid customers throughout the Mid-South in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease. At our state-of-the-art core laboratory, we use advanced technology to provide fast, accurate test results.”
AEL’s areas of testing specialty include immunology, infectious disease diagnostics, urinalysis, toxicology, hematology and cytology.

More in the pike

In other action today, the LUCB will hear plans for a new charter school to be developed in Frayser in a former Kmart store. The building will house 550 middle- and high-school students.
The Memphis Business Academy is renovating the 86,640-square-foot big-box retail building at 3306 Overton Crossing St. for the charter school. The Memphis Business Academy Planned Development encompasses 8.32 acres at the southeast corner of Overton Crossing and Frayser Boulevard.
MBA closed on the property this summer, and the plan is for an $800,000 to $1 million overhaul to be completed within several weeks. Fisher & Arnold Inc., which did the architectural redesign work for the retail building, is representing the project’s applicant.
The MBA school is about 10 years old and was started by Anthony Anderson and Shawn Massey, a partner at The Shopping Center Group.

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