By Dyke Hendrickson
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a series of articles focusing on companies in Newburyport's business park. The series intends to show the kinds of businesses, innovations and job opportunities that are emerging as the park strives to compete in the global economy.
NEWBURYPORT — The industrial park here was founded decades ago, but today, numerous companies in the current business park are focused on high-tech solutions that are filling modern technical needs of companies around the country.
One such business is PCI Synthesis, a privately held enterprise that is involved in chemical manufacturing for biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
At 9 Opportunity Way, it is currently running three shifts and is recruiting qualified technical staff all the time.
PCI Synthesis is a 12-year-old custom chemical manufacturer of new chemical entities, generic active pharmaceutical ingredients and other specialty chemical products.
A contract manufacturing organization, PCI provides emerging and midsized pharmaceutical companies access "to the expertise needed to develop and manufacture complex small molecules and APIs used in generic pharmaceuticals."
Though he is in a very competitive market, PCI President Ed Price has found a way to create and sell quality products.
"Outsourcing by pharmaceutical companies (to companies like us) has been increasing," Price said. "We can help them for an early-stage idea to commercialization.
"We're in a good position here in Newburyport, being in the backyard of Boston-Cambridge, which has many pharma and biotech firms."
PCI employs about 95 in highly technical positions. It maintains a research and development arm in Devens, which has about 33 workers.
In recent months, PCI announced a collaboration deal with Biogen Idec, a public company that started in Cambridge and is considered one of the most prominent biotech operations in the country.
Part of PCI's role with Biogen Idec is to "evaluate and optimize a number of new compounds with the goal of identifying potential new drugs."
City officials and industry executives are attempting to bring more high-tech firms into the city, and PCI is the kind of company that appears to fit into the community.
It is part of a "new generation" of enterprises that have joined to form the Newburyport Business Park Association, a name that reflects that the park is composed of business and tech companies as well as industrial enterprises.
The Newburyport Area Industrial Development (NAID) was successful in developing the park — about 94 acres off Graf Road — five decades ago, but that organization is no longer active in park development.
The city is looking for vibrant younger companies to set up shop here, and PCI appears to fill that bill.
"This is a great company for the city and the park," said Bob O'Brien, who heads the Newburyport CleanTech Center in the business park. "It is developing valuable products we can all use.
"With its chemistry capabilities, we will be working to marry early-stage companies that have an idea with an established operation like PCI."
Mayor Donna Holaday said, "We have been working with the Mass Biotech Council so we can move up to the next standard of providing things companies look for in a community. PCI sounds like exactly the company we want, with quality, well-paying jobs offering opportunity."
PCI's work must be meticulous, but Price says that his company's diligence is paying off.
"In the past, contracts have gone to China and India, but many U.S. companies now are finding that it is more beneficial to have the work done here," said Price, a Chelmsford native who studied chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, and Texas A and M.
"Our quality is high, and U.S. companies respect patents. We have all the work we can handle."