A big-city feel with small-city appeal: That’s how Chris Champlin, Vice President of Global Corporate Accounts of Thermo Fisher Scientific, describes Asheville.
An international mega-company with 65,000 employees worldwide and $20 billion in revenue, Thermo Fisher Scientific helps accelerate life sciences research, solve complex analytical challenges, improve patient diagnostics, deliver medicines to market and increase laboratory productivity. Some 600 employees work in the company’s Asheville factory, which manufactures ultra-low-temperature freezers, laboratory-grade refrigerators and temperature-control products used in life science applications. Another 200 employees work in a customer service center for the laboratory products business in Biltmore Park. The customer base includes pharmaceutical and biotech, academic research, clinical and government.
Champlin cites location and the ease of attracting talent as two of Asheville’s most important attributes. For a manufacturing company that ships products around the world, easy access to Charleston and other vital ports is key. In the last 15 years or so, he says, people have come to appreciate what Asheville has to offer.
“We’re able to get some very talented people moving here because first, they want to work for a world-class company, and second, they want to live in a town that provides them the unique benefits that Asheville provides. There’s a positive buzz – and when people get here, they typically find out that the buzz is accurate.”
The Asheville site is unique in the Thermo Fisher Scientific network. Tagged as a Community Action Council site, it emphasizes community involvement, with both volunteer hours as well as donations of money. The factory assists the MANNA Food Bank by supplying cold storage products to help keep fresh foods cold. The company also supports the Asheville Tourists minor league baseball team and works closely with STEM education at several local schools. In the past few years, the factory has been ranked by IndustryWeek Magazine as one of the Best Plants in America.
Being a large multinational corporation in a location with a lot of small businesses could be challenging, but Champlin finds that people in the Asheville business community value personal connections and welcome opportunities to work collaboratively. And almost all the local businesses are global in nature, resulting in a worldly base of people. “Any time you’re on a plane flying to Asheville, you can look around and hear people talking about where they’re coming from and how excited they are to get back to Asheville,” he says. “But where they’re coming from could be anywhere in Asia, anywhere in Europe, anywhere in Africa. A large portion of those using the airport are using it to go to some of the farthest regions of the world.”