1,300 Jobs Lost After Kentucky Inaction

LOUISVILLE, KY - The City of Louisville may have lost 1,300 new high-paying jobs because state regulators didn't move quickly enough to accommodate mail-order pharmacy giant Medco Health Solutions, Louisville and state economic development officials said.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports in its Saturday edition that the company announced Monday it had chosen central Indiana over Louisville for a $150 million automated mail-order pharmacy, despite $30 million in tax incentives that a Kentucky agency approved last month. Indiana offered about $18.5 million.

A key factor in that decision, according to economic-development officials, was the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy's failure to more quickly approve a regulation that would allow Medco pharmacists working in other states to review prescriptions shipped through Louisville, reports the C-J.

"It was a deal breaker," said Eileen Pickett, a senior vice president of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce. "They can do business in Indiana today, and they can't in Kentucky, and that was a big part of the decision."

Economic-development officials and Medco representatives appeared at three consecutive meetings of the Kentucky pharmacy board, at which the board discussed the proposed regulation change but put off action.

A few weeks after the third meeting, New Jersey-based Medco said it had chosen Indiana and cited the state's entrepreneurial spirit and business-friendly environment, reports the newspaper.

"We needed the (pharmacy) board to act in a positive manner in order to land Medco," said John Hindman, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

The executive director of the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy said revising the state regulation was a complicated task and the board wasn't aware of how quickly Medco wanted to act.

Yesterday, the board again considered a regulation change to accommodate automated pharmacy operations such as Medco's. But it deferred action until February to allow time to broaden the measure to include hospital pharmacies and other providers, writes the Courier-Journal.

Indiana's pharmacy board also met yesterday to consider a similar measure, and adopted it. While the rule wasn't in place when Medco made its decision, Indiana regulators had been moving toward the change.

Medco said its 300,000-square-foot center will be "the world's largest and most advanced automated pharmacy." The company has two similar centers in New Jersey and Nevada, which together dispense 2 million prescriptions a week.

Jobs at the new center, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, will pay an average of $53,000 a year. Wages are expected to range from $12 to $45 an hour, according to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which approved tax incentives for Medco on Oct. 25.

copyright The Courier-Journal

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