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Alexion's headquarters relocation stings in Connecticut

The announcement that Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. will move its corporate headquarters from New Haven — where the drug development company was founded in 1992 — to Boston stung in the Elm City Tuesday, a setback to its efforts to build its reputation as a center of bioscience research and development.

Matthew Nemerson, New Haven’s economic development administrator, said Alexion’s move will ripple out into the local economy, especially for apartment owners and restaurant operators that depended on the company’s workers.

"It will hurt us in the short-term with the 300 people who would have eaten at these restaurants, rented these apartments," he said.

Nemerson, however, preferred to focus on the fact that Alexion will still keep hundreds of high-paying and valuable research jobs in New Haven in the same building at 100 College St.

He also said the relocation will free up five or six stories in a 495,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building that can be leased to other companies.

“We have the greatest and most modern research building in the country right here,” Nemerson said. “It was going to be five stories, one company, then it became 12 stories. We now have another five or six stories we can rent out to other people. That’s an amazing opportunity.”

If there was a lesson to be learned from Alexion, it is that one company with one product “may be a difficult and high-risk scenario,” Nemerson said.

Despite the opportunities that now may open up, local business owners said it’s never good news when a corporation downsizes.

Two blocks away from 100 College St., restaurant owner Juan V. Gonzalez was assembling a computer at the bar of Jack’s Bar + Steakhouse Tuesday morning, about two weeks in advance of the restaurant’s opening.

Gonzalez said he was about to approach Alexion to promote the restaurant’s opening. He’s been counting on traffic from Alexion.

“That is one of the targets for us, Alexion,” Gonzalez said. “That is really sad news.”

Gonzalez said he’s encouraged that a few hundred workers will remain and, with projected traffic from Yale, he hopes the restaurant will hit its numbers.

At Bar, a bar and dance club around the corner on Crown Street, general manager Frank Patrick said Alexion often hosted parties in his venue.

"It's disappointing whenever anyone leaves town, but New Haven has grown a lot in the past few years," Patrick said. “I’m sure someone will snap up the space.”

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp stressed the benefits of the workers that are staying and that the Alexion headquarters relocation would not derail the larger “Downtown Crossing” project.

The project seeks to stitch together the city where it was divided by the Route 34 connector decades ago. The Alexion headquarters building was the first phase of “Downtown Crossing.”

Others had strong words for Alexion’s leaders, especially after the company received $26 million in a state loan and grant to build its company in Connecticut.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, called Alexion's move “shocking and shameful.”

“New Haven is home to some of the most talented and brightest minds in the world, and Alexion will be worse off for leaving, both financially and intellectually,” DeLauro said.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, a New Haven Democrat, also rapped Alexion.

“It’s unfortunate that federal investigations and poor financial investments are forcing Alexion to lay off thousands of workers worldwide and shutter some of its facilities, including in Rhode Island next door,” he said.

Courant staff writers Stephen Singer and Russell Blair contributed to this story.

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