Finance Committee Eyes Ultragenyx Agreement

Thanks in part to the efforts of Town Manager Sarah Stanton and Economic Development Director Alyssa Sandoval, biopharmaceutical company Ultragenyx is eyeing Bedford as the home for its newest manufacturing site. Ultragenyx specializes in producing medicines to treat rare and ultra-rare genetic diseases. The company is based in California, with multiple sites there, but settled upon Bedford as the home for their newest manufacturing site.

Negotiations with Ultagenyx began on a chilly February day when Stanton and Sandoval met with Ultragenyx on the side of the road at 170 Middlesex Turnpike, a large piece of unused property which the company is eyeing to develop for their site. Although the company had already made agreements with another town to develop a site there, Stanton said, Ultragenyx was so impressed with the town’s existing biotech presence, Stanton’s experience with the city of Cambridge, and their eagerness to welcome the company to the town that they ultimately elected to begin talks to settle in Bedford.

The Finance Committee unanimously agreed that bringing the company to town would be “a big win for Bedford.” As Stanton explained, “Ultragenyx is a great firm, it specializes in rare genetic diseases, and we really think this will serve as an anchor for life sciences in biotech in this area.” The project would be the second-largest building agreement in Massachusetts this year, behind Amazon in North Andover. In FY21 and FY22 alone, the building permits will generate a total of between $1M and $1.3M in revenue for the town, as well as creating over 100 well-paying jobs.

As an incentive to bringing their business to Bedford, the town developed a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement. The agreement will be voted upon at the Special Town Meeting which will be called to order during the July 11 Annual Town Meeting. A TIF agreement offers company tax cuts. In this case, Stanton explained, the tax cuts provide a further incentive for Ultragenyx to come to Bedford, and also support the site’s development over the upcoming years. If approved, the TIF will be offered for a period of nine years, with an estimated value of $2.5M in tax relief for Ultragenyx.

The relief will be directed at property taxes, offering the following property tax reductions by year: Years 1-4: 95%; Years 5-6: 90%; Year 7: 80%; Years 8-9: 40%

Stanton noted that these reductions are common for a TIF of this size. In response to Finance Committee Clerk Paul Mortenson’s question, she explained that no company would pay the full amount of the property tax for the undeveloped land at 170 Middlesex Turnpike, and any corporation would request some form of tax relief on it. The agreement which will be offered to Ultragenyx also includes a clawback clause, so if the company is unable to fully fund the project during the building process, they must pay back the tax decreases given to them by the TIF.

Ultimately, the committee expressed their full support for the TIF agreement, which will be voted upon at the upcoming Town Meeting. Finance Committee Chair Ben Thomas echoed this support, saying,  “It seems like there’s low risk, and only upside [benefit]for us.”

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