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May 24, 2021
Expanding Nephron’s physical footprint and community reach
Soon-to-be housed in over one million square feet of space in Lexington County once their expansion is completed later this year, you’ll find Nephron Pharmaceuticals and their nearly 2,000 member team producing producing life-saving medications, educating the future generation of employees through impactful partnerships, and creating space to continue the growth of South Carolina’s healthcare and life sciences ecosystem.
For Lou Kennedy, President, CEO, and owner of Nephron, the expansion is about more than just growing the physical presence and capabilities of her company. Her favorite part about it is the fact that Nephron is able to bring in new employees to their team.
“Bringing in new people is the best part of the expansion,” said Lou. “It’s an opportunity for people in the Midlands and beyond, and I’m happy to be that person to create those jobs. Nephron, to me, is a true example of being a Midlands-focused company or employer because we’re one of the few destinations on the COMET path in Lexington County. We’re employing people from all over the Midlands, and not just from our county.”
By the numbers, Nephron is pulling in talent from all across our state, with nearly two thirds of their workforce commuting in from outside of Lexington County. The company is actively supported by our region and beyond—they have employees from 32 different counties in our state. In return, it supports our community and city.
“Another thing that draws us to the nucleus of the city is the University of South Carolina and our partnership,” said Lou. “We have had a partnership over the last year and a few months with the College of Engineering and Computing and the College of Pharmacy. They helped us to program and build a robotics system of us to fill syringes. With this robot, we can fill 10 syringes a minute with one person bringing in extra components and one person checking for quality, rather than having three plus people to keep one course of business going.”
The collaboration with the two departments and Nephron is a leading example of how a university and employer can partner together, and benefit everyone involved.
“We have hired at least 5-10 people that were part of the project in the last year,” said Lou. “It just shows that employers providing internships or doing partnerships with students can result in great employees after graduation.”
Nephron is invested in education, and their partnerships extend beyond the University of South Carolina to other schools around the state from elementary schools to colleges and universities.
“What I love about my role in the Midlands is this: While I am a Gamecock fan, I am very supporting of all of the schools,” said Lou. “We’re hiring students and professors from every school around the state. I feel that partnering with education in this state is the smartest thing that any employer can do. Get to know K-12, get to know what’s going on in the classroom. Whatever is going on in the classroom is what you’re going to receive when you hire the students from these schools. I can’t say enough about the hard work that educators do for our students, especially during a pandemic. They are unsung heroes in so many ways.”
Nephron, as a company, has responded to the pandemic in the very best way that they can by doing everything in their power to support our community and state through COVID testing, vaccines, and more. Now, they’re looking help produce vaccines by assisting in filling syringes with a vaccine produced by an outside company. Their new expansion is giving them the space to be able to do this.
“After the COVID vaccines came out, I said to my husband that we have to do it,” said Lou. “Can we fill vaccines and be a helper to COVID? If we can, it’s our American duty to do just that. It wasn’t in our schedule and it wasn’t in our forecast. They are just ideas that have popped up and we have embraced each opportunity as it comes along.”
Also in the works at Nephron? The Kennedy Innovation Center, which is currently coming up out of the ground and is well underway. It’s being built for two of Nephon’s own spinoff businesses, but there’s a portion of the space allocated to be used as startup business space.
“We want to try and help the Department of Commerce build a larger healthcare and life sciences ecosystem here,” said Lou. “That’s the fastest growing industry in South Carolina, and we want to be part of that.”
Beyond Nephron’s walls, Lou is working with a group of community leaders on a way to highlight Columbia and to give visitors a warm welcome to town when they arrive.
“We are rocking and rolling on our Gateways project,” said Lou. “A group of us in the business community formed a governmental cooperation committee—we invited cities, counties, mayors, and county councils to come together and think about something that’s good for the entire community. Out of that, we have identified eight gateways—entrances into Columbia—that we are going to put something that marks your entrance into the city. Right now, there’s nothing but signs that highlight a women’s basketball championship and men’s baseball championships. We’re going to change that by funding eight gateways around the city. The Gateways Project is going to be a beautiful thing—everyone is going to want to be a part of this goodwill gesture.”