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Lawmakers seek help from federal agency as Viatris closure looms

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As the first phase of the Viatris plant closure looms, state lawmakers have petitioned the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to declare the facility as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Multiple lawmakers — including House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia — have sent letters in an attempt to keep the facility open.

The plant opened in 1965 with a focus on manufacturing various supplements and generic medications.

Viatris — the company formed between Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer subsidiary Upjohn —announced the closure last December as part of an international plan to cut costs. More than 1,400 employees at the Morgantown facility will lose their jobs once the closure process is complete, in which the first layoffs will take effect on Saturday.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency focuses on addressing national risks and coordinating resilience efforts.

“We’re talking about a mechanism to keep a private entity that’s otherwise capable of operating and providing goods and services that are necessary for the health and welfare of Americans in operation,” Hanshaw said.

Hanshaw said workers will likely have to move from Morgantown because of job opportunities elsewhere.

“If we let those facilities close and let the capacity erode and let the employee capacity dissipate and let the human talent move away, it’s difficult — if not almost impossible — to stand that back up,” he said.

According to Fleischauer, the facility has the potential to be a regional economic force under a different company.

“It has the ability to pivot for when there’s a need because they’ve made so many different types of compressed pills and capsules,” she said. “It’s especially valuable.”

State lawmakers during this year’s regular legislative session passed resolutions asking Gov. Jim Justice and federal officials to work on finding another operator or investor. Legislators also considered using coronavirus relief funds to entice a company into moving into the facility.

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