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Posted on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 10:35 a.m.

2,000: Number of employees now at University of Michigan NCRC

By Amy Biolchini

The University of Michigan is celebrating the addition of the 2,000th employee to move into its North Campus Research Complex .

The milestone at the ex-Pfizer site in Ann Arbor is being reached with the arrival of a new team of three Harvard University scientists, officials announced Tuesday.

U-M recruited the team led by Zhong Wang, a researcher who specializes in stem cells and epigenetics, with a specialization in heart cells. Wang will be joining the U-M Medical School’s Department of Cardiac Surgery from his former post at Harvard University, and will be bringing two post-doctorate research fellows with him.


A building at U-M's North Campus Research Complex.

Joseph Tobianski I file photo

The addition marks an achievement for U-M, which has put nearly $92 million in additional investments into NCRC, including construction projects and yearly operating costs.

Once vacant after the loss of Pfizer, the facility is now a vibrant space with a communal feel, officials say.

The NCRC has had a period of continuous growth, as U-M reported a workforce of 1,700 at the NCRC site in November, up from the 1,423 workers reported in July and the 1,120 workers reported exactly a year ago.

“How fortuitous and fortunate that the 2000th person to move to the NCRC is a faculty recruit from another great institution,” said David Canter, NCRC executive director, in a statement. “Mixing together biologists and engineers, university research and commercial companies, and established faculty and new blood is the very essence of the NCRC’s mission.”

About 590,000 square feet of the site’s 975,000 net assignable square feet of lab and office space at NCRC have been committed to use. The site has a total of 2 million square feet of space in 28 buildings on the 174-acre property at the corner of Plymouth Road and North Huron Parkway in Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan purchased the former Pfizer research complex from the company for $108 million in June 2009. The first office staff moved in to the building in March 2010, and 300 direct jobs have been added in the past three years.

Exercise facilities, a cafeteria, art exhibits, conference space and a child care center are now a part of the NCRC, and more and more top U-M leaders are moving their offices to the campus. Gaining office space at NCRC is now said to be a highly competitive process.

Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, CEO of the University of Michigan Health System, recently moved her office from the main health system campus to the NCRC.

“Through this expansion, we’ve been able to make important strides in expanding and aligning our research strengths, and our support for research, while also creating new jobs and fostering the growth of emerging companies, all while making the best use of resources,” Pescovitz said in a statement.

New staff recruited to U-M from other research universities to head the U-M Department of Emergency Medicine, the General Surgery section of the U-M Department of Surgery and U-M’s Center for Arrythmia Research have all chosen to move their labs to the NCRC.

Medical School faculty and staff comprise 75 percent of the 2,000 people at NCRC, though a number of private organizations make use of the space and the Venture Accelerator.

In February, researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s Center for Clinical Management Research moved to a 24,600-square-foot space in NCRC’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

U-M announced the institute would be moving its 400 researchers to NCRC last summer at the three-year anniversary of the complex. A Harvard University doctor, Dr. John Ayanian, was recruited by U-M last fall to serve as the institute’s first director.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Tom Todd

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

So the economy is picking up and everyone can expect to make more? or are we only ok with the so-called smart people who are obviously better at there jobs then everyone else to make more.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

Recruitment of new researchers to U-M from other major research institutions is an important trend to watch, especially given the facts that Kellie pointed out in her article about U-M recruitment: Out of U-M's direct competitors for talent, Harvard University pays its professors top dollar, while U-M pays salaries at the 7th-highest amount. Zhong Wang, the Harvard University researcher that U-M says is the 2,000th employee at NCRC, said this in a statement: "The availability of NCRC space, and the cooperative atmosphere, contributed a lot to my decision to come to Michigan." Access to heart muscle tissue samples from patients at U-M and NCRC's advanced equipment also drew Wang to U-M, according to a statement by Wang.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

"Recruitment of new researchers to U-M from other major research institutions is an important trend to watch, especially given the facts that Kellie pointed out in her article about U-M recruitment: Out of U-M's direct competitors for talent, Harvard University pays its professors top dollar, while U-M pays salaries at the 7th-highest amount. " When the recruitment article appeared I displayed a web calculator which indicates that $203,000 in Cambridge is equal to $150,000 in Ann Arbor. So anyone making slightly over $200,000 in Cambridge would be living well on a considerably lower base in the AA area...the message from AA to Cambridge is "come on down"...


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

It would be interesting to know how many people worked there before the University bought the site. How does 2000 compare to the past employment by Pfizer/Parke-Davis/Warner-Lambert?


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Having worked at Warner Lambert which became Pfizer, I know that we had around 4000 people working there before Pfizer started eliminating people's jobs. When they closed, the official count was 2000 but they got rid of a lot of people between the time they took over Warner Lambert and their closing. The buildings now are not full like they were when Warner Lambert owned the facility.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

That is a Pfizer jobs figure, FYI

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

2,100 jobs-- according to a Paula Gardner column from last year.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

I find the recruitment aspect here very interesting. Poaching a team of three Harvard researchers is no small thing, and I wonder what the U offered them... or what Harvard didn't. Here's a recent article we published on U-M recruitment:


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Very recent figures show that the schools with the most top ten ranked programs, in rough order: Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Michigan. As your other article notes, the largest competitors for UM's faculty are the elite national doctoral schools. In other words, given that many UM science programs are ranked higher than Harvard's, it leaves UM probably roughly steady state versus the talent of those poached. Keep in mind that Michigan is comparable to Harvard and Caltech combined or MIT and Caltech combined when it comes to research dollars, Michigan also ranks higher in many areas such as Harvard really isn't "all that". Have you read about the Alston expansion recently? They have a hole in the ground where they tore a lot of stuff down but stopped pouring concrete during the recent drop in the investment market...$36billion doesn't go as far as it used to after a 21% haircut. Note that Michigan is probably 10 years ahead of Harvard...with far fewer/much lower resources UM poured concrete on a million square feet of life science space and bought $1bn from Pfizer for 10 cents on the dollar. Yeah, Harvard is large, rich, famous and even powerful in the sciences, but despite all of that there are, in some senses, way behind. Note that Yale picked up a facility in much the same manner as Michigan...pennies on the dollar. The real questions: Why are they such chickens at Harvard? Why are they doing less with 5 times the money as UM? When was the last time they took a chance? Why are they still so heavily focused on humanities in the 21st century, while Stanford has been eating their lunch for the past 50 years?

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Also, the team specialized in a form of stem cell research, helping buffer U-M's already renown research in that area after the loss of U-M star stem cell faculty Sean Morris.

Clay Moore

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Since the University is subsidized by the taxpayers it only seems fair that 50% of all revenue generated by University research should be paid to the state. Isn't that what "investments" are called?


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

"The university charges those grants for "overhead", and takes a big chunk (I think 54% of Federal grants). So Michigan doesn't invest much directly in research." 1) The overhead recover rate is considerably lower...I think around 25%; 2) I'm sure what you mean by "Michigan"...the state effectively invests zero in research; the University of Michigan, that Michigan, invests roughly $300,000,000/year into research, in other words, investment proceeds from endowment equal to or greater than state contributions go back out the door to support the research effort on campus.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

"Since the University is subsidized by the taxpayers it only seems fair that 50% of all revenue generated by University research should be paid to the state." 1) the dividending rate on the S&P probably runs from 35%-60% of profits...profits (when P&L is positive) run from let's say 5% to the product of the two numbers is around 3.5%...where do you get 50% as a plausible figure? 2) the university budget in AA, with hospitals, is around $6,000,000,000 and the state contributes $350,000,000, so in some la la land universe where university was for profit, the state might expect roughly 6% to 16% of the NET (repeat NET) profit, not gross revenue; in fact, the $350,000,000 that is state contributed is eaten up or absorbed by students (in state) paying a discounted tuition that is way way below actual market; given foregoing, the state is VERY well compensated by UM currently via the bargain tuition offered to in state students. 3) the university generally runs an operating loss of around to under new (last 10 years or so) GASB accounting rules. If you want to be an equity partner, then UM should be able to make a capital contribution call from you to chip in to make up the operating loss. Do you want to fund ongoing losses from operations? Isn't that what "investments" are called?" 1) No, there is no investment in the known galaxy that repatriates 50% of its revenue back to capital contributors; 2) you are confusing revenue with either net margin or profit; 3) revenue, in a not for profit, is always offset by theory, the numbers should match to zero in order to show net profit of zero; in practice a positive margin is at UM, in order to cover either prior year's shortfalls or to replenish capital stock (you know, the building program that that state doesn't contribute much more than $25MM/year while facilities are depreciating at to .


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Nearly all of the state of Michigan's money goes to the educational mission of the university, and Michigan residents pay less tuition because of it. Research is supported mostly by Federal and independent non-profit grants, not money from the State. The university charges those grants for "overhead", and takes a big chunk (I think 54% of Federal grants). So Michigan doesn't invest much directly in research.


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Just think of all of the additional revenue A2 would have if they could a) capture property taxes, and/or b) slap on a payroll tax!:) I will now sit here and wait for all of the haters to come after me........:)


Tue, Feb 19, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

Why covet what you know you cannot possibly have? In no instance will the UM ever be expected to pay property taxes on its general properties anymore than the City of Ann Arbor would have to pay school taxes to the State or taxes to Washtenaw. UM isn't just a publicly owned university, it is a public entity under the State Constitution. You elect the Regents the same way you elect your state representative. The Regents can and do pass ordinances the same way Ann Arbor does. Like the City of Ann Arbor, the county, and the State, the UM doesn't pay income taxes on revenues because it is a public entity with elected officials (not because of it being a "non-profit" -- that applies to private colleges). We have this sort of division so we don't end up with one level of government taxing other levels. We create a barrier that prevents federal taxation of state monies and state taxation of local revenues. This avoids double taxation and avoids diversion of funds. It keeps revenues and their use accountable to the original purposes for which the revenues were raised. No one hates you, but it does no good to ask for that which is not going to happen. Instead, look at the fact that 2000 people now live in or around the area, pay taxes through sales and income and property and contribute to the local economy. What is better? Pfizer hanging on to an empty compound and paying taxes while it rotted away and the neighborhood eroded or UM bringing in life and vibrancy to that area of the city?