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Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe speaks during the groundbreaking event for the Volkswagen electric vehicle facility at the Volkswagen plant Wednesday, November 13, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. / Staff file photo

A medical device manufacturer and packaging company is expanding in Tennessee in a former Russell Stover Chocolates factory shut down earlier this year in Cookeville.

Aphena Pharma Solutions LLC announced Wednesday it will invest $21 million to renovate and retrofit the 500,000-square-foot plant, which Russell Stover closed in January as part of the candy maker's nationwide consolidation program that cut 400 jobs.

To keep up with growing customer demand, Aphena said it will add 160 new jobs over the next five years in Cookeville and consolidate two of its three Putnam County locations in the former candy factory. Company officials said the extra facility is needed for biologic packaging, cold chain storage, and 3PL distribution services.

"We are a dedicated cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) manufacturing and packaging company serving the world's leading healthcare manufacturers," said Shawn Reilley, CEO of Aphena Pharma Solutions. "Our centralized location is ideal for national distribution, and our company will service our customers with the highest level of expertise and care."

Aphena Pharma Solutions is a leading pharmaceutical service provider specializing in contract packaging and manufacturing for the pharmaceutical, over-the-counter and medical device industries. Headquartered in Cookeville since 2002, Aphena employs more than 400 people in Putnam County.

"The expansion of Aphena Pharma Solutions is a great representation of our community's resilience," Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton said. "The company will take a building that has been underutilized and bring high-skilled, high-wage jobs that will help as we recover from what has been a challenging year."

Bob Rolfe, the commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Tennessee's health care industry has seen a 15 percent growth in employment over the past five years, "which would not be possible without the many successful companies that choose to operate in our state."

Gov. Bill Lee said Tennessee's "business-friendly environment helps ensure the growth and success of existing Tennessee companies" such as Aphena.

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