It’s often easy for Worthington residents to lament what they don’t have in their community, or ways in which the city could be a more appealing place to live.
While it may be true that Worthington is by no means Utopia, we shouldn’t forget that we’ve got plenty to brag about. Let’s use our growth in the biosciences as a first example of many that we intend to give in a series of editorials.
In a little, old house and small trailer behind the Veterinary Medical Center, just about 40 years ago, a group of young veterinarians founded a company called Oxford Labs. Connie Schmidt, Wayne Freese, Craig Pfeifer, Jake DeYounge and Kern Schwartz were among the folks involved in the company, which continued to grow over the next several years. Oxford Labs was later sold to Upjohn, which is now Merck — one of Worthington’s major employers.
There’s much more to that story, it should be stressed. Some of the individuals involved with the launch and development of Oxford Labs later formed another company, Newport Labs. What followed was the flourishing of the bioscience business sector within the community, and the growth of what became known as Prairie Holdings Group. Today, Worthington is home to a bioscience park along U.S. 59, and it also hosts an annual bioscience conference. The centerpiece of the park is the “big red barn,” once home to Prairie Expo and now — thanks to the efforts of city of Worthington leaders, the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and state legislators — a place from which millions of dollars in international commerce originates.
Where would Worthington be today without its bioscience businesses? It certainly wouldn’t be what it is today, nor would it have the same types of opportunities to grow as it does right now.