If your best friend decided to start a business, what would you want it to be? Something that contributes in a positive way to people’s health and well-being? An innovative company that attracts customers, expands continually, and creates jobs for hundreds of your neighbors? A fun place to work, led by a dynamic leader widely admired by everyone from employees to governors? A company recognized in its industry and its community for both its business and corporate citizenship practices?
This company exists in West Columbia, SC.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products. The company also operates an industry-leading 503B Outsourcing Facility division, which produces pre-filled sterile syringes, luer-lock vials, IV bottles and IV bags for hospitals across America, in an effort to alleviate drug shortage needs. When a worldwide pandemic reached South Carolina, Nephron launched a CLIA-certified diagnostics lab where it tests people for COVID-19 and administers vaccinations.
Last summer, the company launched a new division – Nephron Nitrile – to be headquartered on the company’s campus at the Saxe-Gotha Industrial Park in Lexington County. With an investment of more than $100 million in the Midlands, it will generate 250 jobs and produce medical-grade non-latex gloves.
As COVID-19 impacted the lives of so many, Nephron was a leader in the effort to respond. The company produced hand sanitizer, donating batches to the local veterans hospital and bottles to the University of South Carolina, among other places. When it was time to vaccinate the people of South Carolina from the dreaded virus, Nephron and Dominion Energy teamed up. They opened an easily-accessible drive-thru vaccination site for employees, neighbors and eligible residents.
The company response has continued, as has its hiring of new employees, including thousands of part-time workers to assemble millions of COVID-19 test kits available in pharmacies. Nephron ramped up hiring during a severe labor shortage through a combination of ingenuity, and creativity.
They targeted potential employees of all ages and from all backgrounds with part-time, flexible hours, starting at $15-an-hour, and offered fun prizes to those who produced the most kits. They offered resume-writing services to high school students and used the presentations to recruit new employees. They spread the word through churches and community groups. When they were done, they had tripled their part-time staff count – and then recruited the best of their new workers to come aboard permanently.
Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy is known and admired statewide as the embodiment of energetic and creative leadership. With Kennedy at the helm, the company has achieved unprecedented growth, now producing more than a billion doses of life-saving medications annually. She has been awarded the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Icon Award, recognizing leaders who inspire Americans to promote, perpetuate and preserve manufacturing in America. The City of Columbia honored her with the key to the city, and she was awarded South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding service to the state.
Recently, Nephron demonstrated its commitment to the city it calls home by funding a new community policing portal to be operated by the SC-based nonprofit organization Serve and Connect, which brings police and citizens together to address the root causes of crime and promotes community and safety. The technology is being developed in consultation with a broad-based group of police and community leaders. Said Kennedy, “Nephron is proud to join Serve and Connect in providing critical new resources to law enforcement for community policing, aimed at improving public safety outcomes.”
What’s next for Nephron Pharmaceuticals in the Midlands? Stay tuned: something new, innovative, and positive for the community is always on the horizon.