ArborGen to reach milestone

Charleston Post and Courier
November 14, 2011

Now in its 11th year, Summerville-based tree researcher ArborGen Inc. is preparing to mark an 11-figure milestone this week.

The biotechnology firm said it will plant its 10 billionth conventional seedling Tuesday on the site of its future corporate campus in Dorchester County.

Among the invited guests are state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers.

ArborGen formed in early 2000, when the research programs of three forest-product companies were combined: Westvaco Corp., now MeadWestvaco; International Paper Co.; and Rubicon Ltd. of New Zealand.

Its scientific specialty is the development of seedlings that sprout into fast-growing trees. The company uses six nursery fields throughout the Southeast, and it has a base of more than 5,000 customers, including some of the largest landowners and managers in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. In the year ended March 31, the firm had sold 240 million seedlings in those three markets, mostly to companies that harvest trees for lumber or paper products.

The firm’s 10 billionth planting will take place in Ridgeville, where ArborGen is finishing work on its new corporate offices and greenhouse on about 14 acres in MeadWestvaco’s vast East Edisto property. With more room, the firm has estimated that it will be able to add about 25 employees to its roughly 175-worker payroll.

ArborGen plans to move into the new digs in early 2012. The firm planned to raise capital earlier this year by selling as much as $106 million of its stock. It nixed the initial public offering over the summer, citing volatile market conditions.

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