SARANAC LAKE - The former village office building at 3 Main St. is now a state-of-the-art laboratory for biotechnology manufacturing, research and development.
The public got its first look Wednesday at the new home of Myriad RBM, one of two biotech companies the village lured here from Lake Placid last year, during a welcoming celebration for the company Wednesday evening that drew a crowd of more than 125 people to Riverside Park. The ceremony marked the culmination of two-and-a-half years of work by the village to bring Myriad and its 24 employees here.
"We did it," said Mayor Clyde Rabideau. "We brought in a new private enterprise company with growth potential here to Saranac Lake. It hasn't been done in generations. We're going to follow it up later this year with yet another company, Active Motif, and that's just the beginning."
Mark Damour, left, of Myriad RBM leads a tour of his company’s new facilities Wednesday in the former village office building at 3 Main St. in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
As Rabideau spoke, Myriad employees led tours of their new facility across the street. The village has spent more than $700,000 upgrading the three-story former Paul Smith's Electric and Light and Railroad Company building, which was built in 1908 and had been home to the Niagara Mohawk power company and then the village offices from 1986 until January, when the village moved into the Harrietstown Town Hall.
The first floor, which had been the site of countless village board meetings over the years, is now the site of Myriad's manufacturing operation. It's filled with laboratory tables, equipment, large freezers and computer cubicles. The village manager's office has been converted to freeze-drying operation. A huge walk-in cooler fills the doorway that had lead to the village Police Department, which is still there but no longer connected.
An even bigger lab occupies the second floor, which will be the site of Myriad's research and development work. The former offices of village staff on the third floor have been converted into office space for Myriad employees.
Dominic Eisinger, Myriad's director of strategic development, said the facility is a perfect fit for his company. Myriad manufactures tests for use in biological or medical research, or for companies involved in drug discovery and development. The tests are designed to detect biomarkers, or proteins, in blood that can be used to measure the effectiveness of a particular drug or the progress of disease.
"We're testing for new proteins that could tell you if you have cancer potentially in the future or how you respond to therapy," Eisinger said as he led state Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, on a tour of the building. "A company might say, 'These proteins look really good for determining if our drug will work in patients. We need these five developed, and there is no test for these,' so they contract us to do it."
Eisinger said the opportunity to be part of a budding biotech cluster in Saranac Lake centered around the nonprofit Trudeau Institute was the biggest reason for relocation. A large contingent of Trudeau employees were on hand for Wednesday's ceremony.
"The real impetus was a perfect-size facility in proximity to Trudeau Institute," Eisinger said. "We actually have contracts going on with Trudeau. Some of these new antibodies and proteins, Trudeau is actually making some of them for us. With Active Motif, we had a couple of our people just yesterday at their facilities in Lake Placid using some of the facilities they have that we don't have. So, it would be great to have them right down the street. Having that cluster of multiple companies doing the same thing is better than being alone by yourself."
Eisinger said his employees, many of whom already live in Saranac Lake, are excited about the new location. Some will now be able to walk to work, he said.
"We had a smaller facility, and we were cramped," said Henry Schnaars, Myriad's quality control manager. "Part of the reason we got into this larger building is we anticipate expansion within the company as a whole. We needed the space. We needed the environment to work in. Saranac Lake has provided us with a beautiful building to work in."
One of the biggest attractions of the new site is outside the building: a turbine in the Saranac River at the Lake Flower dam that's being used to heat and cool the building hydrothermally. Eisinger said the investment will reduce the building's heating bill from $30,000 a year to virtually nothing.
Rabideau said the cost of the renovations to the building isn't being borne by village taxpayers. He said the village used grant monies that were "sitting idle" to pay for the work, which also included new windows and upgrades to the building's elevator. Rabideau noted that the village will get rent from Myriad, to the tune of about $70,000 a year.
The mayor said the village is now poised to bring similar companies to the village.
"Until today, we didn't have a cluster," he said. "We were selling a dream before. Now we have something to show people. We have four companies here with synergy, with that critical mass. Now we can go out and market even more effectively than we did before. It's not going to come overnight, it's going to take a lot of work, but we're working on it. We have one we have our eye on that we've been working on."
A host of state and local politicians spoke during Wednesday's welcome ceremony, which featured live music by the Too Tall String Band. The village handed out "boater"-style, flat-top straw hats to many of those who showed up. The Saranac Lake Women's Civic Chamber served root beer floats. Rabideau came up with the theme for the event, the cost of which was underwritten by J. Hogan Refrigeration and Andy Abdallah, two contractors on the building renovation project.
"It's just fun," the mayor said. "It's just a good old summertime evening here in Riverside Park."