The iroko tree is somewhat like Osagie Imasogie: native to West Africa, strong and sturdy, with deep roots.
Imasogie invoked all of that Wednesday as he and other leaders from Iroko Pharmaceuticals L.L.C. cut the ribbon on their new office at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
The five-year-old drug company has 60 employees and plans for 180 in the next couple of years. Imasogie, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer John Vavricka said the growth stems from the private company's sales of pain medicine in 48 countries and the hope of selling more in the United States. (They declined to disclose exact revenue figures.) Iroko intends to submit paperwork with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this month.
Iroko, which moved from an older Navy Yard building, is leasing the 56,412-square-foot, four-story building from Liberty Property Trust and Synterra Partners, with help from Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.
With the hope of certifying the building as a "gold standard" Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facility, its north and east faces are glass to help bring in natural light. Based on employee surveys, the company put in a gym available at any hour, a lactation room, and a cafeteria with subsidized lunches. The hope is that employees will stay and produce more.
"I love this space," Imasogie told the gathering, referring to the Navy Yard, but also the new digs. "We even have two aircraft carriers."
The new Tastykake office and GlaxoSmithKline's soon-to-open facility are about 100 yards away. As Imasogie, Vavricka, and Mayor Nutter cut the ceremonial ribbon, a generator buzzed directly across the street, where workers were building a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Nutter said after the ceremony that the Navy Yard business development, with now more than 10,000 workers on the site, has "serious momentum" and is a "spectacular performer for the city."
Though it has immediate access to I-95, the Navy Yard still lacks a subway stop. SEPTA'S Broad Street Orange line ends at AT&T station at Pattison Street, so Navy Yard workers must drive, take shuttle buses from the subway, or walk. A 2010 study suggested a subway extension would cost $370 million.
"As the business presence increases here at the Navy Yard, that is one serious option we have to look at," Nutter said. "But we know that tunneling is very expensive, and we would only be able to do that with significant federal support."
Imasogie's "roots" took another form Wednesday. He wore his London School of Economics cuff links to the event, but he also earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and now serves on Penn's board of trustees. Iroko announced it will sponsor scholarships to Penn for two graduates of a Philadelphia public school who want to study science.