Last Wednesday, you had the chance to buy local, and it had nothing to do with the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. On July 24, a local company that has invested in Chapel Hill sold 2.5 million shares of its stock in its initial public offering. Heat Biologics, a biotech company working on cancer immunotherapy, moved from Miami to Chapel Hill two years ago to take advantage of the brain power for hire in our area. In its IPO last week, the company raised $25 million to conduct clinical trials of its experimental cancer-fighting drugs.
But from the dearth of local publicity, you’d think the IPO was open only to members of a secret club, kind of like General Assembly Republicans making laws that affect our livelihood, slipping provisions in late at night while nobody’s looking.
Heat Biologics is one of only six IPOs in the Triangle so far this year and one of only 10 in the past four years. It is the only IPO this year of a company located in Chapel Hill. So where are the headlines? I saw nothing about it in any local newspaper or news website, other than an after-the-fact article in the N&O.
Where was the hoopla from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce? Why wasn’t Penny Rich tweeting about this? Why is the town not lavishing free parking spaces on this biotech milestone?
The company has five employees, and its Securities and Exchange Commission filing reported that it plans to hire as many as 10 more in the coming year. This is a startup that has made good, a position that all those entrepreneurs at Launch hope to emulate some day. So why was this success only whispered?
By the way, the chief financial officer for Heat Biologics is our own Matt Czajkowski. This is the second Chapel Hill-based company he has shepherded through to the IPO phase. When Czajkowski was first elected to Town Council in 2007, a group of detractors derided him for being pro-business. More recently, that same faction sputters that he is not friendly to business. All the while, he has held steady, applying his Harvard MBA and years of executive leadership to help the town make good financial decisions in a very bad economy.
With Gene Pease stepping down at the end of the year, who other than Czajkowski knows about business? Donna Bell has a solo social work practice in Carrboro, and Ed Harrison is a self-employed consultant in a part of Chapel Hill in Durham County. But they can’t compare to a Chapel Hill job creator who has made a career understanding how to set up a business to thrive and be an effective steward of the finances of a growing business.
If that isn’t buying local, I don’t know what is. If only the local media had let us know about it.
– Nancy Oates