by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Life after termination

Downsizing, outsourcing and globalization may be the cold economic reality for major industries in the Triad. Some workers give up; others retrain. But Zac Pierce, 34, absorbed the shock by going into business for himself.

Pierce had been the lead artist at Wright of Thomasville, a printing company, for four years when he received what seemed like a major opportunity to fast-track his career. He was offered a job as art director at Maitland-Smith Furniture in High Point.

“It was kind of squirrelly,” Pierce recalled. “I was a lead artist at a printing company. I made a big move to a large furniture company to be their art director. After seven days they fired me. The place that I had worked at before I had been there for four years. I didn’t have a choice. I hit the road, beat the bushes, and built up a nice little business for myself.”

Pierce said he had a verbal contract with Maitland-Smith. In between getting hired and fired, he said he told them what salary he needed to support his family and a list of the equipment he would need to internalize their design functions. Then, he said, he was told that they wanted to reassign him to Cebu in the Philippines to design the company’s catalogue.

Monitoring the economic pulse of the Triad Pierce’s second daughter was about six months old at the time, and he refused to make the move.

When he approached Wright of Thomasville to see about coming back to work, Pierce said the company had already reorganized its workforce to cover his responsibilities. He said they offered him another position for less pay, which he did not accept.

“That was pretty traumatic,” he said.

“I had no choice. I had a wife and two kids and bill, and I had to put food on the table.” With his modest severance package from Maitland-Smith, Pierce said he and his wife were barely keeping up house payments.

Pierce Marketing & Design shares office space with 40 West Photography in downtown High Point near the International Home Furnishing Center.

“I have a lot of my own clients, and I do a lot of freelancing for a lot of the bigger advertising agencies around,” Pierce said. “What’s helping me in the bad economy is I do the same work that the big advertising agencies do for a lot less. The thing with what I do is when corporations and big companies start cutting what they can to save costs, the first thing they cut is their marketing. A lot of guys and a lot of gals like me have been laid off and are out in the job market.

Pierce said starting his own business ending up being a natural evolution in his career after 10 years in the industry. He already possessed skills in commercial photography, web design, e-mail marketing, video and animation. Working for himself meant taking on the additional responsibilities of marketing his company and billing clients.

“If there are people out there that fall into having to do that, the best thing is to plan to put more hard work into what you do for yourself than what you did for a company,” Pierce said. “Putting in that hard work for yourself is more rewarding than being treated like crap for someone else.” — JG

Targacept inks deal with AstraZeneca

Targacept, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Winston-Salem, announced a collaboration and license agreement with AstraZeneca for development and marketing of one of Targacept’s major anti-depressant drugs on Dec. 3. The deal valued at more than $700 million revolves around a nicotinic channel blocker developed by Targacept known as TC-5214 that is used to treat depression. A joint press release from the two companies states that the global antidepressant market is valued at over $20 billion. The agreement calls for AstraZeneca to make an upfront payment to Targacept of $200 million upon effectiveness and up to an additional $540 million if specific milestones are achieved. Targacept will also be eligible to receive up to $500 million if specified sales related milestones are achieved . AstraZeneca and Targacept will jointly design a global clinical program anticipated to begin in mid 2010 with the goal of filing a new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration in 2012. AstraZeneca will be responsible for 80 percent of the cost of the initial global development program, with Targacept responsible for the remaining 20 percent, according to the press release. “The opportunity to improve treatment in depression is a large one, both commercially and in terms of benefits for patients,” David Brennan, CEO of AstraZeneca, said in a formal statement. “It’s an area both AstraZeneca and Targacept know well.” Targacept and AstraZeneca previously entered into a global collaboration focused on cognitive disorders in 2005. Three product candidates in the collaboration are currently in clinical development. — KTB