...He called a rare special session of the Legislature to approve the state’s share of the Scripps package — $310 million plus interest over 10 years — and won easy approval from the county government to spend more than $200 million. To make his case, he circulated a five-page economic impact study that said Florida could build a biotech economy every bit as impressive as the one that took decades to germinate in San Diego, only faster and bigger, with potential to add more than 40,000 jobs within 15 years of operation.
Twelve years later, those dreams have not come true.
Florida employed 27,611 people in biotech last year, according to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, or just 952 more people than it did in 2007, the last year for which the state has comparable data. Scripps accounts for many of those jobs, with a head count of 646 people in Florida.
The data do show a doubling in the number of biotech establishments. And Scripps says it has attracted $425 million in federal grants and donations.
But the promise of Florida’s investment was about a jobs bonanza from spinoff companies.
Bush was captivated by the Scripps headquarters in La Jolla, a tony San Diego suburb where 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney owns a home. The institute and its satellite offices are located along Torrey Pines Road, a verdant stretch connecting it to the famed golf course of the same name as well as sandstone coastal bluffs and the ocean. The biotech boom around Scripps is hard to miss. Science and medical companies dot the area.
Florida, meanwhile, remains an afterthought in the biotech world. No Florida city has cracked the annual list of top 10 biopharma clusters compiled by Genetic Engineering and Biotech News, an industry publication. Traditional powers including San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area dominate the list...First, does anyone who has experience in the Jupiter area disagree with the article's assessment? Is it too early in the game to make a call?
Second, this story allows me to tee off on a favorite hobbyhorse of mine, which is the quixotic attempt of local governments to get their cities/states into the biotech business. I personally think it's a tremendous money loser; the benefits only accrue to the lucky few scientists who are recruited in early, when there's a lot of government cash to hand out by the attendant politicians (who also benefit when they show up at ribbon cuttings.) The taxpayer is left with the bill. I think it's clear that to do this right, you need:
- More than one world-class clinical research hospital
- More than one world-class basic research university
- More than one large pharma/biotech/medical device company with a major R&D center in the geographical area
- Lots of available venture capital
- Lots of available experienced scientists
- An amenable business climate