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Biotech Remains Strong in Florida

December 12, 2011
Florida has always attracted visionaries - from Walt Disney to Kennedy Space Center. The ambition of great men helped transform inhospitable swamps into engines of the economy.
However, with no income tax, and a large retiree population, Florida’s revenue long depended on booming tourism and the sales tax revenue it brought in.

[caption id="attachment_5204" align="alignright" width="210" caption="The University of Florida Cancer and Genetics Research Complex is one of several research facilities at University of Florida (UF). Image by WillMcC, University of Florida at Great Degree"]University of Florida at Great Degree[/caption]

In the 1990’s, Florida’s leaders began to change that. Enterprise Florida was born. This public/private partnership was designed to identify and provide incentives for private investors and businesses to establish operations. It's a model that has been subsequently replicated by other states.

After taking office in 1999, Governor Jeb Bush made diversifying Florida’s economy and nurturing innovation top priorities, placing particular emphasis on fostering the development of emerging technologies, life sciences, and developing reusable, alternative energies – biotechnology being among the biggest of them.

Suffice it to say Governor Bush created quite a legacy for his state: In April 2006, Florida moved into the top 10 ranking of biotechnology business centers provided by Ernst & Young’s Global Biotechnology Report.

Palm Beach's Business Development Board sent out their monthly newsletter yesterday featuring headlines from the last month. A number of those stories demonstrate the visionaries are still at work:

BIO presented Governor Bush with its 2006 “BIO Governor of the Year” award in recognition of Governor Bush’s outstanding contribution and support for the growth and development of life sciences industries in Florida; for his efforts to improve the business and regulatory climates for biotechnology companies; and for promoting innovation and continuing to attract unparalleled talent and capital to the sunshine State.

Under Governor Bush’s leadership, Florida invested in an innovation and science-based economy by creating three Centers of Excellence, funding the historic Innovation Incentive Fund, and by boosting Florida’s academic and R&D capabilities.

In November 2003, Governor Bush signed into law a historic piece of legislation that laid the framework for The Scripps Research Institute, of La Jolla, California, one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, to expand its scientific research endeavors into Florida. The bill provided for a one-time investment of $310 million from federal stimulus monies to cover the start-up operations of the Scripps Florida campus, salaries and equipment purchases.

Bush created and helped pass a series of milestone economic development initiatives to bolster Florida’s innovation economy, called the 21st Century Technology, Research, and Scholarship Enhancement Act. The package included $280 million in incentives to encourage the expansion of key industries, which paved the way for the Innovation Fund, World Class Scholars Program, Centers of Excellence Program, and significant tax exemptions for research and development and manufacturing.

These initiatives were key to creating an environment supportive of R&D, technology, science and knowledge-based development.

To further diversify Florida’s economy through the growth of science- and technology-based industries, the Florida Legislature committed $337 million to various Innovation Economy measures. As signed into law by Governor Bush in May 2006, the legislation contained, among other things, the following measures to accelerate the growth of Florida’s Innovation Economy:

  • $200 million for the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund to enable Florida to attract world-class research and development opportunities and/or innovative business projects that support the growth of high-technology innovation clusters and high-wage jobs in Florida. Funding will match the investment of the local community. Pairing local support with the Innovation Incentive Fund allows us to respond to extraordinary economic opportunities, and compete effectively for projects that involve significant capital investment and high-wage, high-value jobs. These value-added jobs provide immediate positive impact to local economies and overall state revenues, and are the foundation of the chain reaction needed to generate new technologies, new patents, new businesses and new wealth.

  • $20 million for the World Class Scholars Program to provide universities with the financial resources to attract leading researchers from around the globe to Florida.

  • $45 million for the “State University System Research and Economic Development Investment program” to allow universities to build high-tech, cutting edge facilities with advanced equipment to attract flagship research projects.

  • $30 million for the Centers of Excellence Program to allow state universities and their research partners to leverage public and private dollars in establishing research and commercialization centers to support emerging technologies. Ultimately, the collaboration between industry and academia will help drive inventions and innovations from the lab to the marketplace.

  • $45 million for the Quick Action Closing Fund, enabling the state to offer a cash incentive to companies considering Florida as the location for their business. This fund helps Florida compete effectively with other states and nations to secure high-wage, professional jobs.