April 24, 2014

Community Portrait

Jackson Laboratory

A Bid for Biotech

Art Levy | 11/1/2010

Hewett & Genson
Charles Hewett, Jackson Laboratory vice president and COO, talks with David Genson (right), vice president of engineering at Barron Collier Cos., which plans to donate land for the laboratory. [Photo: Nancy DeNike]
Scripps, Burnham and Torrey Pines all at least “took a look” at the Naples area before choosing to open bioscience research facilities in other parts of Florida, says Tammie Nemecek, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Collier County. Now, economic development officials are hoping the county won’t miss out again.

Earlier this year, Collier County put together a proposed $260-million deal to entice Jackson Laboratory — a Maine-based non-profit that focuses on genetics research — to open a branch location in eastern Collier County, not far from Ave Maria University. The deal would require $130 million from the state’s incentive fund, with the county raising the rest. But the commitments so far, $50 million from the state and $28 million from the county, have fallen short, raising the possibility that the project might require outside funding.

Meanwhile, some Collier residents have spoken out against the county spending millions in taxpayer dollars to land the lab, expected to create 200 jobs. They have called for a referendum to see if voters are willing to pay. The proposed incentives package has also been opposed by Arthrex, a Naples-based designer and maker of medical devices. The company would rather the incentives be used to help local companies. Arthrex founder Reinhold Schmieding says that unless there is a referendum he will move a planned expansion of the company, along with 100 new jobs, out of the community.

Michael E. Hyde, Jackson’s vice president for advancement and external relations, says the lab wants the deal to happen in Collier County. But if it doesn’t work out, he says, “It would be my prediction that at least two other cities in the state of Florida would then make a play to step in and convince the state Legislature to switch the money to their county. We’ve had enough conversations with people to know that there is intense interest around the state in having the Jackson Laboratory move there.”

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