Ready workforce and a fertile business climate are hallmarks of Tampa Bay’s appeal.
M2Gen will boost Moffitt Center's research [Photo: Moffitt Cancer Center]
It was the opportunity to team up with researchers and practitioners at one of the nation’s premier cancer treatment centers that first caught the attention of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Now Merck is coming to Tampa to partner with University of South Florida’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in developing molecular technology for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dubbed M2Gen, this joint venture between Merck and Moffitt — the only Florida-based National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center — will allow researchers to analyze tumor tissues for unique genetic components and compare patient responses to specific drugs with an end goal of developing individualized treatments.
A collaborative effort
Merck provided $95 million in cash and other support; Hillsborough County gave another $20 million plus land worth
$8 million; Tampa chipped in $800,000 and land worth $1.2 million; another $15 million came from the Governor’s “closing fund.” The return on that investment will include about 108 Hillsborough-based positions paying an average annual salary of $80,000. Another 1,665 indirect jobs are expected within five years as M2Gen’s arrival spawns other biotech firms. Says Dr. Stephen Friend, Merck executive vice president for oncology and neuroscience, “It is through public-private partnerships like this one that we believe we can advance the discovery, translation and delivery of much-needed personalized therapies for cancer.”
Major drivers of the Tampa Bay economy are Tampa International Airport and the Port of Tampa.
- At TIA, a $2.5 billion-expansion includes a major new terminal complex, new runway, expanded parking and other upgrades needed to accommodate the expected doubling of passengers to
38 million per year by 2025.
- The 5,000-acre Port of Tampa helps create nearly 100,000 area jobs and “is Florida’s largest, most diverse and most?cost-efficient” port, says Director Richard Wainio. A mix of bulk commodities, general and container cargo, cruise business, ship repair and mixed-use real estate “insulate the port from downturns in any one sector,” he says. The cruise sector alone handled 910,000 passengers in 2006. Port upgrades are constant: $41 million in capital projects in 2006; another $362 million in improvements is planned through 2011, largely to expand containerized shipping capabilities.