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Florida Enters Biotech Race with $510M Scripps Inducement

October 31, 2003

With a $310 million commitment passed by the state legislature and as much as $200 million in additional support from the county government, the California-based Scripps Research Institute has agreed to locate its first branch or satellite office in northwest Palm Beach County, Fla. In return for the financial support, Scripps is to work toward employing as many as 545 workers on the site by 2011. At $935,780 per job – if the 545 target is met over the eight-year period – the project could be the most expensive tech-based economic development risk yet undertaken by the public sector.

The state and county government will be providing Scripps the land, the infrastructure, the building, equipment and other physical assets for a state-of-the-art research laboratory and administrative complex. Scripps will supply the intellectual capital, potentially the human capital, and the prestige. Up to $155 million of the state's contributions may be repaid by Scripps over 20 years through royalties on technology developed at the new lab.

Florida, of course, is assuming that the new Scripps lab is only the first and most critical piece of the gambit. Gov. Jeb Bush compared it to the initial groundbreaking from Walt Disney World and the NASA Kennedy Space Center. The state is banking on other pieces to fall into place as a result: more federal life-science related research funding to the state's public research universities, spinoff companies from Scripps and university-generated technology, other companies being attracted to the area to be close to Scripps, royalty and licensing income, tax revenues from the higher-skilled employees and higher-valued properties, etc.

Gov. Bush projects overall, Scripps Florida's impact will boost the state's gross domestic product by $3.2 billion over the next 15 years and create 6,500 local jobs directly from spinoffs from Scripps Florida. The state projects an additional 44,000 jobs would be created by biotech firms that would locate near the institute.

Some of that enthusiasm stems from looking at the area surrounding the $280-million-a-year base operations for the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. The affluent community just north of San Diego is home to one of the world's largest concentrations of biotechnology firms — 40 said to have been spun out of the Scripps facility, alone, according to Florida media reports. La Jolla, however, also is home to the University of California, San Diego and the UCSD CONNECT program, elements of the vibrant entrepreneurial tech community lacking in the Palm Beach location.

The legislature took less than a week to review and approve the state's share of the inducement package. Caught in the wake – to the disappointment of economic development and university leaders in other parts of the state – were several tech-based economic development projects with much smaller price-tags that did not receiving funding. For example, $8 million for the  University of South Florida to purchase Tampa-area land for an 87-acre research park and bio-incubator dedicated to bioengineering and life science technologies, was dropped from the final bill, as was $10 million for the Natrional High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee.

Scripps anticipates opening its Florida operations next summer with 31 employees.

More information on the announcement is available on Gov. Bush's website: http://www.myflorida.com/b_eog/owa/b_eog_www.html.main_page