Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

Study predicts bioscience growth

Lawrence chamber survey forecasts as many as 6,000 new jobs for area

November 11, 2004


Douglas County's biosciences industry accounts for 2,200 jobs, $68 million in payroll and another $38 million in indirect spending, according to a new study.

And it's only the beginning.

Within a decade, Lawrence and Douglas County can expect growth in biosciences to pump up to 6,000 new jobs and an additional $230 million into the area economy, according to a report from Kansas University's Policy Research Institute.

The numbers represent the high end of four growth scenarios envisioned by the study, conducted for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. But even at the low end -- 500 new jobs and $30 million in new revenue -- officials are looking forward to the Lawrence area feeding off KU's lead and building an even stronger presence in one of the hottest and most competitive economic growth sectors.

"I don't think the goal is to be the next Research Triangle, or San Diego," said Lynn Parman, the chamber's vice president for economic development. "I think the goal is to maximize our opportunities to make this a core industry for Douglas County."

The information comes from a $35,000 study financed jointly by the chamber, KU, city of Lawrence and Douglas County. The goal: Help community leaders and other officials understand the Lawrence area's current standing as a hub for biosciences, and prompt efforts to expand the industry's growth from Mount Oread and a handful of scattered private sites into a more pervasive community presence.

KU's bioscience-backed research revenue this year is $53.3 million, up from $16.6 million five years earlier. Such investments, Parman said, have prompted talk of commercial spin-offs and helped draw interest from firms looking for a healthy place to grow.

"It's astounding," Parman said, of KU's rising investments in biosciences. "This study clearly shows that there is -- as we thought -- quite a potential for biosciences in Douglas County."

Atlanta-based Serologicals Corp. already has built a new production plant in the East Hills Business Park, and Deciphera Pharmaceuticals is capitalizing on the $15 million in private financing it received in December, less than a year after relocating from Cambridge, Mass.

Both firms are among the reasons there are an estimated 170 private-sector biosciences jobs in the county, up from 100 last year, according to the KU study. KU already anticipates adding 60 new bioscience-related faculty positions during the next five years, with each new faculty member likely adding an additional four or five nonfaculty jobs.

Members of the chamber's year-old Biosciences Task Force are reviewing the study's findings and preparing a "strategic plan" to guide efforts of government and economic-development officials. The plan should be ready for review in three or four months, Parman said, and include specific goals and strategies to address several categories:

  • Help encourage entrepreneurs and foster commercial spin-offs from KU research.
  • Convince businesses elsewhere to set up labs in the Lawrence area, through a focused marketing campaign that brands the area as a location worthy of national attention.
  • Address work force development needs, to train and educate the workers who would be hired to help any bioscience business grow.

Douglas County's business climate offers advantages and barriers for bioscience companies, according to a survey included in the Biosciences Impact Study, conducted by Kansas University's Policy Research Institute:¢ Strengths: High-quality work force, education system and transportation.¢ Weaknesses: Local government relations, relations with KU and lack of "critical mass" for industry. Weaknesses cited in dealing with KU included bureaucracy, lack of centralized information and challenges with assignment of intellectual property rights.

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