15 thousand people from 3 thousand companies are expected to attend this week’s Biotechnology Industry Organization convention which opened Monday in Boston. The international convention will offer state and local officials a chance to promote Massachusetts as a hub for the life sciences industry. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has more.
Massachusetts has spent over $300 million in the last four years to boost the life sciences industry, in a signature initiative of Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. Brian Jamele of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center says the effort has lured new companies to the state, helped existing ones to expand and brought in almost $1 billion in private investment.
Funding for the state’s life sciences initiative comes from a $1 billion bond bill that was approved by the state legislature at Governor Patrick’s urging four years ago. Funding authorized so far by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has totaled $302 million in a combination of grants for both research and capital projects, loans, and tax incentives
A focus of Governor Patrick has been to encourage foreign based companies to locate their US operations in Massachusetts and there have been some successes. But most of the grants awarded by the state have gone to existing companies like Microtest Laboratories in Agawam , where company president Steven Richter praises the state’s support for the life sciences.
Richter started Microtest in his attic. The company, which tests medical devices and pharmaceuticals for contamination before products are put on the market, now has 100 employees
Job growth in the life sciences has not been as explosive as backers of the state funded initiative touted four years ago with estimates that 4,000 permanent jobs have been created. Massachusetts Lt Gov. Timothy Murray , and others, blame the Great Recession.
Most of the new jobs created as a result of the life sciences initiative have been highly skilled research positions. Murray says more manufacturing jobs remains a goal.
Murray and Governor Patrick have scheduled private networking sessions with key participants in this weeks BIO convention. The governor is planning to meet with government officials and executives attending the convention from the United Kingdom, Isreal, Chile, France and Italy.