Fla. lawmakers OK funds for Jackson Lab

Posted May 03, 2010, at 2:49 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:44 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The Florida Legislature has approved $50 million in state funding for a Maine biomedical research facility that is interested in expanding to that state’s Collier County.

The state budget, which was given the go-ahead by Florida legislators on Friday, has to be signed by Gov. Charlie Crist before it becomes law.

Included in the $70 billion budget is $50 million for The Jackson Laboratory, which is interested in establishing an institute for personalized medicine near Naples, Fla. The lab has indicated that if it moves forward with the expansion plans, it expects to employ approximately 200 people in Florida within the next several years.

In Bar Harbor, Jackson Lab employs about 1,200 people. The lab specializes in using mice to study human disease and medical conditions and in breeding mice for similar research projects around the world.

Jackson Lab officials have said they plan to add 200 jobs at their Maine campus within the next decade regardless of whether it expands to Florida.

The Collier County institution would be the second satellite facility of the 81-year-old research institution. In 2001, Jackson Lab set up shop in Sacramento, Calif., where it employs 102 people. Since expanding to the West Coast, Jackson Lab has added 281 jobs at its Bar Harbor campus, lab officials have said.

The $50 million in Florida’s state budget is part of $130 million the state would give the lab over a three-year period. Collier County is considering matching the money the lab is getting from the state, while the lab itself would invest $120 million in the endeavor over 10 years.

Lab officials have said they are interested in expanding to Florida because of the amount of public subsidies being offered and because of the possibility of partnering with other biomedical research facilities in the state.

“Florida planners envision that Jackson’s research facility in Collier County would serve as an anchor for a larger research and education community that would significantly bolster southwestern Florida’s economy in the long term,” lab officials indicated Monday in a prepared statement.

The project will require institutional partnerships, matching funds and approval by Jackson Lab’s board of trustees in order to proceed, lab officials noted. One economic study has estimated that the project could lead to the eventual creation of 7,000 biotechnology-related jobs in southwest Florida.

The lab’s possible expansion to Florida has received attention in Maine’s gubernatorial race, where some candidates have said it represents a failure by Maine state officials to encourage private sector job growth in the Pine Tree State.

Other candidates and some state officials have said that Maine cannot match what Florida is offering and that Maine should concentrate on other economic development efforts.

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