Jackson Lab withdraws funding application for Fla. project

Posted Jan. 04, 2011, at 2:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2011, at 12:28 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Officials with The Jackson Laboratory said Tuesday that they are withdrawing an application for supplemental funding from a state program in Florida, but they still are pursuing plans to expand to the Sunshine State.

Jackson Lab announced in 2009 that it was planning to partner with other research organizations to create an institute for personalized medicine near Naples in Florida’s Collier County. The lab estimated that it could employ roughly 200 people at such an institute, while development of a broader biomedical research zone in the Naples area could lead to the creation of thousands of jobs.

Joyce Peterson, spokeswoman for the lab, said Tuesday that the lab withdrew the funding application so it could work with the administration of incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former CEO of private health care firm Columbia/HCA, to make sure its expansion plans are consistent with Scott’s economic development plans for the state.

Scott, who was sworn in to office Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla., said his first act as governor will be to create a state office to review all proposed and existing state regulations to determine their impact on job creation.

“We’re really excited by the new governor and his message of economic opportunity,” Charles Hewett, Jackson Lab’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “We think our project fits right in with his bold economic development vision of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years.”

Last May, the Florida Legislature authorized $50 million for the state’s Innovation Incentive Program to support the biomedical research development project in Collier County. The funding application withdrawn by Jackson Lab had been submitted to that same program.

Jackson Lab has been hoping to secure additional state and county funding in Florida, but project critics have asserted that the proposed $130 million that would be provided by Collier County is an inappropriate use of public funds.

Jackson Lab officials have said that if the various public funding sources come through, the lab would commit $120 million of its own money to the Florida development project. The lab is interested in expanding to Collier County because of the potential for partnering with other biomedical research institutions in Florida, lab officials have said.

Peterson said Tuesday that despite the withdrawn funding application, the lab still is exploring its options for expanding to Collier County.

“The point is to work with the new governor and to make sure our plans work with his economic development plans,” Peterson said Tuesday. “It’s a common courtesy.”

Regardless of whether the lab realizes its expansion plans in Florida, it plans to add 200 or so jobs over the next decade at its main campus in Bar Harbor, lab officials have said.

Jackson Lab, which had $166 million in operating revenue in 2009, is known internationally for its use of mice to research human disease and medical conditions. Each year, it produces millions of specially bred laboratory mice that are used in similar studies all over the world. With more than 1,200 employees at its Bar Harbor campus, Jackson Lab is the largest employer in eastern Maine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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