MDC, A&M to train workers for biomed park
By Tom Harlan
Miami Dade College and Florida A&M University will train workers for the Liberty City biopharmaceutical park planned by two Massachusetts companies.
Town Center Properties, a Boston developer, and MediVector, a Cambridge, MA, drug-development company, are working with the schools to develop job candidates for the park.
The proposed $111 million multipurpose commercial and residential community at Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue is to open in late 2005.
"The MediVector companies will need personnel whose training ranges from postdoctoral to associates-degree educational experience," said Robert P. Lenk, a MediVector spokesman.
According to company documents, the institute will train researchers, technicians and medical personnel how to develop and manufacture pharmaceuticals. The training would prepare them for work at MediVector companies and in the biopharmaceutical industry.
"The key to working together is that we all provide necessary services but with minimal overlap," Dr. Lenk said. "By keeping our mission distinct, we hope to preserve a long and fruitful relationship with these two fine institutions and expand our footprint in other academic centers in the future."
A joint effort is the only way Liberty City can have a vibrant economy again, Miami Dade College officials said. They expect to sign official agreements in November for the project.
"We are the community's college," said Juan Mendieta, the school's director of communications. "This continues Miami Dade College's long history of workforce development and responding to the workforce needs of the county."
Miami Dade College officials say the new partnership among educators, county officials and businesses to train workers in Liberty City is a model of how the groups can work together to revive an economy.
Companies have left the county because of a shortage of workers, said Juan Mendieta, Miami Dade College director of communications.
The college made changes based on feedback from local businesses and economic development agencies and has a pipeline of students ready to work in local industries.
Mr. Mendieta credited MDC president Eduardo PadrŪn for arranging a partnership with county officials and economic development leaders to battle a shortage of workers in the area.
In the late '90s, Mr. PadrŪn began shaping the college's programs based on a list of the top eight local industries outlined in the One Community One Goal job-creation plan initiated by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. The plan turned up concerns that the area's targeted industries wouldn't have enough skilled high-level workers to feed the local economy.
According to the MDC Web site, that prompted Mr. PadrŪn to transform the curriculum into individual schools with tracks, such as nursing and biomedicine, mentioned in the study.
The college now has a pipeline of students ready to work in these industries, Mr. Mendieta said.
In addition, Town Center Properties, a Boston developer, and MediVector, a privately held drug-development company based in Cambridge, MA, sought out the college and Florida A&M University to help train workers for its planned biopharmaceutical park at Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue in Liberty City.
Miami Dade College, which offers associate-degree programs that provide background courses in various disciplines such as science and business, was chosen because its existing programs meet part of the companies' needs, a project developer said.
As part of the partnership, the college's graduates could find jobs in the park or further their education with a bachelor's degree through A&M's College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, which also offers graduate-level degrees.
A Town Center Properties spokesman said the campus could bring jobs for 1,500 residents in careers from pharmaceutical researchers to package shippers.
Town Center Properties is working with MediVector to gather the resources needed to create a biopharmaceutical cluster in Liberty City. The two companies envision a facility that would create new, highly skilled jobs in a new economic platform, said Dr. Robert P. Lenk of MediVector.
"We hope to bring some of the prosperity and medical benefits the industry creates into the empowerment zone in Liberty City," he said.
The first phase of a two-phase construction plan for the park is to begin by the end of the year, and tenants are to begin arriving in about a year. The master plan for the park includes the headquarters of MediVector Biopharmaceutical Centers, which would include the institute and a manufacturing facility.
In addition, the park is to contain a research clinic, an outpatient clinic, other biopharmaceutical companies, retail space and an apartment community.
"This is an ambitious project, involving the creation not only of the buildings and the financial resources to bring the industry to the area," Dr. Lenk said. "It also requires that we find a way to build the educational infrastructure needed to create a workforce with the highly technical skills needed to fill these lucrative jobs."