Beacon set to wrap up deals to land bioscience firms
By Marilyn Bowden
The Beacon Council's recruitment efforts have netted two bioscience companies that will set up research and manufacturing facilities in Miami-Dade County.
Negotiations are in the final stages, said Beacon Council President & CEO Frank Nero. "The real estate has been identified, and most of the incentives have been approved. They should be announced by the end of the year."
The Beacon Council, the county's economic development arm, has been aggressively pursuing bioscience firms both in the US and abroad, he said, through targeted business meetings during trade missions to France, Spain and Ottawa, Canada; participation in the BIO International Convention, a major industry tradeshow; and partnerships with industry groups across the state, including South Florida Bioscience Consortium, BioFlorida and Enterprise Florida.
Equally important, he said, is the recent appointment of Holly Wiedman, the council's executive vice president of economic development, to the new statewide Task Force on the Study of Biotech Competitiveness.
Unlike other South Florida communities, he said, South Florida is targeting companies that are not just doing research but looking to apply it commercially, a niche that fits well with the growing cluster of major research institutions around the University of Miami.
They include Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, The National Parkinson Foundation and The Diabetes Research Institute, a new Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and a Biomedical Research Institute that is part of UM's Miller School of Medicine's planned $1 billion expansion.
The school's recent coup in luring Duke University's genome team, resulting in the establishment last January of The Miami Institute for Human Genomics, "has really cemented South Florida as a player in the bioscience field," Mr. Nero said.
He also cited the recent partnership between Florida International University and Jackson Health System, part of FIU's ongoing efforts to build its new medical school, as an important development.
"FIU's bioengineering department and its research centers have been working on cutting-edge research for many years, including bionanotechnology," he said.
Mr. Nero said Miami-Dade's ongoing transition to a knowledge-based workforce and its recognized university programs in the bioscience and healthcare fields are strengths in its ongoing bioscience recruitment efforts.
Another strength, he said, is the 50-year history of bioscience companies in Miami-Dade.
"The county is now home to over 524 life sciences companies," Mr. Nero said. "They employ close to 10,208 people. In addition, there over 980 medical wholesale companies employing 5,000 people.
One drawback, Mr. Nero said, is that Miami-Dade County is not yet recognized as a top life science center.
"We're working together with key players in the sector to change this perception," he said.