24 economic leaders huddle to develop life sciences corridor
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Heads of economic development agencies and universities from across Florida met late last week to formalize the still-nameless group and to begin developing a list of goals — which could include asking the state for money to support the life sciences — to present to the new state leadership.
A Life Sciences Corridor committee first met at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables on Aug. 17 to see how it could leverage education and bioscience research across the state to bolster the life science industry, according to Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero.
The group comprises high-ranking education and economic development officials from across the state including Enterprise Florida President John Adams, Florida Gulf Coast University Provost Ronald Toll and Indian River State College President Ed Massey.
Locally Mr. Nero, Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg along with university administrators, Miami Dade College Provost Rolando Montoya and University of Miami President Donna Shalala are involved.
At its most recent meeting at Broward Community College, State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Margate Democrat and chair of senate's Policy and Steering Committee on Commerce and Industry, discussed what the state needs to do to support the burgeoning industry, which business and civic leaders have pegged as the next great generator of wealth for the region.
"He felt there was a lack of funding in the state for research commercialization and on the state level a lack of strong leadership in this area," said Mr. Nero, and "felt that this was probably more of long-term play than a short-term play."
While the group is looking to help the education system get on the same track as the industry to provide the workforce, the idea of a "long-term play" seems to indicate the group will push for even more public investment in the life sciences.
Sen. Ring "made a couple of recommendations," Mr. Nero said. "One is we expand the composition of the group to include individuals with a track record in venture capital with a record of investing in life sciences."
Meanwhile, the 24-person group also broke out into work groups to begin laying out its mission, how it gets there and how it will measure progress.
The mission committee will be headed by Mr. Nero along with Dr. Rosenberg of FIU, whom Mr. Nero credited with seeding the group.
Others include the external strategy work group, which will focus on methods for achieving the group's missions, headed by Florida High Tech Corridor President Randy Berridge and Florida Gulf Coast University's Dr. Toll, and another to promote entrepreneurship to students across the state.
Each group is to put together a white paper outlining its aims before the 24-person team reconvenes in January.
During that time they're to review the plans, finalize loose ends and prepare to present the group and its goals to leadership in Tallahassee.
"Any successful economic endeavor must have leadership from the state," Mr. Nero said. "The State of Florida must become chief salesperson and advocate [for] the bioscience" industry.