TALLAHASSEE — House and Senate budget negotiators on Monday agreed to earmark $50 million in economic development funding to sweeten the pot in efforts to attract Jackson Laboratory to build a genetic research facility in Collier County.
During a meeting of the Legislature’s two top budget writers Monday afternoon, Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee agreed to accept a Senate proposal to earmark up to $130 million over the next three years to assist local efforts in convincing the Maine-based genetic researcher to locate a facility near Ave Maria University.
Though not mentioned by name, the appropriation is clearly targeted for Jackson, which has been in lengthy negotiations to build a research and personalized medical center near the newly constructed university.
Jackson’s plan is to build a personalized medicine institute on 50 acres on Oil Well Road that would be donated by Barron Collier Co.
Jackson scientists would perform computer-based analyses of a large collection of human genetic codes and how they relate to disease variations.
Tammie Nemecek, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Collier County, said the funding now has to make it through a final budget vote of the state Legislature, which is scheduled for Friday.
“It’s one big step and a very positive step but it’s one in a multi-step process,” she said. “As we have talked about, this opportunity really is fitting into what he have done in Southwest Florida to diversify the economy. And the state of Florida, too, has a strategy to diversify the economy and has invested in life sciences.”
What’s been a boost is Jackson’s 80-year history and high regard in the life sciences industry, she said.
Rivera, whose district includes eastern Collier County, accepted a Senate offer to insert specific language in the budget earmarking the funds “to fund the development of a research institute focused on genetics and personalized medicine. Any applicant, to be eligible to apply, must have a demonstrated history of genetic research, of earning national research grants and of establishing global partnerships and commercialization (of) its research”
“This is exciting,” Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples said following the meeting Monday. “Clearly they are targeting Jackson. This is the next additional step toward a final commitment. It’s very encouraging.”
Rivera could not immediately be reached for comment, but told the Daily News over the weekend that he “would fight every fight” to include the research project in the state budget.
House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater were expected to meet later Monday to make final changes to the $68 billion spending plan. Usually, items that are agreed upon by budget negotiators are included in the final budget that cannot be amended and must be voted up or down.
Once the budget passes, it goes to the governor, who has the authority to veto specific items.