Discovery Days at Jackson Lab draws Naples group, Obama in town

Jackson Lab Tour

Tour of facilities in Bar Harbor Maine

What's the story behind Jackson Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, and considering an expansion to Collier County? Daily News journalists Liz Freeman and Greg Kahn have traveled to Bar Harbor this week to find out. Follow their reports at naplesnews.com and in the Daily News.

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— Forty Naples residents have traded in Southwest Florida’s grueling humidity for Maine’s moderate summer weather and the chance to learn more about Jackson Laboratory.

The nonprofit laboratory is putting on its fourth annual Discovery Days event this weekend, when 150 supporters, donors and volunteers get to hear firsthand from some of the 38 scientists about their mouse-based genetic research at the lab.

The weekend trip to the popular tourist destination in coastal Maine, home of Acadia National Park and some celebrities, also carried some mystique for the Naples group and local residents with President Obama and his family’s visit to Bar Harbor and the park over the weekend.

In informal lecture settings, Jackson scientists are presenting their research progress that someday could lead to new disease treatment and prevention measures in humans. The event brings in about $100,000 in philanthropic dollars, said Mike Hyde, vice president for advancement.

For some of the Naples residents, the trip offers a hint of what Jackson lab might do if it opens a genetics research institute near Ave Maria.

Collier County Commissioners Jim Coletta and Donna Fiala are attending, taking tours at separate times, before a July 27 vote on whether the commission should go forward with the project and adopt a property tax increase or other measure to generate $130 million in local money as a match to proposed state funding.

“This is once in a lifetime to develop something like this,” said Phil Dutcher, chief operating officer of the NCH Healthcare System. “To not take it seriously would be shortsighted.”

Dutcher said he worked for a development company in Palm Beach County in 2003 when the Scripps Research Institute was deciding where to locate a Palm Beach-area complex.

“In the end that will prove to be a wise investment for the residents of Palm Beach,” he said.

Dick Botthof, a Naples businessman and past chairman of the Economic Development Council, which has spearheaded the Jackson proposal for Collier, said the presentations by the Jackson scientists demonstrate how genetic research is where it is happening and how Jackson scientists are an integral part of it.

Some of the scientists making presentations had been part of a summer scientific educational program for students hosted by Jackson who went on to scientific careers.

“It just gives you a feel for the great things going on at Jackson Lab but more importantly, how they collaborate globally,” he said.

Botthof discounts naysayers who criticize the county’s efforts with Jackson to foster economic diversification and job growth for Collier. Jackson proposes to create 200 jobs in the first couple of years and hopes to serve as an anchor to attract other medical-related enterprises in its vicinity.

“It just bothers me people who are writing those vitriolic things, they border on unfounded, untrue and unsubstantiated,” he said. “If you do what you have always done, you are going to get what you have.”

Beyond events at Jackson Lab on Friday, on the edge of Acadia park that the Obamas are visiting this weekend, local businesses displayed the president’s “Hope” posters from his 2008 campaign to welcome the First Family.

“It’s phenomenal for the area. It’s free advertising,” said Julie Veilleux, owner of an upscale home and garden accessories store in Bar Harbor’s historic district.

A windjammer sightseeing business in the harbor didn’t know how the Obama visit was going to affect business although the U.S. Coast Guard had announced closed-off zones, said Kelly Mitchell, the tour business manager.

For certain, pilots offering scenic air flights over Acadia National Park were grounded for the weekend, she said.

Officials with the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce were more than pleased.

“They are happy, definitely happy,” Chamber representative Jonathan Buck said. “There is short-term (traffic) frustration but in the long run it is good for showcasing the park and the town itself.”

READ MORE FROM THE DAILY NEWS FACT-FINDING TRIP TO BAR HARBOR

Discovery Days at Jackson Lab draws Naples group, Obama in town

PHOTOS Jackson Lab: Bar Harbor, Maine, to Collier County would be ‘two-way street’

Wolf pack circling, fighting for taxpayer’s bones Political Point of View by Collier Democrats

Will elections be a referendum on Jackson Lab? The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

Where does the Naples Tea Party stand on Jackson Labs? Naples Tea Party

The Jackson Labs question made simple - sort of Brent Batten

Lead, follow or get out of the way Fred Coyle / Collier County Commissioner, District 4

A big gamble on a lots of uncertainty Dave Trecker / Pelican Bay

Questions, answers on the proposed Jackson Laboratory/Florida Tammie Nemecek / President, Economic Development Council of Collier County

The Scientific Reality of Jackson Lab The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

Thoughts on Jackson Lab Political Point of View by Collier Democrats

Jackson labs business plan a work in progress Brent Batten

Uncertain predictions, questions cloud Jackson Lab proposal Reinhold Schmieding / Naples / President and founder, Arthrex Inc.

Jackson Laboratory: Keep Expectations in check The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker

In hard times, Collier should help residents, not Jackson Lab Peter Gaddy / President, Golden Gates Estates Area Civic Association

Principals and practicalities of Jackson Lab subsidy don’t add up Guest commentary by Pelican Bay resident Jack Chandler

Jackson Laboratory and Collier County ... what comes next? Fred Coyle / Chairman, Collier County Commission

Jackson Lab a meeting of mice and men Brent Batten

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