TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers on Thursday earmarked $50 million in state funds to lure a Maine-based genetic research company to build a $710 million research and medical facility near Ave Maria University in Collier County.
Speaking to members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Garrett Richter unveiled negotiations being conducted with Jackson Laboratory, a Bar Harbor-based institute established 80 years ago that has become a world leader in genetic research. The nonprofit institute, which now employs 1,000 workers at its 43-acre complex, wants to establish an Institute for Personalized Medicine and Research Village near the newly built university.
The institute would bring 420 high paying jobs to Collier County during its first year, Richter, R-Naples, told members of the budget committee. By year 10, as the institute forms partnerships with the state’s research universities and other institutions, backers say the facility would employ 7,522 with an annual economic impact of $835 million.
“This would be a game changer,” Richter told the Daily News following the vote.
If approved, the company would apply to the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development for the funds, the first of a proposed $130 million state effort that would be contingent on a matching local contribution and private funds.
Richter and local economic development officials cautioned that talks are in the early stages and any state funds would come with several performance guidelines attached.
That said, they called the potential institute a “transformational development” that would augment the region’s traditional agricultural and tourism industries with a 21st Century growth industry that would dovetail with research universities and other private firms including Scripps Research Institute, the Burnham Institute and other biomedical companies that now call Florida home.
Dolly Roberts, president of DBR Marketing and spokeswoman for the Economic Development Council of Collier County, said local and state officials have been in ongoing contact with Jackson Laboratory executives, but have said little publicly. Without substantial state and local support, the deal would be hard to close.
“Without the state’s participation, this was just a dream,” Roberts said.
Jackson Laboratories research centers around the human genome and how medical treatment can be tailored to meet the needs of individual patients. Laboratory officials announced several months ago an interest in setting up a branch facility in Florida. The project would include a hospital, campus, support business and residential development.
“We’re delighted with the developments in the Florida Senate,” Mike Hyde, Jackson’s vice president for advancement said Thursday. “But there are many moving parts to this endeavor.”
Richter outlined a potential funding package that included $130 million in state funds matched by $130 million in local contributions.
The nonprofit institute would kick in $330 million in grant and institute revenues another $120 million would come from private donations.
Richter said the tentative deal would locate the facility on land now owned by the Barron Collier Co.
Richter said Collier County commissioners are familiar with the conceptual deal. Construction of the facility could start as early as later this year, he said.
Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples, is spearheading efforts in the House to include the $50 million in that chamber’s spending plan. Grady is expected to meet again with House Speaker Larry Cretul on today to discuss the issue further.
Grady said Cretul has already met with Collier officials and representatives from Jackson Laboratory. The governor’s office and members of Enterprise Florida have also been heavily involved in talks.
Unlike previous biotech deals, Jackson comes to the table with a lot of its own capital, a commitment that Grady said bodes well for the projects during such tough budget times.
“I am very optimistic at this point,” Grady said.