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Reporting from Bar Harbor, Maine:
NAPLES — A radio interview in Maine by a Jackson Laboratory official has caused some ruckus in Collier County about new jobs that would be created in Bar Harbor if a local laboratory project comes through.
Mike Hyde, vice president for advancement with the nonprofit genetics research institute in Bar Harbor, said during a recent interview with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that Maine would benefit from the proposed Florida project.
Hundreds of new administrative and support jobs would be created in Bar Harbor to accommodate the Florida operation, the radio interviewer said as a lead-in before using a comment from Hyde. He spoke about not duplicating some employee departments at both sites.
“We have a very extensive information technology staff here in Bar Harbor, and we wouldn’t want to duplicate all of that expertise in another location,” Hyde said in the interview.
Hyde said later that during the radio interview, he offered a hypothetical situation about new jobs in Maine but the hypothetical part wasn’t included in the final interview.
Collier County leaders are considering using as much as $130 million in local tax dollars to match state money to help bring the genetics research institute to eastern Collier, whereby the Barron Collier Co. has agreed to donate 50 acres off Oil Well Road for the facility. The idea is that Jackson would build an institute that would focus on the emerging field of personalized medicine and create 244 jobs by 2020. The intent is for Jackson to serve as an anchor to attract other research institutes and for-profit biotechnology firms so thousands of more jobs get created.
Hyde said both the Maine and Florida institutes would benefit from the existence of the other. From the start, Florida would be tapping Jackson’s internerational reputation, and that’s one reason why Collier and Florida leaders are interested in investing to bring the institute to the state, he said.
“You are buying a brand,” he said.
At the same time, Hyde said Collier and Florida dollars would not be exported to create new jobs in Bar Harbor. New jobs in Bar Harbor would be created by lab revenue in Maine.
“Exporting Florida dollars to Maine? It is not going to happen,” he said. “Each institute would have to support itself.”
People in Maine, in turn, would not want to support the Florida operation financially, he said. Before primary elections in Maine, candidates used the proposed Jackson expansion in Florida as jobs being taken out of Maine and incumbents’ failure to keep jobs in the state. Hyde said that issue among candidates has since subsided.
“If people thought we would export Maine dollars to Florida, they would be equally concerned,” he said.
John Lundin, a Naples resident who doesn’t support $130 million in local dollars potentially being used on the one project, said he didn’t interpret Hyde’s interview as local or Florida money being used to create jobs in Maine.
“It sounds like they may create more jobs up there than down here, but I think he misspoke,” Lundin said.
Commission Chairman Fred Coyle, who has taken the board’s lead on the project with the Economic Development Council, said the county’s contract with Jackson will stress that the local money be used to hire Collier County residents and contractors.
“I am not concerned about it,” he said. “I have a feeling this is just one of those rumors being surfaced by people who want to stop evaluation of the project.”
Hyde also said Jackson, in its contract with Collier and the state, will have to comply with specific job creation targets.
“We have every intention of meeting those job targets,” he said.
Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman