Commissioner Donna Fiala discusses Jackson Labs at Marco Kiwanis

Danielle Dodder special to the Eagle
County commisioner Donna Fiala addresses the Kiwanis Club Thursday morning. Fiala and Kiwanian Shirlee Barcic traveled to Maine over the summer to visit Jackson Labs.

Danielle Dodder special to the Eagle County commisioner Donna Fiala addresses the Kiwanis Club Thursday morning. Fiala and Kiwanian Shirlee Barcic traveled to Maine over the summer to visit Jackson Labs.

— County Commissioner Donna Fiala spoke at the Kiwanis Club’s latest meeting to make the case for bringing Jackson Labs to Collier County. Fiala and Kiwanian Shirlee Barcic, chair of Fiala’s Islands Advisory committee, traveled to the lab’s base in Maine to get a feel for how it’s viewed by its hometown.

Jackson Labs, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, is a non-profit research facility that conducts genetic research, provides scientific resources and genetic material (mainly from mice) to other labs globally, and provides educational and internship programs to students.

The lab has been a focal point of efforts by the Economic Development Council and the Board of Commissioners to diversify the local economy beyond tourism, agriculture and real estate. Although proponents want to see Jackson Labs become a cornerstone of biomedical industry and research in our area, the $130 million investment expected from the county has drawn taxpayer ire and cries of unfair competition from Arthrex, a medical manufacturer located in North Naples.

“I decided to go to see for myself. I didn’t want to just see who Jackson would make appointments with me,” explained Fiala. She reached out to the Bar Harbor community, including the town council, businesses and restaurateurs. “What we learned was that they wanted to lab to expand there, not Florida. Jackson Labs is the business that keeps them alive in the winter. They all said that without Jackson Labs, their town would go bankrupt.”

In speaking with local educators, the two discovered another beneficial dynamic between the lab and the town. “You have these outside scientists who are unusually brilliant coming to study and work. Their kids go to school there and raise the bar,” said Fiala. The influx of high-achieveing students challenged the local schools to push standards higher, something Fiala hopes would occur at the Florida facility as well.

The focus of the proposed Collier County lab would be biomedical research leading to personalized medicine, which uses an individual’s genetic code as a road map to provide treatment tailored to that individual’s specific needs.

Kiwanian Gina Sisbarro asked Fiala to explain her take on the vocal opposition to the proposed facility.

Fiala shared her belief that the origins lay in critics of Commissioner Fred Coyle, stating, “they wanted to latch on to what he was working on and they just wanted to win, no matter what.”

Fiala added that the county commission had voted down the idea of a referendum because the opponents were not clear on which issue should go to a public vote, the $130 million in tax dollars or the lab itself. “It seemed like people didn’t really know what they were against. Was it the money or was it Jackson Labs itself?”

The county is now considering using loans and private donations to offset the cost. She added that Jackson Labs is working on agreements with the University of South Florida, Edison State College, teaching hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to help create the concept of a biomedical village.

Shirley Barcic noted that because Jackson Labs is a non-profit, its research is not proprietary. “Anyone can take their research and run with it: produce a product, further the research.”

The biomedical village envisioned by county leaders would be located a considerable distance east from Marco Island, on Oil Well Road. There are a variety of reasons why Islanders should follow the issue, said Kiwanis president John Coff. “It’s great to hear someone who’s enthusiastic about the project. Donna’s really taken the time to study the impact on Collier County.”

He added that Marco’s real estate and recreation will be a draw to medical professionals and pointed out that as the lab provides jobs to the Naples area, those workers may no longer commute to Marco, opening more opportunities for local job seekers.

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Comments » 12

RayPray writes:

How about next time, instead of holding an election, we just administer an IQ test?

Seawaller writes:

Bar Harbor: State income tax rate: 6.5%
Weather: It's Maine!
Transportation: Dog Sleds
Airport: Bush Pilots
Collier Co.: State income tax rate: 0
Weather = It's SW Florida!
Transportation: I75
Airport: SW Regional

We need to spend $130,000,000 to get them to come here? IQ tests all around!

JohninMarco writes:

And how long will they stay here after this major investment? They seem to always be looking for greener pastures, Ms. Fiala.

maverick1 writes:

c'mon fiala
they are going to give everybody jobs and
improve the schools???

if that was the case with these non profit
taxpayer crushing deals everybody would be after them..

if this is such a great deal why are we not competing with another municipality for the right to get jackson labs to save us.
bad bad deal.

ajm3s writes:

Nice to have a competitive field of companies to choose from.........oops never mind this is a Jackson Labs only request. Geez where is the fairness in this public money give-away program?

Let's review this statement:

"Fiala added that the county commission had voted down the idea of a referendum because the opponents were not clear on which issue should go to a public vote, the $130 million in tax dollars or the lab itself. “It seemed like people didn’t really know what they were against. Was it the money or was it Jackson Labs itself?”

Translation: Us peasants are too s----- to understand the situation.

UNBELIEVABLE.

Ms. Fiala with all due respect, do you create these rationalizations at whim or do you actually review amongst committee.

GOD HELP US ALL.

RayPray writes:

Where do you sign up for the Marco Tea Party?

OldMarcoMan writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OldMarcoMan writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

sailingby writes:

The population of Bar Harbor, Maine is nearly 5,000. With 1200 employees nearly a quarter of the population works for Jackson Labs; it would create a significant economic impact if it left.

But that is not what Fiala said would occur here. Collier County has 350,000 people. 200 new employees in 10 years at a cost of $130 million is completely outrageous and not even a drop in the bucket!

JoeFubietze writes:

“It seemed like people didn’t really know what they were against. Was it the money or was it Jackson Labs itself?”

Let me clear this up for you Donna; We are against spending large amounts of money without our vote, regardless of who the benefiting private company is. The issue regarding Jackson Labs is 'why them' and not another company.

And once again NDN has done their regular haphazard reporting. I see no-where in the article where it explains that Donna is actually a member of this Kiwanis organization that she gave this discussion to http://www.kiwanisclubofmarcoisland.o... . This should be of concern because it leads one to wonder how close the ties are with her and Barcic. It is so important to point out that Barcic is a Kiwanian in every article about her trip to Maine, etc...but not that Fiala is?

So, what we have here is an article about a totally staged presentation with nothing but shill questions and comments by the presenter's friends and acquaintances. Sounds like regular politics to me.

Any time that a politician uses such tactics to try to dupe the public into his/her/their hidden agenda(s) it needs to be scrutinized.

marcoislander writes:

fiala you do not represent anyone but yourself. They must have really wined and dined you this time around. nonprofit what a joke.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Hum, I must have hit close to home

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL

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