A decade ago, every state and metro area with an economic-development team was pitching itself as a potential locus for burgeoning biotechnologies. Even if they came late to the Internet revolution, they weren’t going to miss the boom in genomics and bioengineering.
The target was spot on: The bioscience industry has become one of the most innovative and important economic drivers in the U.S., now accounting for more than 1.6 million jobs, nurturing a well-paid and highly skilled workforce and maintaining an American edge in a cluster of technologies that likely will be as important to this century as computerization was to the last.
The sector also has managed to emerge newly vibrant from the Great Recession and has adjusted to dramatic dislocations in the traditional pharmaceutical industry. Fully 34 states gained bioscience-industry jobs during the last decade, meaning that the gains have been distributed widely.
“We have people from the coasts who got burned out on the big-city mentality,” says Brian Williamson, president and CEO of JCB Laboratories, a Wichita, Kansas, startup that now employs about 30 people making sterile products and drugs for dialysis and other uses. “When people visit our facility, they see the Midwest work ethic, and they appreciate it.”
Some states have been big winners. Here are snapshots of five of them:
California: It’s more than computer chips: The state boasts the largest state bioscience employment base with more than 228,000 jobs and nearly 7,500 establishments maintaining research and lab-employment growth of 36 percent since 2001. A $3-billion stem-cell-funding measure launched a decade ago created 25,000 of the jobs.
Indiana: The Hoosier State is one of only two with a concentration in four of the industry’s five major sectors, employing 60,000 workers at more than 2,000 bioscience establishments. The plan now is to catch up with rival states in areas including capital formation, research commercialization and science, technology,engineering and math education.
Maryland: The state counts more than 33,000 bioscience jobs and more than 1,800 enterprises specializing in research and pharmaceuticals. In fact, Maryland’s drugs and pharma sector has grown by 37 percent since 2001. Industry interests got the state legislature last year to increase the annual R&D tax-credit cap to $8 million from $6 million, among other accomplishments.
North Carolina: The state maintains one of the most varied biotech sectors in the U.S. and employs more than 62,000 people at more than 2,500 locations. Creatively, the state used $60 million from tobacco-settlement trust funds to form a statewide training program for bio- manufacturing workers, which provided North Carolina State University with the money to create a training center.
Utah: Rapid growth from a small base is the hallmark of a bioscience sector in Utah that expanded by 26 percent since 2001 to more than 23,000 employees. Landmarks in 2013 included budding success in specialty pharma through companies, such as Navigen and Tolero, and the creation of the first industry association, BioUtah.
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