Region Must Attract, Retain Firms
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer
Alan Bennett, of UC Davis, speaks Wednesday about the biotechnology industry and its regional importance. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)
Creation of an alluring business environment and a talented workforce for the biotech industry were the key points presented Wednesday to 170 of the county's community and business leaders.
The Solano Economic Development Corporation's president, Michael Ammann, told the group gathered at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Inn that it needs to proactively think about the industry's future.
"The question is," he said, "will these companies stay put, come across the bridge, move out of the state, move inside the state, or actually leave the country?"
He continued, "What do we need to induce them to come to Solano County? What are the essential factors that make these companies successful and how can we remove any barriers?"
Local industry, research, and education experts addressed those questions.
Matt Gardner, president of Bay Bio - an organization representing approximately 275 biotechnology-related entities - noted the 240 products with Northern California origins currently treating patients, and the approximately 200 more in phase two or phase three clinical trials.
A triumph, Gardner explained, would be to encourage local manufacture of those products, and attract some of the 8,000 biotech jobs he predicted will be created regionally in the next year.
In order to do that, he said, local leaders need to work together to question and address what he dubbed "a basket of challenges."
Gardner explained, "As a state, we've earned a reputation of carrying a package of 'disincentives.' There are a whole range of issues about doing business in California from land entitlement to the tax environment."
He warned,"The cost that we all have to acknowledge that's real if we don't confront some of these issues, is that we will have spent 30 years building this industry and the gains from it will be captured elsewhere."
Biotech attraction and retention also depends upon regional education opportunities, and the alliances between educators and industry, said speakers Paulette Perfumo, president of Solano Community College, and Alan Bennett, associate vice chancellor for research at University of California, Davis' office of research, technology and industry alliance.
"UC Davis thinks it can play an important role in helping stimulate the biotechnology industry here; we clearly recognize that this is going to occur only if we're good partners with a variety of economic development groups, other educational institutions, and companies in the region," said Bennett, who noted the school awards more bachelors and masters degrees in life sciences than any other U.S. institution, and whose research funding exceeded $500 million last year.
Perfumo said SCC was "poised and ready" to provide a reliable, trained workforce via its "world-class faculty" and the biotechnology center planned for its new 60-acre Vacaville campus.
"We are growing our biotechnology and biology programs," she said, and stressed the school's desire to create specialized education and training programs through both public-private partnerships and alliances with other colleges or universities.
"We're looking for any partner that wants to become part of our consortium that is working to build this public-private partnership in biotechnology at our Vacaville campus," Perfumo noted.
Amanda Janis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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