Tuesday, April 24, 2007

California Courting Biotech Companies

California Courting Biotech Companies
East Bay Business Times - April 20, 2007
by Michael Fitzhugh

When the California Pavilion opens at the nation's biggest annual biotechnology convention, Bio International, held May 6 to 9 in Boston, it will be the culmination of more than a year's preparation.

Despite its claim as the birthplace of biotech, California will compete with 32 other state pavilions and 39 international groups vying for the attention and business of 22,000 delegates at the event.

With magazine ads, videos and promotional card decks, California economic development and labor officials have worked in advance to lure attendees to sign up for state "bio corridor" tours, custom-planned for out-of-state executives and venture capitalists.

"It doesn't do any good to hang a bunch of banners and have a bunch of parties if people don't come to your state to learn about it," said Mary Ingersoll, trade show coordinator for the group organizing California's 3,400-square-foot pavilion, TeamCalifornia.

California's secretary of labor, Victoria Bradshaw, will meet with delegates alongside economic development groups such as the San Joaquin Partnership, and the city of San Jose.

Michael Ammann, Solano Economic Development Corp. president, will be promoting both statewide and Solano biotech manufacturing opportunities as well as his county's proximity to research centers like the UC Berkeley and Davis campuses.

The UC's Office of Technology Transfer will be on hand, too.

"If people license technologies, they might want to locate near them," said Ammann.

The pavilion is essential to marketing regional assets to the biotech community and leveraging statewide resources to effectively compete for business, he said. Cooperation has been important, especially in light of the conference's enormous costs, said Ingersoll.

Each 10-square-foot booth costs $4,800 before charges for daily maintenance, said Ingersoll, who pegs TeamCalifornia's budget for the event at upwards of $100,000 before marketing costs.

"When you go to these events the state of Pennsylvania might spend half a million dollars. Those folks are out there trying to recruit labor, too," said Ammann.

A free DVD highlighting California's biotech labor pool, educational efforts and capital and grant dollar flows will be handed out in the pavilion as well as shown on large-screen TVs.

Beyond the pavilion, local industry players such as Bayer HealthCare LLC, Xoma LLC and Mendel Biotechnology Inc. will have their own booths at the convention. The convention will move to San Diego next year, June 18 to 20.

mfitzhugh@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1425

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