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Robert Trigaux

In pursuit of Jackson Lab, Sarasota says deal will pay back state's $100 million commitment



Wake up and good morning. The initial celebration of Sarasota County "winning" the proposed biotech expansion of Maine-based Jackson Laboratory is fading and now faces the political battle to convince Florida Gov. Rick Scott that a $100 million in state funds to support the deal can be justified.

Scott's briefest of history as the state's governor since January suggests that is a tough battle to win.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune writes here that the state law governing the fund that has spearheaded $1.6 billion invested in bioscience laboratories around Florida in recent years requires that the state be able to recoup its investment within 20 years through additional sales and corporate income taxes generated by each project. (Corporate income taxes? I thought Scott wants to do away with those...)

As Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley told the newspaper: "I can tell you that the economic analysis that we have done — that's conservative I believe — meets those (20-year) requirements."

Funny thing about economic analyses.... a few tweaks of the underlying assumptions and who knows what can be promised two decades down the road. Sarasota's analysis was done by Regional Economic Models Inc.

A brief history of economic modeling:

* According to the Herald-TribuneCollier County and Jackson Lab last years were in talks to a personalized medicine institute in that county with a state investment of $130 million. A county study, though, found that the biomedical village would generate only $107 million in new taxes for the state over 20 years, failing to meet the statutory investment requirement.

Hillsborough County, which then went on the hunt for Jackson Lab, later released details from its economic analysis that valued the direct economic benefit from Jackson setting up shop near USF Tampa at $87 million over 20 years, decidedly less than that county's proposed $100 million investment.

* On March 2, Jackson announced it had picked Sarasota County. County administrator Ley told the Herald-Tribune that his county's analysis -- justifying a $100 million state commitment of funds --  is both conservative and was done with methods used in the study of other state-funded projects.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times


[Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 7:10am]


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