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Jackson Laboratory won't be building facility in Sarasota County

Jackson Laboratory said it will withdraw its request for $100 million in state funding, ending its plans for a proposed biomedical village in Sarasota County.

The research lab, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, was asked to submit "a much-reduced proposal" for state funding and is declining to do so, Chuck Hewett, Jackson's executive vice president, said in a release.

Last year, Jackson ended its courtship for a similar research center in Collier County after public opposition arose to a local funding package of $130 million. The lab began talks with officials in Sarasota and Hillsborough counties early this year and picked Sarasota County as its proposed site in March.

The legislative session that ended last month in which lawmakers cut nearly $4 billion from the state's cash-strapped budget did not include enough money for the kind of economic development project the lab wanted to undertake. In particular, Hewett pointed to a lack of money in the state's innovation fund, which has been used in past years to fund biomedical projects.

"We were invited to submit a much-reduced proposal to the Florida Innovation Fund, but the amount available in that fund now, and the uncertainty of future funding, made such a venture too speculative to undertake responsibly," he said.

Jackson vice president of advancement Mike Hyde confirmed Friday that the highly regarded genetic research lab was never able to meet Gov. Rick Scott in person.

"This decision today was based on a phone conference with senior officials in the administration. There has been no face-to-face meeting with Gov. Scott," Hyde said.

After Friday's conference call, he said, "We decided today that there simply wasn't enough money in the system to move forward."

The decision means Jackson will be looking elsewhere.

In the past, Jackson officials have confirmed that they have had inquiries from other regions — specifically, Utah and Texas — seeking involvement in the same personalized medicine institute that Sarasota came close to landing.

Jackson had projected its project would create 432 jobs, 17 of which would require doctorates in their fields, and 109 scientific staffers, over 20 years. The lab said an additional 1,800 to 3,000 jobs would be created because of its presence.

If Jackson had won the $100 million in state funding, Sarasota County commissioners had indicated they would ask voters to approve an additional $100 million in local funding.

The lab had won wide support in the business community, but some had questioned making such a large investment in a project that would take years, if not decades, to produce a large number of jobs.

Jackson Laboratory won't be building facility in Sarasota County 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 10:40pm]
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