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Bay area in running for biotech center

Hundreds of high-tech jobs could be heading the way of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

An undisclosed nonprofit company proposes creating a $20-million biotechnology research center at the University of South Florida in Tampa and a $14-million electronics plant in St. Petersburg.

The Tampa research center would create 100 jobs paying an average of $75,000 with the promise of up to 271 more jobs in five years, Hillsborough County said.

Employment details were sketchy about the St. Petersburg plant. But the company said it would collaborate with an existing Pinellas County defense contractor to make "multichip modules," an advanced form of circuit boards.

The two projects came to light as Hillsborough commissioners prepared to consider today whether to contribute $6-million from their budget over two years to land the USF research center.

The company also seeks $4-million from the University of South Florida Research Foundation and $10-million from the Florida Innovation Incentive Program. The latter program was created during the administration of Gov. Jeb Bush to help lure world-class, high-impact businesses.

Bruce Register, Hillsborough's corporate business recruiter, said the deals have been in the works for two or three months. He said the USF operation would be a satellite of a $400-million nanotechnology company with 1,200 employees and strong ties to the U.S. Department of Defense.

It would specialize in "BioMEMS," a field that uses miniaturized technology to treat medical ailments. Register said the company would apply similar nanotechnology to the defense-related circuitry at the St. Petersburg operation.

"It's just an exciting opportunity and we're hoping it works out," he said. "Nanotechnology is converging across many disciplines."

Citing confidentiality agreements, Register's counterparts at the Pinellas County economic development office declined to comment.

But Register said the USF deal also hinges on Pinellas County providing incentives for the electronics plant.

"There's got to be a St. Pete component," he said.

Bay area in running for biotech center 04/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:16am]
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