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St. Petersburg considers luring biotechnology company that could create nearly 300 jobs

ST. PETERSBURG — City, county and state officials are trying to lure a biotechnology company from outside Florida to move to downtown St. Petersburg. The firm, which the city won't name, has told officials it would create an estimated 283 jobs during the next six years that pay an average of $120,000.

"It's very much, potentially, a big deal," said Dave Goodwin, the city's planning and economic development coordinator. "It's exactly the type of company we think we stand a good chance of recruiting."

The St. Petersburg City Council will vote today to start the process of giving the firm 1.25 acres valued at $275,000 in an area called the Dome Industrial Park, northwest of Interstate 275. The company's name is confidential because it is exempt from state public record laws while it negotiates with state and local officials for incentives.

The state's Enterprise Florida economic development agency is contributing $600,000 to lure the company, which Goodwin says hails from outside of the southeast United States. The University of South Florida Research Foundation, where former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker works, is chipping in another $50,000. On Tuesday, Pinellas County commissioners will vote on approving $275,000 in incentives. Goodwin said the identity of the company will be announced about a month after the county's vote, if approved.

Baker and officials with the state and county couldn't be reached for comment.

Goodwin said the company could get an additional $3,000 to $5,000 in tax breaks for every job it creates if it qualifies — and if St. Petersburg voters approve a referendum on Nov. 8 that allows the city to offer tax breaks for jobs.

The public investment is worthwhile, Goodwin said, because of the potential in economic development the company would bring to the area.

The company is on the cusp of federal approval for new drugs it developed, he said. Once approved, it would take about two years before the company would start manufacturing the drugs.

Initially, the company plans to bring about 40 jobs to St. Petersburg. But the company estimates that in six years, it would create 283 additional jobs to manufacture the drugs. Because manufacturing requires a chain of suppliers, Goodwin said the company is estimated to create 204 jobs at other local companies, for a total of 487 new jobs and an economic impact of $37.6 million.

"It's why manufacturing is such a good economic engine," Goodwin said. "More retail is great, but you tend to fight over the same slice of pie. A new retailer comes in, and another local retailer loses business. Manufacturers, on the other hand, bring in more dollars into the local economy."

Goodwin said the deal for the company to come was already in the works by the time city officials found out about it.

He said the company was lured, in part, by the presence of other high-tech entities, such as SRI International and Draper Laboratory. "They love St. Petersburg, they think it provides a high quality of life, a great place for their employees to live and work," Goodwin said.

Even with all that going for St. Petersburg, Goodwin said incentives were necessary because other communities, which he couldn't name, are vying for the relocation.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com

St. Petersburg considers luring biotechnology company that could create nearly 300 jobs 09/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 10:13pm]
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