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Bush signs bill providing millions to lure Scripps

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law Monday that will guarantee a prestigious biotech firm's expansion into Florida and possibly help the state develop a high-tech economy.

Bush said a Scripps Research Institute in Florida would create unprecedented economic and educational opportunities and propel the state to the forefront of biomedical research.

State leaders have compared the deal to the arrival of NASA, Disney World and air conditioning.

The legislation Bush signed requires the state to spend $310-million to lure Scripps to Florida. The money would be used to staff and equip a Florida version of the research institute in San Diego.

The deal gives Scripps $310-million, but the price tag is actually $369-million because the company gets to spend $59-million in interest that the money is expected to earn as the company slowly ramps up its operations.

Palm Beach County, where the nonprofit organization will be located, will add $200-million to the incentive package, which will include a temporary and permanent facility in the northern part of the county.

"To ask in a special session for a $310-million commitment for a research institute during relatively difficult times in terms of our budget was a big request. But the Legislature looked beyond the horizon and saw the potential of this to help state budgets in future years," Bush told reporters at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals in Boca Raton. "Now the hard work begins."

Bush has said Scripps could draw droves of other biotech firms to the state. The measure includes provisions requiring Scripps to work with schools to boost science education and to collaborate with Florida universities on research.

It also prevents Scripps from moving to another facility outside of California or Florida for 12 years and to reinvest up to $155-million in royalties to a state trust fund.

Scripps is a recognized leader in the biotechnology field and the home of three Nobel laureates. It employs 2,900 people in the San Diego community of La Jolla and is the largest institute funded by the National Institutes of Health.

As one of the world's largest, nonprofit biomedical research organizations, the institute is internationally recognized for research into immunology, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. It is credited for making San Diego the nation's third-largest center for biotech companies.