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Jackson Lab Abandons Plans for Florida Expansion

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory has decided to pull the plug on its plan to expand into Florida, citing a lack of available funding from the state.

In an announcement made today, the Bar Harbor, Maine-based biomedical research institution said its decision was based on Florida's "severely constrained state budget," which precluded Jackson Lab from getting the $100 million in state funding that it was seeking in order to create a facility in Sarasota County.

Charles Hewett, executive vice president of Jackson Lab, said that despite support from state economic development officials, the funds needed to expand into Florida just weren't there. "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.

Hewett also said that Jackson Lab will no longer pursue a plan to create a facility in Florida. "We understand Florida's budget situation, and we will turn our attention to other priorities," he said.

The laboratory, which also has a facility in Sacramento, Calif., had been eyeing Florida for its third site since October 2009, and initially planned on building a facility in Naples to house its personalized medicine partnership with the University of South Florida. Jackson Lab projected that by 2020 its Florida facility would have 244 employees. A consultant's report added that by 2020 the facility would generate a total of 4,913 jobs, and by 2032 it would generate 11,490 jobs.

The proposal originally had the support of state lawmakers, including then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who were ready to provide $130 million in state funding for the proposed facility. Gradually, though, questions about the project's economic viability were raised. After lawsuits were filed in connection to $50 million in Collier County funding that would have been part of the state's $130 million contribution, Jackson Lab began exploring other locations in Florida.

This past March, it announced plans to locate its facility in Sarasota. The personalized medicine institute would have resided in a 120,000 square-foot facility and included labs and offices in the USF Health complex in Tampa. The focus of the institute was to have been on developing genetics-based treatments for heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes.