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Jackson Lab CEO: Florida Project Won't Diminish Maine Expansion Plan

This report has been updated to clarify the distribution of the new jobs at Jackson Lab's Bar Harbor headquarters, and add information on planned Florida jobs.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Jackson Laboratory said yesterday it will not waver from earlier plans to expand its workforce and research at its headquarters in Bar Harbor, Me., over the next five to 10 years, even as it pursues plans to develop a third campus near Naples, Fla.

"Far from leaving the state, Maine will be the headquarters for a thriving, multi-state research enterprise that promises so much in our efforts to relieve human suffering," Richard Woychik, Jackson Lab's president and CEO, said in a letter published in the April 7 edition of the Bar Harbor Times weekly newspaper.

Woychik said in the letter that Jackson Lab still plans to add 200 jobs to its Bar Harbor workforce of more than 1,300 people over the next five to 10 years. The distribution of the new jobs at Bar Harbor will be roughly the same as the campus' current mix of staffers, Joyce Peterson, a spokeswoman for Jackson Lab, told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

At present, Peterson said, about 600 of Jackson Lab's Bar Harbor employees help the laboratory provide scientific services ranging from microscopy to bottle washing and other infrastructure maintenance; some 550 headquarters staffers hold positions in the lab's research branch; while the rest hold administrative jobs.

"The same ratio would pretty much continue" in Bar Harbor as the lab expands there, Peterson said.

As for research at Bar Harbor, Peterson said, Jackson Lab still plans to expand from its current 38 research groups to 45 over the next five years. Each group will consist of a principal investigator and support staffers.

She cited Jackson Lab's recent expansion of its West Coast campus in Sacramento, Calif., as an example of how Jackson can expand elsewhere without shrinking its campus in Bar Harbor. And speaking to GWDN last month, Michael Hyde, Jackson's vice president for advancement and external relations, guessed that "it would be a relative handful of people from Maine" who will likely transfer to Florida.

Woychik — who plans to step down once the Board of Trustees appoints a successor — wrote his letter at a time when Jackson Lab is pursuing plans to create a new Florida campus focused on personalized medicine. The laboratory has identified a potential site, namely 50 acres owned by developer Barron Collier Cos., co-developer of the nearby Ave Maria mixed-use master planned community.

Jackson Lab has said the new personalized medicine institute would employ about 200 people, an employment level not expected to be reached until three to four years after the facility opened.

"The Florida facility, as now envisioned, would be mostly research staff with some administrative support," Peterson said.

Jackson Lab is seeking from the Sunshine State $130 million over three years — $50 million of which would be awarded in the fiscal year that starts July 1 — and an equal amount from Collier County, where officials have verbally committed to assisting the lab with economic incentives.

The laboratory has said it also plans to raise an additional $120 million for the project from supporters in and outside the community through a philanthropic campaign.

How much Jackson Lab will ultimately receive from Florida hinges on how the state Senate and House of Representatives iron out differences in their budget bills through a conference committee. The Senate has approved a $50 million earmark for the laboratory by state Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples), while the House has approved a total $119 million for economic development projects, of which $50 million is expected to be spent on the Naples-area lab.

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