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Jackson Lab Withdraws Request for $50M in State Funds for Controversial Florida Campus

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Jackson Laboratory has withdrawn its controversial application seeking $50 million in funds from the state of Florida this year toward a third campus near Naples that would be focused on personalized medicine.

However, Jackson Lab insisted in a statement that it still intends to proceed with the project, explaining that despite the withdrawal it "will work with newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott to align the project with his goals for growing the state's economy."

Scott, a Republican who succeeded Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist at the start of the new year, has committed the Sunshine State to creating 100,000 new jobs each of the next seven years.

"We think our project fits right in with his bold economic-development vision of creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years," Charles Hewett, Jackson's executive vice president and COO, said in a statement. "We remain very enthusiastic about our possible Florida expansion, and we look forward to working with Gov. Scott's administration to see how we can contribute to his plans for job creation and economic growth."

Hewett formally withdrew the laboratory's application for funding from the state's Innovation Incentive Fund program in a letter to Crystal Sircy, Enterprise Florida's senior vice president for business retention and recruitment. Enterprise Florida, the public-private agency that promotes economic development in the state, had been reviewing the laboratory's request for state funding.

The $50 million was to have been the first piece of an eventual $130 million in state funds toward the campus project. The state conditioned its funding on officials in Florida's Collier County agreeing to match that funding with $130 million in county money. In return, Jackson Lab has committed to spending $120 million that it plans to raise through a philanthropic campaign toward the personalized medicine campus.

Headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, Jackson Lab plans to open a translational genetics research institute to be built on 50 acres donated by developer Barron Collier Cos., starting with a temporary facility projected to launch in 2011, and expanding to a permanent campus envisioned to open two years later. Jackson Lab's campus would anchor a 700-acre "biomedical research and education village," envisioned as housing a mix of commercial, academic, and research tenants.

The county funding portion has proven controversial, with many residents arguing the subsidy to the nonprofit Jackson Lab amounted to corporate welfare. The county had sought a state court "validation" or official declaration that the Jackson Lab plan constituted a "valid public purpose," thus allowing the use of county bonds.

Jackson Lab was at the center of another court case, in which medical device maker Arthrex asked a judge to order the laboratory plan be decided by supermajority vote rather than the simple majority vote being pursued by the commissioners.

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