NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Concluding that Maryland must step up government support for the life sciences, state Comptroller Peter Franchot has vowed to pursue in the new year a multi-year package of subsidies and other programs expected to catapult the industry into the nation’s top tier of bioclusters.
Franchot told GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication BioRegion News that he will seek a life sciences measure comparable to the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative now under review by Massachusetts lawmakers.
“I could certainly envision supporting and defending a state strategy in that range,” Franchot said in an interview. “I would certainly encourage everyone involved at the policy level to think in the billion-dollar range because of the importance of the life sciences to the state’s economic development vision.”
He said Gov. Martin O’Malley has begun working with legislative leaders to boost state support for the life sciences: “They’ve got a package of tax incentives and other subsidies that they’re going to be proposing.”
But a spokesman for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, Dave Tillman, cautioned that O’Malley and legislative leaders won’t pursue such incentives until they receive a recommendation from the Life Sciences Advisory Board. The board is a 15-member panel appointed by O’Malley to develop a strategic plan for growing the industry in Maryland and its members include DBED Secretary David Edgerley.
Furthermore, it is uncertain whether Maryland lawmakers would approve the package due to constraints in the state’s finances.
Franchot said the push for greater subsidies was a key result of the “Life Sciences Summit,” a daylong event held by his office earlier this month.
“The purpose of the life science summit was to bring together the business leaders of the state with the academic leaders, and also representatives of the public labs, and inventory the assets that Maryland has, and brand ourselves as the number-one state in the country for life sciences,” the comptroller said. “We’re not going to win every battle. But with this new image, we’re going to win more than we lose.”
During the Dec. 13 summit, Franchot released a 28-page economic impact study concluding that the state’s research institutions and 370 life sciences businesses form what the report’s title trumpets as Maryland: The Nation’s Bioscience Leader.
The report, prepared by the Sage Policy group, concludes that Maryland’s life sciences industry accounts for $29 billion in economic activity, a total 120,000 jobs reflecting nearly 5 percent of total state employment, more than 11 percent of gross state product ($219.9 billion in 2006, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis), and nearly $600 million in state government taxes each year. The report also cites Maryland’s concentration of research powerhouses that includes the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the US Food and Drug Administration, and Johns Hopkins University.
“I can see doubling or tripling what we currently have as far as tax credits and subsidies,” Franchot said, adding that such assistance now adds up to about $15 million. He didn’t say how large the budgets for those programs should be, saying he would leave that task to O’Malley and lawmakers.
The complete version of this article appears in this week's issue of BioRegion News.