Recently the Biotechnology Industry Organization published their annual Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Industry Report 2012. The report includes state-by-state numbers on things like employment in the biosciences and number of biosciences businesses. The numbers are reported nationally and at a state level (see the report here ). At first glance I was really disappointed. They showed Florida having no net gains in bioscience employment for the 4 year period.
The report is apparently intended to be used, at least in part, as an aid to lobbying congressional delegations. To serve that purpose their definition of bioscience is very broad -- includes things like diagnostic labs (including every lab running cholesterol tests and such), biomedical distributors (including the guys selling gauze to your doctors office), and even fertilizer producers. I understand why -- because there are lots of those places and they employ lots of people.
Fortunately the data is granular enough though that I was able to manually pull the categories that are more interesting from an "innovation economy" perspective -- medical device establishments and pharmaceutical establishments. Looking at just these categories, and at establishment numbers (not employment numbers), you get a very different picture:
Overall, the entire country added a net of 725 of these places of business over that 4-year period. Some of these might just be new manufacturing plants for old technologies -- but logic would say that most are new businesses with new ideas for products that are going to care for and heal patients. Here's the eye opener: Florida, alone, accounted for 234 of those new establishments -- nearly one-third of the entire nation's gains and way more than any other state! (California was second with 118.) Also of note, the Southeast as a whole accounted for three-quarters of the national gain.
That's the good news. Unfortunately a quick use of the Bureau of Labor Statistics database (from which BIO got their data) suggests that very few of these gains came from Alachua County -- only a handful. It wasn't that long ago that Alachua county was the epicenter of this kind of activity in the state, but appears that the center of gravity has shifted elsewhere. This shouldn't be a surprise given that tens of millions that other communities have spent to lure bioscience companies there -- like the Palm Beach County, Orlando and Tampa Bay areas in particular.
What do you think we should be doing here in Gainesville to keep our "major player" status in the bioscience innovation field?