Beaverton emphasises job training

Beaverton, Oregon, is a city where a brain industry such as biotech does well, says mayor Denny Doyle. To promote Beaverton, city officials are working with the Oregon Bioscience Association, which is promoting biotech statewide.

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“We are trying to take the leadership role in that because we are looking to create jobs,” says Mr Doyle.

Oregon has a wealth of talent in biotech. But to foster talent further in Beaverton, the mayor is working on establishing a training centre through BioPro, a comprehensive workforce training programme developed by the Oregon Bioscience Association, in partnership with agencies Worksystems and WorkSource Oregon.

BioPro is targeted at the workforce development needs of companies and research institutions in biotechnology, medical devices, diagnostic tools and related technologies. Beaverton’s training centre aims to create skills that transfer easily to biotech.

“We would love to see this grow,” says Mr Doyle. “We will help companies find talent in whatever needs they have.”

A plus for Beaverton is its location, 110 kilometres from Portland State University and 140 kilometres from the University of Oregon.

While Beaverton has a population of only 91,000, it is home to a number of successful companies, including medical equipment manufacturer Welch Allyn, which has 10% of its worldwide operations in the town. The world headquarters of sportswear brand Nike are also based there, as is IBM’s Linux Technology Centre for software development.

Intel conducts research and development in Beaverton and recently broke ground on a $3.5bn research laboratory that will employ 1000 people. Water purification firm Puralytics, which is pioneering a new photochemical technology for water, is also doubling in size in Beaverton.

“Last year, the city added or retained 2100 jobs in general,” says Mr Doyle. “This signals we are open for business.”

In 2010, Beaverton was named by Money magazine as one of the 100 'best places to live', among smaller cities in the US.

Bostonian innovation is coming

Boston, Massachusetts, is experiencing another revolution in biotechnology with the development of the Innovation District on Boston Harbor. Mayor Thomas Menino emphasises that collaboration is what makes the Innovation District what it is today.

“Fifteen businesses located there in 18 months,” he says. “And it’s not just one industry: it’s biotech, clean technology, residential and commercial.”

Mr Menino’s goal is not to make the district a cluster of one, but one of many opportunities.

“The massive expanse of the South Boston waterfront, with its existing knowledge base, opportunity for growth and world-class infrastructure, is ripe to produce world-class products and services,” he says.

To realise his vision for the Innovation District, Mr Menino developed a three-part strategy centred on densely clustering companies; providing new models of housing, including those that meet the needs of entrepreneurs; and providing public infrastructure and networking opportunities to foster creativity and bold thinking.

What makes the project work, Mr Menino emphasises, is the district’s proximity to airports, financial services providers, universities and the healthcare industry. “It’s appropriately located on Boston Harbor. There is no better location,” he says.

At four square kilometres, the site is the last piece of developable land of its size in Boston.

But why is the project working? “Because there is a spirit of collaboration,” says Mr Menino. “There’s energy, vitality. The thing that I find most interesting is how these businesses want to work together. I’ve never seen this in my entire career and I’ve been mayor for 18 years.”

In mid-June, 10 new clean technology companies arrived at the district to start another incubator. “We have a lot of those down there,” says Mr Menino. “But they want to use their brain power together to grow.”

Also in mid-June, Vertex Pharmaceuticals broke ground in the district with the largest commercial project in Boston’s history and the largest private construction project in the US.

Gilbert stokes widespread interest

Gilbert, Arizona, with its population of 250,000, 35 kilometres south-east of Phoenix, is bursting onto the biotech scene. In fact, recent developments in Gilbert are causing great interest, says mayor John Lewis.

One of the exciting developments is Banner Health and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, which is opening a $90m cancer hospital on the Banner Gateway Medical Centre campus in September. The hospital will be MD Anderson’s largest facility outside of Houston.

Mr Lewis sees the centre as defining the community’s future in biotech: “From a biotech perspective, this has created a lot of interest in our area.”

The centre will be anchored by an 11,000-square-metre cancer outpatient centre that will include medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, pathology, laboratory, diagnostic imaging, as well as other supportive clinical services.

The 243,000-square-metre campus includes room for future expansion.

Gilbert is already home to Mercy Gilbert Medical Centre, a full-service, acute care, not-for-profit community hospital that specialises in cardiovascular research.

That facility is located next to the Celebration Stem Cell Centre, which opened in August 2010 and specialises in non-controversial research regarding stem cells from umbilical cords. 

“[Mercy Gilbert Medical Centre] is creating great interest as companies and research organisations are looking to set up shop near the facility,” adds Mr Lewis.

While not in Gilbert, Ironwood Cancer and Research Centre in nearby Chandler solidifies the area as a bio hub. Close to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is also Gilbert Hospital. Next to the airport is the Arizona State University Polytech campus, which emphasises technology, innovation and science. Consequently, the trade area has 1000 heathcare professionals.

“This means we have a large resource pool and a strong workforce,” says Mr Lewis.

Gilbert has received high marks as a clean, safe and vibrant community. “We also have vacant land, meaning room for expansion,” he adds.

Mayo Clinic draws biotech to Rochester

Ardell F Brede, mayor of Rochester, Minnesota, describes his city as one with a heritage of people helping people.

“With nearly half a million people seeking medical care at the Mayo Clinic each year, we have become the city with a heart – a caring community,” he says.

Rochester is home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group ranked by Biotech Science News as number three in its top 10 list of global life science organisations.

Rochester is also home to the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, and the new University of Minnesota Rochester campus, a tier-one research institution that includes programmes in biomedical informatics, computational biology, bimolecular engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacogenomics, pharmacotherapeutics, genomics, molecular biology and entrepreneurship.

“They have a Masters and PhD programme, and last year started its first undergraduate class,” says Mr Brede.

Also in Rochester is IBM’s Life Sciences Research and Development Laboratory. BlueGene, the world’s fastest computer, was developed at IBM Rochester.

About 65 kilometres from Rochester is the Hormel Institute, charged with improving health through scientific research. “[It is] connected with the University of Minnesota and is doing research in animals and plants,” says Mr Brede.

Rochester Economic Development supports biotech efforts and has funds to help start-up companies with financing, business planning, site support and business and community advocacy.

“The city can also structure attractive rental agreements,” says Mr Brede. “In addition, we help fund the Minnesota BioBusiness Centre.”

The centre, an eight-storey, 12,000-square-metre building strategically located downtown and adjacent to the Mayo Clinic, is being developed by Rochester Economic Development to bring high-quality jobs to Rochester by providing a location for biotech companies that want to take advantage of the centre’s proximity to Rochester’s research and development institutions.

“The Mayo Clinic is probably the biggest incentive for companies to locate here,” says Mr Brede.