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July 2004

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Florida: Talent Base Lures Scripps

A G&T Conveyor worker assembles one of the Tavares, Fla.-based company's airport transportation systems.

    Flexible workers, of course, aren't enough to snag a high-tech company. It takes an abundance of specialized talent, something The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in San Diego saw in Florida when it selected Palm Beach County last year for a $147-million project that will create 2,800 high-wage jobs.
     Jeff Kelley, vice president of academic affairs and the Lita Annenberg Hazen professor of chemistry at Scripps, said the biotechnology institute will occupy a 400,000-sq.-ft. (37,160-sq.-m.) campus on 100 acres (40.5 hectares) on the Mecca Farms property near Jupiter in 2006.
      Spread out over 2,000 acres (810 hectares) in Palm Beach County will be TSRI Florida headquarters, research and development and other biotech facilities, an incubator, clinic and hospital, university, high school and housing.
      When asked why TSRI picked Florida, Kelley cited the "dynamic growth of the state, Florida's intellectual infrastructure, the opportunity to design a campus from the ground up, and Florida's unique quality of life.
      "Our institute is really focused on people, so we wanted to be in a location that would attract high-caliber talent and would be a place where they would want to live," Kelley says. "Since announcing this project last October, we have filled 25 positions, designed the Scripps Florida campus and established several university partnerships, including one with the Florida State University National High Magnetic Field Laboratory [across the state in Tallahassee]."
      David Day, director of the Office of Technology Licensing at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says the state's "intellectual strength" served as a compelling draw for Scripps. "We have 11 state universities, four major medical schools, over $1.3 billion a year in sponsored research, five high-tech incubators, eight research parks and 12 offices of technology transfer," Day says.
      Florida ranks fifth in the nation in royalties and licenses from technology transfer from university research, Day says. "Our centers of excellence are producing cutting-edge research," he adds. "They include the Biomedical and Marine Biotech Center at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, the Florida Photonics Center at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and the Regenerative Health Biotech Center at UF in Gainesville."
      (For more on the Scripps project, see p. 8 of the January 2004 issue of Site Selection.)


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