When Bayer HealthCare consolidated operations from New York and New Jersey onto a 94-acre (38-hectare) campus in Whippany, New Jersey, it was a statement about the company’s new home base. “Whippany is our footprint on the East Coast now, as we invest further in the US,” said Bayer’s then-Chairman Marijin Dekkers. Two-and-a-half years later, Dekker’s words took on more meaning as Bayer purchased the last undeveloped parcel, 86 acres (35 hectares) of the former Alcatel-Lucent campus.
“Bayer loves the fact that they have everyone under one roof. It’s a totally new culture for them corporate-wise,” says Ross Chomik, managing partner of Vision Real Estate Partners, the property’s developer. “By purchasing the final parcel, they’ve given themselves options. The state has its issues, but they’ve done a great job of trying to attract, but mainly retain, these major corporations like a Bayer.”
New Jersey has long been a choice location for companies in the biopharmaceutical sector, with headquarters or operations of more than half the 20 largest biopharma firms located there. That number and the footprint of existing companies is growing, thanks to aggressive — and sometimes controversial — tax incentive packages. While small business owners and citizens groups question the value of such deals, the state isn’t slowing down its pursuit of biotech companies.
In February 2016, BAP Pharma, a UK-based supplier of comparators for clinical trials, opened its US headquarters in Landing, the company’s first location in the US. The company’s managing director, Dr. Bashir Parkar, called the site a “perfect fit for our company” thanks to proximity to other global pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including many of BAP’s current clients. “New Jersey’s excellent transportation network also enhances our ability to deliver products quickly and efficiently throughout the region and around the world,” he adds.
Michelle Brown, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, a private economic development organization, says she hears those types of comments time and time again. “We just spent a week at BIO,” she says. “Our pitch out there to companies large and small was, ‘When the time comes to commercialize your product, New Jersey is the place to be.’ That holds true whether you’re a biotech growing in New Jersey or you’re around the country having started your research somewhere else. Because of our historic strengths in the pharmaceutical industry we have all the talent you need to bring the product to market.”
Resources for Growth
Assets like the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT), one of many incubators in the state, are tough to beat. CCIT is located along the Princeton-Rutgers University research corridor, and offers access to a trove of resources from physical space to funding sources, events and networking opportunities with tenant companies and the biotech community. In the incubator’s 14-year history, more than 40 companies have graduated. More than $130 million in revenues was created by tenant companies during their time at CCIT.
Entrepreneurs and small companies are being given a boost as well. “The state funds co-working space in a number of our cities,” Brown says. In 2015, grants were made to Cowerks in Asbury Park, Mission 50 in Hoboken and Indiegrow in Jersey City. “Higher education institutions are starting co-working space for projects coming out of their universities. All understand that when we have nascent companies, they need someplace to work, and that happens best in collaboration.”
Patty Rasmussen has written about economic and business development for more than a decade with Site Selection and other business publications. As a freelance journalist she covered the Atlanta Braves from 1998 until 2010, and wrote for media outlets including Major League Baseball, Womenetics.com and WebMD.