Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Northeast BioSciences Forum and Wall Street West

Regional leaders meet at biosciences conference with comments.

The following is from David Falchek's article:  Regional leaders meet at biosciences conference - News - The Times-Tribune
More than 200 community leaders crammed into an auditorium of the Commonwealth Medical College on Monday for a glimpse at what many hope will be the future of Northeast Pennsylvania's economy.  To see the "big picture" - rather than "a glimpse" - of what is being planned for "the future of Northeast Pennsylvania's economy" view Frederick Kaufman, Author, “Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food” as he discusses how "food (is) being packaged and sold as a commodity on international trading markets" during a January 5th segment of C-Span's Washington Journal.

The Northeast BioSciences Forum unveiled the region's newest economic development initiative, leveraging the region's new medical school, evolving health care delivery system, colleges and universities, and fledgling bioscience sectors anchored by vaccine giant Sanofi-Pasteur.  See more on this blog about the "evolving health care delivery system . . . and fledgling bioscience sectors . . . ."
The initiative wouldn't be there at all were it not for the venue, the Commonwealth Medical College, which began in 2009.  
"I've always said we will be more than a medical school, that we will transform the way health care is delivered," said TCMC Dean Steven Scheinman, M.D. "I commit TCMC to work in partnership to make this effort as fruitful as it can be."  Two thousand and nine was a year for partnerships between investors, legislative brokers, and the human capital that fund their initiatives.
The school has space for private start-up companies, he said, and willing collaborators among its instructors, who have drawn more than $11 million in research dollars to the facility.   "The school has . . . willing collaborators . . . who have drawn more than $11 million in research dollars . . . "
But it is not only TCMC that could draw companies to the area. While the region's 13 other higher educational institutions aren't research-based, they do have specialized equipment and talented instructors. To that end, Ben Franklin Technology Partners has compiled an assets inventory of area schools that includes more than 1,000 faculty members, and 700 pieces of scientific equipment available for use by the private companies. 
William Scranton III, a force behind the initiative, said the move is a continuation of the effort 12 years ago to foster regionalism and a knowledge-based economy. He said knowledge from our educational institutions should fuel the economy as coal did generations ago.  "William Scranton III . . . said knowledge from our educational institutions should fuel the economy as coal did generations ago."  Click this link to see how the economy was being fueled "generations ago".
As Mel Billingsley, president of the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, said: "ideas are portable and cross barriers easily."  Indeed!  Click this link and see how.
James Manser, of PA BIO, a trade group of more than 500 members, said the region will have competition from states such as Texas, with a lot of research funding, or Florida, which gives away land to bioscience companies. But the region has a strong hand to play with its schools and proximity to the financial center of New York City and the regulatory center of Washington. D.C.   Because it has been known since the beginning of recorded history that 'from dust we are and unto dust we will return' (Gen_3:1; Job_34:15; Psa_90:3; Psa_104:29; Ecc_3:20) and, "we are what we eat", and the definition of "real estate" from the Pa Code is: "Real estate—An interest or estate in land-whether corporeal or incorporeal, . . . " C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, praised the effort in a keynote address, calling it "forward looking" and noting it would diversify the economy.   Considering the above links; What is the nature of that "land" that Florida "gives away . . . to bioscience companies"? In what way is this region competitive with Texas? Who will profit from the bioscience companies that take root in northeastern Pennsylvania?   Who will promulgate the laws upon which the courts must act to settle the "real estate" of those who participate in the funded "research" that investors are already assured a bigger payoff when an insured person dies young?
Other speakers include the heads of the regional hospitals, Cornelio Catena of Commonwealth Health and John Wiercinski, regional vice president of the Geisinger Health Systems.
Task forces in the initiative continue to meet, said Austin Burke head of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and the next step is to target specific niches that might be drawn to the region and develop a marketing plan.  Develop "a marketing plan" for whom?  
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An additional question:
How did it come to be that the Clerk of Courts for Lackawanna County is situated in Lackawanna, NY?

A previous article by Falchek on this "regional bioscience initiative" was published in The Times-Tribune on 12/31/12.  That article reads as follows:

As regional bioscience initiative begins, past efforts recalled

By David Falchek (Staff Writer)
Published: December 31, 2012
A regional initiative targeting a growing sector of the economy in an attempt to attract high-paying jobs to the region sounds like a familiar story.

As with past efforts, Northeastern Pennsylvania Regional Biosciences Initiative launched with grand goals: "We have today - within our grasp - tools to reduce unemployment, create better-paying jobs for residents, build sustainable and more secure careers for our children," said a news release at the announcement of the initiative.
The big promise seemed to echo Wall Street West, an effort championed in 2004 by a similar cross-section of local business and civic leaders. Then-U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski fanned the hopes, predicting "a lasting prosperity" would result from promoting the region as a back office for the New York City financial industry at a time when it was concerned about terrorism and blackouts.
Founders of the Great Valley Technology Alliance said the region could become "the next great knowledge economy in the U.S."
The bioscience push stepped off with similar determination but muted promises earlier this month. While most states and many regions have concerted efforts to attract bioscience jobs, local leaders proceed on the idea that you can't win unless you play.  
"You don't hit a home run every time at bat," said William Scranton III, a force behind the initiative. "We aren't promising pie-in-the-sky. We are saying that we are going to work at this."  
The region still needs its grand slam, finding the sector in the new economy to overcome the looming legacy of coal and the decline of manufacturing. Ideally, it will be an industry that will define the region as a center of something.
Technology alliance
Some past efforts fouled out or at best got on base. They were also remarkably ill-timed. Nine months in the making, the Battelle Memorial Report was received in December 1999 and the Great Valley Technology Alliance, GVTA, formed three months later to carry out its directives to help foster an entrepreneurial culture, encourage collaboration between businesses and higher education and create an environment attractive to tech companies. Battelle branded the region from Hazleton to Scranton "The Great Valley." The Battelle report said "The Great Valley is poised to recast its economy, its destiny, its future." The dot-com bubble burst on March 10 and the tech sector collapsed, impairing the ability of the effort to develop jobs in the region.
Wall Street West began as a collaboration between economic development marketing firm Penn's Northeast and GVTA to pitch Pennsylvania as the location for financial data backup centers and secondary offices. But by 2004, companies' worries were ebbing. That effort was hampered by a discovery that real-time, synchronous backup was just about impossible in the Keystone State. It was too far away, even for the speed of light through fiber-optic cables. The Wall Street West dreams came down, completely, with Lehman and Bear Stearns as a recession was unleashed by the financial sector collapse.
Nevertheless, armed with a $15 million grant from the Department of Labor, the Wall Street West effort recast as a 10-county skills development program and made more than 60 grants, "laying the foundation of a regional transformation." Jobs created, while not a goal of the program at that point, were few.
Fell short
Past initiatives fell short of the promise, admitted state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald. They weren't bad ideas, or poorly executed. They were victims of massive shifts in the economy. They paid off in increasing collaboration in the region, growing jobs incrementally, and creating a welcoming environment for startups.
"The Great Valley Technology Alliance and Wall Street West were buffeted by macro economic trends," he said. "You can't discount the seeds that were planted. That work brought us to this point."
The unveiling of the Regional Biosciences Initiative is the result of a study issued by AngelouEconomics, an Austin, Texas, consulting firm, in June 2011. The region will likely find plenty of competition in wooing growing or startup biotech firms. Biosciences is the hot buzzword in economic development. According to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, as of February, 42 states had programs specifically targeted toward technology and biosciences. A quick Internet search shows concerted efforts nationwide, such as the New Orleans Bio Innovation Center and the Kansas Bioscience Initiative.
What gives Northeast Pennsylvania a leg up?
The area has the assets, said James Cummings of Mericle Commercial Real Estate, who serves on a subcommittee of the biotech effort. The area may have more going for it now than it had angling for Wall Street firms or tech companies. A growing medical services sector, a large pharmaceutical company in Sanofi-Aventis, other existing biotech companies, related higher educational programs, proximity to a biotech corridor extending from Boston to Washington - all offer the foundation of a larger biotech sector.
Building blocks
"We have the building blocks in place already and now we also have the Commonwealth Medical College," Mr. Cummings said. "It is not a reach or far-fetched to think that we can't grow what we have at least a bit more."
Mr. Scranton goes further, citing the investment in medical service delivery by Community Health Systems and Geisinger. The stability of the local population lends itself to study and research. While the region lacks a major research university, area schools have staff expertise and facilities capable of high-level research in collaboration with each other, or an industry partner, Mr. Scranton noted. The results may not be immediate, but the potential is there.
"You don't recast an economy over a few years; you do it over a decade or more - then it is ongoing," Mr. Scranton said. "We are not going to be Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle. We have a way to provide very good jobs to a good number of our people."