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States, countries woo biotech firms at BIO2017 confab

June 24, 2017

BIO International is a hotbed for recruiting activities. Throughout the multi-day conference, leaders from various U.S. states and international countries have been showcasing their respective regions and why companies should consider investing there.

That was the mission of Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and the economic development delegation he led to BIO. In an exclusive interview with BioSpace, Pablos said he was promoting Texas as a potential home to pharma and biotech companies, as well as helping 15 different Texas-based companies network for potential partnerships. Pablos said his delegation was reaching out to U.S.-based companies as well as foreign trade leaders for potential deals.

“The idea is to expose them to our life science and biotech industries in Texas,” Pablos said.

But Pablos said he doesn’t want to just bring new biotech business to Texas. He is also facilitating ways to open other countries to Texas-based organizations.

“We’re focused on ensuring we’re competitive at the global level,” he said.

Not only is Texas a business-friendly state, Pablos said, but the state has made a concerted effort to diversify the state’s economy with a heavy focus on life sciences and biotech. State leaders did so by consulting with top business leaders to discover what kind of environment they needed to succeed.

“We’ve facilitated an environment that facilitates business and doesn’t get in the way,” Pablos said.

As an example, Pablos pointed to the growth of biotech business in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Houston, as well as the high number of medical schools across the state.

He said the state has invested deeply in recruiting top researchers in the university system to go after the “best of the best.”

But at BIO Pablos was running into competition from other states. Economic development representatives from Georgia were also on-hand touting the attractiveness of the Peach State. E. Jane Caraway, director of Life Sciences and Corporate Solutions at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, highlighted the state’s benefits. She said Georgia is home to 400 life science companies that employ 20,000 people.

“In Georgia, we can do it from the birth of an idea, to the R&D, to the manufacturing and then ship it to anywhere in the world,” Caraway said.

Caraway said the state has strong public, private and academic institutions that create a supportive network for the industry, including Emory University, Georgia Tech and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Like Texas, Caraway said the state has made a concerted effort to create a business-friendly environment with a low corporate tax rate.

“Our message is simple. Business is good in Georgia. We have the workforce and the business infrastructure. We have so much to offer,” she said.

To drive that home, Caraway pointed to the fact that the state has been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for the fourth year in a row by Site Selection Magazine.

Georgia and Texas were not the only states with economic development groups at BIO. Maryland, Connecticut, California, Hawaii, New Jersey and many more had active booths throughout the convention.

But those states were having to compete with multiple international economic development groups as well, including France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, China, Japan, Holland, Korea, Brazil and more.

Sandra de Wild, a sector specialist for life sciences and health with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, shared the benefits of working in Holland with potential partners. One attractive feature for that country is the electronic health records available for research. With a national health system, de Wild said there is an abundance of data that researchers can tap into for their clinical programs. To support her mission, de Wild brought a contingency of about 150 people to BIO, who represent about 70 to 75 Netherlands-based companies.

De Wild’s Israeli counterpart, Anya Elden, vice president of the Israel Innovation Authority’s Startup Division, pointed to the high levels of biotech innovation going on in her country – from startups to established companies such as Teva. Elden met with multiple companies looking to establish a presence in Israel, or collaborate with the country’s robust digital health industry, where there are about 400 startups now.

“Israel is a good place for many of these companies and we are here to show them what we have,” Elden said.

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