Jackson Lab picks Sarasota for new research facility

ggagliano@bradenton.comMarch 2, 2011 

Jackson Laboratory announced today that it will build a new research facility in Sarasota County. The project, to be known as The Jackson Laboratory–Florida, will be housed in a 120,000-square-foot facility in Sarasota County and will also occupy laboratories and offices within the University of South Florida Health complex in Tampa.

Sarasota County officials were ecstatic to learn of the announcement.

“Bringing Jackson Labs to Sarasota County will help us meet our biggest priorities over the next several years,” Nora Patterson, chairwoman of the Sarasota County Commission, said in a statement. “The institute will help diversify our economy while creating hundreds of jobs, making this a landmark investment in the future of Sarasota County.”

Officials did not disclose an estimated cost for the project. But after a news conference this morning, state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said the Legislature last year budgeted $130 million for Jackson Lab and appropriated $50 million, with a promise the rest would be approved over three years.

Bennett said he thinks the Legislature will follow through with that commitment, especially if Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation or other landowner donates the land needed for the project. Gov. Rick Scott also will have a say, Bennett said.

As part of the project, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and other community agencies will spearhead the creation of a major biomedical village, including research, clinical medicine, education, and residential and retail activity, that will grow up around the new Jackson facility, according to a news release.

Other in the effort include USF and Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System. Charles Hewett, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Jackson Laboratory, said the arrangement is ideal for the creation of a regional biomedical hub.

“Our facility in Sarasota County, coupled with operations on the USF Health campus, will build the collaborations essential to breakthrough discoveries, clinical medicine and educational outreach,” Hewett said. “These collaborations will enrich the entire region.” USF President Judy Genshaft said USF will make laboratories, offices and research support facilities available to Jackson at nominal cost.

“We are pleased to share our facilities with the Jackson Laboratory,” she said. “This arrangement promotes even closer scientific collaborations, and it lowers the cost to the public.” For months Jackson Lab has been meeting with officials in Sarasota and Hillsborough counties as those two regions were competing for the proposed genetics research lab in partnership with USF.

Jackson Lab originally considered Collier County for its research facility. According to a business plan it wrote in June 2010 for Collier, Jackson Lab wanted to secure 50 acres for a campus where it planned to build a 165,000 square foot facility.

The business plan at the time called for $130 million from Florida state funding, a local match of $130 million and $120 million in philanthropic support.

Teri Hansen, president of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in previous interviews with the Bradenton Herald said she was confident the Sarasota region would pull through with enough philanthropic support for Jackson Lab.

Among the locations in Sarasota County Jackson Lab has considered was a site near the proposed bi-county economic development hub that is slated for the eastern terminus of University Parkway in Lakewood Ranch.

Jackson Lab’s Bar Harbor, Maine institute has 1,212 employees and its Sacramento, Calif.., facility employs 104.

In prior business plans, Jackson Lab estimated its Florida facility would bring 204 jobs to the state.

Sarasota County officials indicated they will seek as early as July voter approval for the necessary investment of county funds. If the public approves the funding, construction could begin within 12 months after the vote. The Jackson Laboratory–Florida would begin operations in temporary facilities immediately after funding is secured.

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