Economy blamed for jobs shortfall in Bay State's $1B biotech plan

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has incented biotech companies to move and grow in the state, but his $1 billion life sciences plan has failed to deliver on the ambitious jobs growth originally forecasted four years ago, The Boston Globe reports. Yet Patrick is standing behind the successes of the 10-year plan as he and other state officials prepare to make more pitches to biopharma players at the huge 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston next week.

As the Globe's Robert Weisman reports, Patrick said back in early 2008 that his life sciences incentives would create 250,000 jobs, but four years into the effort a think tank from the University of Massachusetts estimates that the grants and tax breaks and other support from the program have led to just 8,750 positions, with economic setbacks of recent years making it difficult to reach the goal. While the original jobs target appears out of reach, the governor has a portfolio of life sciences projects and companies that have benefited from the plan's perks, including Vertex Pharmaceuticals' ($VRTX) gleaming new campus taking form in Boston and Genzyme's additional manufacturing capacity in Framingham, MA.

Regardless of the incentives, major players in the biopharma industry would likely house their businesses in the Boston area, attracted to the city's wealth of scientific talent from key academic institutions such as MIT and Harvard as well as some of the world's top research hospitals like MGH. Still, the $1 billion plan came at a time when the broader economy tanked and biotech companies suffered from the historic cash crunch. And biotech has been a source of growth in the Bay State, which has seen thousands of jobs in other industries such as financial services vanish over the past several years. 

Expect a massive endeavor such as Patrick's life sciences initiative to be peppered with wins and losses. Yet the bottom line is that the incentives have had a positive impact on the industry in the state. Plus, they have turned many a biotech executive into an unofficial booster of the plan. Take Genzyme CEO David Meeker.

"It's not so much the amount of money, because you can get money from many places,'' Meeker told the Globe. "It's the signal that it sends that this is a state that takes life sciences seriously. It's a competitive world, and many places have a strong desire to have these plants in their backyard."

- read the Globe's article