It was hailed as a great step forward for Connecticut's biotechnology industry. Passed in October 2011, Connecticut senate bill 1401 established the Connecticut Bioscience Collaboration Program. The focal point was the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, specifically their relocation to Connecticut from Maine and the subsequent construction of a research facility.
The building will be located at the University of Connecticut's health center campus in Farmington, Connecticut.
The business objective of Jackson Laboratories is to develop personalized medicine through genomics, with treatments tailored for individual patients based on their genetic makeup.
The bill approved $291 million in state spending over a ten year period on this initiative. Funding includes $192 million to construct the research center, and another $99 million to subsidize the research operations during this period. Due to financing over twenty years, an additional $153 million will be spent on interest charges.
Numerous figures abound regarding the number of jobs the research center is expected to create. There is to be a defined number of direct positions, currently 300 by ten years. Many more jobs are estimated to be created through spin-off companies and increased economic activity through retail operations. While estimates are always difficult to make, the industry of genomic medicine is a growth industry and it shows no signs of slowing down.
This bill has been contentious from the early going, as financial woes abound in Connecticut. With a state budget deficit approaching $1.1 billion this year, the concern is justified, and all spending should be scrutinized.
In addition to the expense, arguments against the bill were made about the small mandate of direct jobs to be created, and the uncertainty about the long term success of Jackson Laboratories. These are valid concerns, but they miss the point to a large extent on the worthiness of this gamble.
There are clearly ideas associated with the Connecticut Bioscience Initiative that Republicans should like. We spend a tremendous amount of dead money, for example spending on programs like Medicaid and other social subsidies. We build unnecessary bus lines, and hand out longevity bonuses to state employees. Budget drains like these, however unpalatable are not going away easily in a blue state like Connecticut.
Occasionally, a program spending good money is proposed. Good money has the chance to earn a return on an investment, and pay dividends down the road. This is such an investment. It has the chance to generate high paying jobs, and will give the educated work force reasons to remain in or relocate to Connecticut.
Sure, a risk always exists with such a venture. No investment returns are ever guaranteed. However, it is one area where we can expend some capital to have a chance at stimulating growth, and improve our tax base of good paying jobs. Technology and an educated work force continue to remain a sound foundation for success, and the Bioscience Initiative is a worthwhile investment in Connecticut's future.