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Saturday, Nov 29, 2014
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Life science company eyeing Hillsborough

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TAMPA - A global life sciences company is looking at Hillsborough County as a potential site to centralize business operations and develop pharmaceutical products - a move that would create 579 high-paying jobs.

Landing the company would cost Hillsborough taxpayers up to $2.1 million in incentives. County commissioners will consider giving preliminary approval to the incentive package Wednesday.

State law in some circumstances exempts from public disclosure the names of companies seeking economic development incentives. Local officials would not provide the name.

Altogether, the company would get $3.47 million in state and local incentives, or $6,000 per job, under Florida's Qualified Target Industry program. In return, the company would agree to create 579 jobs paying an average wage of $65,000 a year, which is 157 percent of the state's average wage.

The company is expected to generate up to $21.2 million in capital investment at its new location, according to county documents. Once the company is fully staffed, it will generate $37.63 million in payroll.

Hillsborough Economic Development Director Ron Barton said the county doesn't usually agree to such large incentives, but the company is global and will advance the area's efforts to grow its biotechnology and life-science industry cluster.

"The board is going to be very supportive, and the community will be very supportive when they see the stature and quality of the company we're talking about," Barton said. "Those are the kind of companies we want to do business with."

Hillsborough is likely one of two or three sites the company is considering, Barton said. The company plans to unite its information technology, finance and human resources at the new location, creating 428 jobs. It would also have a separate division that would develop pharmaceutical products for sale. That facility would hire 151 workers.

The advantages that landed Hillsborough on the biotech company's short list are the same ones that made the county a top candidate this year for a new Amazon.com assembly and distribution center.

"We have advantages in real estate costs: our tax structure and our labor costs compared to other areas," Barton said.

On top of that, the county has made a special effort to build up a biotech industrial base around its signature medical and research facilities, such as the University of South Florida medical school and research institutions, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation and the M2GEN biomarker research institute.

"We think we have some advantages, obviously, or we wouldn't be on a very credible short list," Barton said.

Mark House, managing director for the Florida Division of the Beck Group, a real estate and architectural firm, agreed that a life sciences company is a perfect fit with the biological science facilities already here.

"It's right in our wheelhouse," said House, a past chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. "We're one of the few places in the country that has all those assets in one area."

When told of the size of the economic incentives package taxpayers will have to foot to bring the company here, House didn't flinch.

"It's a great investment," he said.

msalinero@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-8303

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