By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
FARMINGTON, Conn. (AP) _ Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday he’s proposing a new $200 million fund to help attract more bioscience companies and jobs to the state, saying the state needs to maximize the investment it’s already made in a new genomic medicine facility under construction.
The Democrat made the announcement at a groundbreaking ceremony for The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, a $1.1 billion research facility being constructed on the grounds of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
“It is an extension of our investment here at the University of Connecticut. It is an extension of our investment with Jackson Labs, which has already helped us attract additional jobs to the state,” Malloy said. “So, we understand that the biosciences is the growth industry in the U.S. and we’re going to seek to attract it in additional numbers to the state of Connecticut.”
Malloy’s proposal, to be paid for with borrowed money or bonds, would require approval from the General Assembly. It comes at a time when the state faces an approximate $1.2 billion deficit in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. But Malloy stressed that the $200 million would be doled out to vetted companies over 10 years and would be a relatively small investment in economic development.
Some minority Republicans in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly raised concerns about spending in 2011 when the legislature ultimately approved a deal that provides the Maine-based Jackson Laboratory with $192 million in state loans that will be forgiven once 300 jobs are created and retained by the 10th year. Jackson is also receiving up to $99 million in research grants over a 10-year period.
But Malloy insisted that Connecticut needs to aggressively court the bioscience industry.
“We can’t afford to continue to have 22 years like we had under previous governors where we didn’t create any jobs and we didn’t make any investments,” he said. “If you’re standing still, you lose ground.”
Malloy’s announcement of his proposed Bioscience Innovation Act came the same day the state Department of Labor announced that the unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in December, down from 8.9 percent in November. But the drop is attributed to a declining labor force, not more jobs.
Economist Peter Gioia of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, called the jobs numbers “pretty grim news” and how they show the state’s economy is “really stuck in neutral.”
There was great optimism, however, about the state’s economic future at Thursday’s ceremony.
The Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Edison Liu predicted the facility, scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2014, will help establish Connecticut as a leader in the growing field of genomic medicine, which focuses on individualized treatments for medical problems using a patient’s individual genetic blueprint. Liu said Jackson hopes to become a catalyst for the formation of bioscience clusters in the state.
“We will make you proud,” said Liu, pledging to “deliver the promise of genomic medicine.”