North Carolina crafting statewide strategic plan for biotechnology – News From The North Carolina Biotechnology Center
WITH STRONG encouragement from Gov. Mike Easley and former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin, more than 100 of North Carolina’s brightest biotech minds are busy drafting a statewide strategic plan for growing the state’s biotechnology industry in the next decade.
“What I’d like to see us do is be number one in biotechnology and secondly find a way for the entire state to be part of that prosperity,” Easley said in July at a meeting to begin the strategic planning process. “We just have to get everyone on the same sheet of music.”
At Easley’s request, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center is leading the plan’s development with the guidance of a 17-member steering committee co-chaired by Hunt and Martin.
“Our goal is to craft a plan that fully taps North Carolina’s many resources to create jobs and products for the long-term benefit of all North Carolinians,” said Leslie Alexandre, president and chief executive officer of the Biotechnology Center.
Six working groups, each composed of 15 to 18 “thought leaders,” have been meeting since July to analyze six areas critical to biotechnology development: university research and infrastructure; K-12 education; workforce training; entrepreneurial companies; company recruitment; and public policy and societal considerations. Regional Technology Strategies Inc., an economic development consulting firm in Carrboro, will compile the six working group reports into a cohesive plan aimed at advancing North Carolina’s competitive position in biotechnology.
The final plan, to be reviewed by the steering committee with input from other interested parties throughout the state, will be submitted to Easley the first week in November.
It will be North Carolina’s first statewide strategic plan for biotechnology. The initiative was prompted by rising competition from other states that are investing heavily in biotechnology, threatening North Carolina’s top-five status in biotechnology just as the industry is ramping up and creating high-paying jobs.
At the steering committee’s first meeting in July, Hunt said that he had met with the governors of Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Georgia recently and that all four states were pursuing biotechnology aggressively. “They mean business,” he said. “They’re doing stuff – big stuff.”
Martin said, “We’ve got to be creative, we’ve got to be innovative,” in meeting the competitive challenge. “I think North Carolina has lost its way in economic development.”
Steering committee member Charles Hamner, president of NCBIO, the North Carolina Biosciences Organization, urged the State to set biotechnology as a top priority, to develop a strong implementation plan, and to commit the necessary money.
“We need to know where to go and to be there ahead of time,” he said. “We have to put resources into this initiative.”
Hunt agreed that “it may well take a good bit of public investment.”
Committee member Norris Tolson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Revenue, challenged the group to develop a plan “that can be the envy of the world.”
“We need to be audacious as we develop this plan,” he said. “This is not the time to be timid.”
Committee members widely agreed that the strategic plan should address the needs of rural areas reeling from job losses in tobacco, textiles, furniture and other manufacturing jobs.
“If we don’t include rural North Carolina in this initiative, we will have failed,” said Lawrence Davenport, chairman of the Golden LEAF Foundation. Davenport said a proposed statewide biomanufacturing training network was “absolutely the key, the answer to all of this” because biomanufacturing jobs can go anywhere in the state where there are trained workers.
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