As Governor Cuomo recently announced, the state will be transitioning from a one-size-fits-all economic development plan to a more form-fitting regionalized plan that is better suited to utilize best the quite diverse assets across the state. The plan induces inter-regional competition for economic development funding from Albany, and ideally this process will elucidate the very best New York has to offer.
This plan, if utilized correctly, can help to pull Western New York, split between the “Western New York” and “Finger Lakes” regions, out of the economic doldrums. The area, especially Genesee County, is in a prime position to take advantage of this change in the economic development framework of the state, if it makes smart decisions and follows through on them.
What makes the area in a prime position relative to other regions of the state? The density of institutions of higher education and biological/biomedical research facilities. SUNY Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, GCC, Geneseo, University of Rochester, and Cornell are all located within 3 hours of Genesee County. Genesee County sits right in the middle of a bed of unrealized economic potential. The key is taking the first step towards seeing this potential come to fruition.
In April, the Public Policy Institute of New York released its report on the anemic state of New York’s biopharmaceutical industry. Relative to competition in other states and nationally, New York State biopharmaceutical workers are paid, on average, $30,000 less. Why? New York performs exceptionally well in research, due in no small part to the aforementioned local research centers. However, it’s lacking severely in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals—the marketable product of research, because of the lack of manufacturing facilities and their poor, outdated technology. This is important, as for every research position created, 3500 jobs arise in manufacturing. Ideas are being produced in New York State, while they are being used for profit elsewhere.
Why are companies that produce biopharmaceuticals so unenthusiastic about investing in New York State? High taxes, excessive regulations, and poor public investment choices hamstring the state’s ability to recruit high-profit biopharmaceutical manufacturers, and they inevitably end up in San Francisco, Boston, London, Singapore, etc.
There is no need for the area to invest directly to take advantage of this potential, but it does need to facilitate investment. Especially, it needs to make it favorable for large manufacturing companies to build plants with the most advanced research equipment. This can be done by creating a more competitive tax structure, including tax credits for companies that build in NYS. As the PPI makes clear, companies will not walk away from large plants that they have constructed with their own money as easily as they would a plant that is only leased. In addition to incentivizing the tax structure, the report also recommends that human capital be developed through education of the general population with an emphasis on science and engineering.
The time for waiting is over. The time for progress is now. This area cannot continue to wait for the next big fish to swim by and hope that it bites. It needs to jump in and grab it. I encourage you to write to your representatives at both the federal and state level, and tell them that you think it is time for our area to harness the potential in biopharmaceutical manufacturing. This region can be just as competitive in the biopharma race as San Francisco, Boston, London, or Singapore, simply by realizing and taking advantage of the opportunities that are already here in an insightful way.