By: Larry Rulison
The Capital Region’s top economic development executive says the area is uniquely positioned to take advantage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s massive life sciences and biotechnology push this year that includes $450 million in spending on the fast-growing sector.
“Our region’s concentration of biotech companies, such as (General Electric), Regeneron, AMRI and AngioDynamics, coupled with our academic (research and development) assets, makes the Capital Region a strong candidate for the life science initiative,” said Andrew Kennedy, CEO of the Center for Economic Growth.
The governor is proposing $300 million in capital spending in fiscal 2018 on a new life sciences initiative as well as $150 million on a “life sciences laboratory public health initiative” in partnership with the state Department of Health, although there are no details on where that project would be located.
The $300 million for life sciences is just the first installment of a $650 million commitment that Cuomo wants the state to make to create a “world-class life science research cluster in New York,” although the exact details of the governor’s plans are unclear.
The amount that Cuomo is proposing includes $250 million in tax incentives for life sciences companies and another $200 million in state grants for investment in labs and space. Another $100 million would be used to invest in early stage life science “initiatives” while another $100 million would be used for “operating support” for partnerships with private sector companies.
Kennedy, who used to manage Cuomo’s economic development policies before leaving for CEG last July, says academic research in the life sciences topped $77 million in 2015, with the University at Albany taking the lead with 80 percent of that spending, making it a national leader in that category.
“Importantly, not only does UAlbany have a biopharmaceutical and biotechnology hub at its Health Sciences Campus in East Greenbush, but it also has a longstanding (research and development) relationship with Department of Health through the School of Public Health,” Kennedy said.
The region’s 5-year Capital 20.20 plan, which was developed in 2015 as a road map for local economic development projects, calls for the creation of a $1 billion population health technology cluster using as much as $200 million in state money that would involve local hospitals, health insurers and tech companies like GE and IBM.
Kennedy said the cluster, called the Population Health Technology Cluster, “would develop data-driven models that improve and reduce the cost of patient care.”
Kennedy says he doesn’t know what the Cuomo administration has in mind for the $150 million public health lab, although in the past, the state has been looking to consolidate the five labs of the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center into one site, possibly in the Capital Region, at a cost of $600 million.
Kennedy could only speculate if the $150 million would be used for Wadsworth this time around, but he would like to see what ever is planned built in the Capital Region regardless.
“If you are going to spend it, spend it here,” Kennedy said.