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Effort urged to attract biopharm jobs

Bringing more high-paying biopharmaceutical research and manufacturing jobs to Long Island won't happen without a concerted statewide effort to compete in the sector, research and educational leaders and industry advocates said Wednesday.

"Not only are we facing increased competition from other states," said Kenneth J. Pokalsky, senior director of government affairs for the advocacy group Business Council of New York State Inc., "but a huge competition growing in India and China."

The Business Council hosted yesterday's gathering at the new Hofstra-North Shore LIJ School of Medicine in Hempstead to highlight the biopharmaceutical sector's economic advantages, its hurdles and strategies to overcome them -- information the council's research arm presented in a report released this spring.

The average wage for a biopharmaceutical employee for 2009 was $102,341 nationally and $72,486 statewide, according to the report. The sector can generate a significant number of indirect jobs, the report said. The highest cutting-edge biotechnology production positions "create nearly 16 positions additionally each," the report said.

Long Island had 12,800 biomedical jobs -- a category substantially similar to biopharmaceutical -- in 2009, an increase of 200 jobs from 2008, according to the state Department of Labor. Sixty life-science companies call Long Island home, said Nathan Tinker, executive director of the New York Biotechnology Association.

"These are good-paying jobs with futures," Pokalsky said.

Among some solutions the report recommends are creating a more competitive tax structure, expanding such credits as the qualified emerging technology state tax credit, capping property taxes and expanding incentives to remain in the state; creating an international marketing strategy to promote regional strengths; boosting "human capital" with associate degree programs in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, and establishing partnerships between private firms and academic institutions.

Some of those suggestions are in the works, Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz said. The Accelerate Long Island initiative, involving Long Island's major research and academic institutions, aims to commercialize scientific developments.

Expanding the pharmaceutical sector on Long Island will require more than simply throwing money at it, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, chief executive of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. Tracey pointed to Connecticut Innovations, the state's venture investment agency, as an innovative approach another state has adopted to strengthen its high-tech industry.

"It's going to take a concerted approach of expertise, capital, personnel and a regulatory piece," Tracey said after the news conference. "You can't solve this issue without solving all of those."

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