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May 13, 2007

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Jim Caserta

This article sounds like it could be retitled "Forget Forsyth". You seem to bemoan the "Winston-Salemcentric biotech community" but give the general impression that Greensboro needs to forget about W-S and focus East.

There is a reason for the Forsyth-Centrism in biotech, and it is Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest School of Medicine. That brings about 400 medical students and 625 Resident Physicians (MD's in training) to the area. Many stay in any of the Triad's cities, and emphasizing the connectedness of the area is a positive, not a negative.

Forsyth is also the home to Dell, which you claimed was A big boost for the region. But even then you manage to focus on how it will specifically benefit Guilford - "Let's hope our economic development people can leverage this into high-value growth on our side of the county line." Growth & development in Forsyth helps Guilford and vice-versa. Shifting jobs from one county to the other doesn't really help anyone.

I'm biased, but I think that what's best for Central NC is for increased cooperation between the biggest cities.

Ed Cone

I'm all for increased and ongoing cooperation across the region, I just think we need to have a clearer and more up-to-date understanding of the the regional players. That includes the recognition of Metro Guilford as a center unto itself.

The specific concerns about the W-S centric biotech initiative by the state came from TransTech itself: "Mjalli appears disappointed with the state of the Triad's biotech effort, arguing that it is not truly regional in nature and perhaps too focused on Winston-Salem...'High Point has a much bigger health care (R&D) cluster than any other city in the region, with (companies like) Banner Pharmacaps and Merz and Ciba,' Mjalli says. 'By not recognizing not just TransTech but any biotech company in High Point, it just does this community and the Triad a disservice.'" [emphasis added]

Jim Caserta

Good article, but it still seems to point at the need for better cooperation. Other relevant points:

But Riddick [head of the Triad office of the N.C. Biotech Center] believes that TransTech is not overlooked at either the regional or state level. Mjalli was invited to serve on the first regional biotech advisory council. He has been on the statewide board of the N.C. Biotech Center. TransTech is featured in a Triad video showcasing biotech companies. And Riddick says he often takes outsiders on tours of TransTech labs when they are visiting the Triad.

"We use TransTech as a model company that can come here, start up and flourish," Riddick says.
Incentives conundrum

A more critical concern to Mjalli is harder to explain away. In recent years, he has seen the state lavish companies such as Dell, Polo.com and Citicards in the Triad with millions in incentives, training credits and tax breaks to create jobs that pay a third or less of what he pays his employees, which he recruits with Ph.Ds from around the world.

Last year, when Mjalli and his CFO, Steve Holcombe, sought $5 million to expand the drug-making capacity at Pharmacore and add 30 jobs paying an average of $75,000, they found there was no suitable program to help them with a grant or even with a low-interest loan.

"The state prides itself on its biotech community," Holcombe says, "but its incentives programs and policies still favor traditional manufacturing and low-wage job creation. There's something wrong with that."

Mjalli and Holcombe found that that is not the case in South Carolina.

TransTech is also located a lot closer to WS than to Burlington, and I'm also biased to the 68 corridor where there has been a lot of recent office park development.

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