Triangle Business Journal: N.C. top life sciences state in job growth and wages, report says

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From Triangle Business Journal by Jennifer Henderson – February 12, 2018

North Carolina’s life sciences promotion policies have played a pivotal role in placing it ahead of other states when it comes to job growth in the industry known for lucrative wages, a new report says. In an increasingly competitive environment – both nationally and internationally – for such jobs, those policies will be increasingly important moving forward.

According to the International Technology & Innovation Foundation report, called “Growing the Future: State Efforts to Advance Life Sciences,” U.S. companies employed 1.2 million people in life sciences in 2016.

The report evaluated five states, all of which have life sciences promotion policies: Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington.

“Employment in North Carolina grew the fastest, at 46 percent, or over 12,900 jobs,” the report states. “Colorado and Washington grew by 39 percent and 22 percent, respectively. … Pharmaceutical employment in Indiana grew by less than 1 percent, while New Jersey suffered a 25 percent decline in employment.”

These jobs are just any jobs – they’re high-paying ones.

Compared to North Carolina’s average annual wage of $47,268 in 2016, according to the report, North Carolina’s average pharmaceutical wage was $105,886, representing a premium of $58,618, and its average medical device wage was $63,071, representing a premium of $15,803.

Successful areas “normally have a number of key enablers, including world-class universities focused on technology commercialization; an environment that is attractive for highly skilled life-sciences workers; a robust start-up support system, including venture capital and entrepreneurial support networks; and larger ‘anchor’ life- sciences firms,” the report states.

And more and more, states are working to build those attributes. According to the report, “The National Conference of State Legislatures lists 27 states that have passed legislation to provide some type of funding or assistance to the biotechnology industry.”

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has long been at the forefront of the state’s support for life sciences companies and jobs.

“North Carolina was one of the first states to target the industry” through NCBiotech, which founded back in 1984, according to the report.

“Since 1989, [its direct loan] program has made loans to 188 companies, 102 of which are still active,” the report states. “These companies employ 2,914 workers and have estimated revenues of $2.8 billion. When indirect and induced effects are taken into account, the companies support 12,666 jobs and generate $4.3 billion in economic activity within the state.”

While the report points out that North Carolina is not home to the biggest companies, it does house outposts of companies like Biogen, Merck and Pfizer, for example.

The state has also been conscientious in terms of life sciences manufacturing, through efforts like Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) at N.C. State University and contributions from the North Carolina Community College System.

Total pharmaceutical wages in North Carolina topped $4.3 billion in 2016, according to the report, an increase of 138.4 percent from 2001.