News Articles


Tapping Into Biotech Boom

 

BY TED NESI SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
June 3, 2008

 

 MANSFIELD— The town and its industrial park are poised to reap the benefits of a statewide expansion in the life sciences industry, industry leaders and officials say.

Massachusetts is now a leader in the industry, which employs more than 45,000 people across the state, said Robert Coughlin, a former Patrick administration official and state lawmaker who is now president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

The industry has seen 32 percent growth here in the last five years, he said, and in 2007 alone, it received more than $879 million in venture capital funding.

Steve Clancy, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis/New England, said he has watched the evolution of Cabot Business Park and other industrial hubs over the past quarter-century, and the groundwork has been laid for biotechnology firms to grow in the area.

What Clancy called "the 495 submarket region," which includes Mansfield and the surrounding area, has the lowest vacancy rate for business property of any of the six business districts in the state. He added: "We need to build some more buildings."

Along with Mansfield, sites in Norton, Wrentham and Plainville all have space available that has already gone through the state approval process. "This is our little secret down here," Clancy joked.

State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, also said construction of a southbound ramp off Interstate 495 will be "fast-tracked."

Lynn Tokarczyk, president of the local consulting firm Business Development Strategies, said there are a number of significant state and local tax incentives for biotechnology companies.

The problem, she said, is that "companies are very intimidated with this whole process, because they don't know which buttons to push in state and local governments." Firms such as hers help guide them through the process, she said.

Tokarczyk also singled out Mansfield Town Manager John D'Agostino for praise, saying he has been "very, very aggressive" in bringing companies to the town.

D'Agostino said his message to firms is this: "We're serious about doing business with you. We want your business, and we want to work with you going forward."

One example is Innovative Spinal Technologies, a firm based in the Mansfield business park that makes products to relieve people with back pain. The company plans to create 168 new jobs over the next five years and is currently leasing a 58,000-square-foot space in the park.

Dan Wadsworth Jr., Innovative Spinal Technologies's vice president of research and development, said the company values its Mansfield location because of the area's highly skilled workforce and its proximity to colleges and universities, leading medical firms, and major cities.

The key to the state's success in biotechnology are those college and universities, Coughlin said. "It had nothing to do with government. It had nothing to do with industry," he said. "It was all because we had smart people coming out of higher ed."

He also noted that all five of the nation's top National Institutes of Health-funded hospitals are in Massachusetts.

TED NESI covers Mansfield for The Sun Chronicle. He can be reached at tnesi@thesunchronicle.com or 508-236-0333.