GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Business

May 14, 2007

Billion-dollar boost for biotech means more jobs here

BOSTON - At first blush, it's all about stem cells. But Gov. Deval Patrick's sweeping plan to invest $1 billion in biotechnology research and life sciences companies over the next 10 years is also about jobs.



The proposal, which includes money to encourage companies to expand here and attract new ones, is expected to be an economic boon for the North of Boston region, where a cluster of biotechnology businesses has formed.



"This is great news for us," said Robert Halpin, president of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council.



Christopher Perley, general manger of Wyeth in Andover, said the promise of a billion-dollar investment sends a strong signal that Massachusetts wants biotechnology companies here. And once they start moving here, more will follow.



"This is an initiative that is a catalyst to get that going," Perley said. "Then it becomes self-sustaining."



Perley said the governor's life sciences initiative would influence Wyeth's expansion plans for Massachusetts, where it has facilities in Andover and Cambridge.



"Longer term, this would be an attractive place for Wyeth to be," Perley said.



Wyeth, a leading maker of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, had revenues of more than $20 billion last year.



Biotech jobs are important for North of Boston cities and towns. Wyeth employs 1,900 people in Andover.



Andover Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said those jobs are especially valuable, because they pay high salaries. The company also contributes to the town's tax base.



The governor's plan, he said, is good for Andover.



"It helps companies stay in Andover and in Massachusetts that would be attracted to other states and countries," Stapczynski said.



How important is biotech to Andover?



While Patrick was pitching his plan at the Bio 2007 International Convention in Boston, Stapczynski was there to pitch his town.



"The reason we were there was to promote Andover as a life-science location for industries around the world," he said.



It's not just Andover that stands to benefit.



Accusphere in nearby Tewksbury and Millipore Corp. in Billerica are some of the biotech companies that employ hundreds of North of Boston residents.



Many of the biotech companies are small ones.



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