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December 21, 2011

Gloucester as biotech hub? State group sees city at forefront for future

Gloucester is ready for prime time, as far as the biotech experts are concerned.

The city is one of an elite group of locales across the state that has won designation as a platinum-level "BioReady community" from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, a private-enterprise advocate for the state's life sciences companies.

The top-tier citation has gone to only 20 cities and towns in recognition of efforts that would open doors for biotech research and manufacturing facilities via smoother municipals approvals.

"It's like becoming a green community," said Mayor Carolyn Kirk. "You have to meet certain standards."

Among those necessary to be a BioTech platinum winner are:

That the municipality's Board of Health has adopted the National Institutes of Health guidelines on rDNA activity as part of its regulations.

The municipality includes a building or buildings that are already permitted for biotech uses and have 20,000 square feet or more of available space for biotech uses.

The municipality has a "shovel-ready" pre-permitted land site with completed a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review and municipal water and sewer capacity to meet additional demand.

The municipality has sites or buildings pre-permitted for biotechnology laboratory or manufacturing use.

The municipality has existing buildings in which biotech laboratory or manufacturing activities are taking place.

"Because of the state's rich history in biotechnology, many of its cities and towns, with the support of state government, have increasingly adopted local policies that greatly ease the pathway for renovation or new construction of biotech laboratory and manufacturing facilities," said Sarah MacDonald of the state biotech council.

Examples include "expedited permitting policies, by-right zoning, supportive public infrastructure projects, pre-permitted biotech sites and planned area developments," she said.

Other designated "platinum" communities include Andover, North Andover, Beverly and New Bedford.

Correspondent Nancy Gaines is a veteran reporter and editor of national and Boston publications. She lives in Bay View.

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