2005.02.09 Palm Beach Post Press Release

by JEFF OSTROWSKI Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
With the future home of The Scripps Research Institute mired in a bitter political dispute, biotech boosters want business leaders and taxpayers to look beyond that controversy to the high-paying jobs the biotechnology industry promises to create.

Biotech trade group BioFlorida has launched CURE Florida to run a marketing and public relations campaign that will tout the benefits of a biotech hub anchored by Scripps.

BioFlorida head Diana Robinson plans to begin fund raising in earnest next week, when she'll pitch the effort to members of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. Robinson will kick off the fund raising during a breakfast meeting Feb. 17 at the West Palm Beach Marriott.
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Though Robinson wouldn't say how much she hopes to raise, she did say CURE Florida wants to use newspaper and broadcast advertisements to preach the gospel of biotech to the public. The pitch likely will be a combination of altruism - biotech companies seek cures for diseases - and pragmatism - biotech is a clean industry that offers good jobs.

CURE Florida is "site agnostic," Robinson said. In other words, BioFlorida doesn't care whether Scripps headquarters in Florida is built at Mecca Farms, the 1,900-acre former citrus grove in northwestern Palm Beach County that the county bought for Scripps, or at one of two alternate sites, the Florida Research Park or the Briger tract.

"Some people have a specific agenda to drive site selection, but more people simply want Scripps here," Robinson said. "This is an industry that cures disease, and everybody can appreciate that."

While BioFlorida pitches the entire state, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is marketing the county's biotech efforts.

It's in the midst of a $25,000 marketing campaign leading up to the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conference in Philadelphia in June.

The campaign includes a new trade-show booth and ads in trade publications Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry, Site Selection and Expansion, ValueRich, Business Facilities and Global Corporate Expansion.

Business Development Board officials arranged for Scripps to move to Mecca Farms, but the group's president, Kelly Smallridge, said it won't tout a specific site until county commissioners choose a home for Scripps Florida.

That decision is scheduled to be made by Feb. 24.

"We're focused on all the positive things that the science will bring to the community, not on the real estate," Smallridge said.

Mike Jones, president and chief executive of the Economic Council, said the legal and political battles surrounding Mecca Farms have overshadowed the benefits Scripps will bring.

"The majority of our members don't have a preference as to where Scripps goes, just as long as it comes to Palm Beach County," Jones said. "We want to show that we support this kind of growth and development. These are high-skill, high-wage jobs that are not going to be exported to other countries."

The Economic Council is a nonprofit group with 140 members, including executives at FPL Group of Juno Beach, Office Depot of Delray Beach and Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Boca Raton.

Next week's fund-raising effort in West Palm Beach will "test the waters and see the level of interest" businesses have in bankrolling a marketing campaign, Jones said.

- jeff_ostrowski@pbpost.com

CURE's pitch

- The group: CURE Florida, a public education effort launched by BioFlorida, a West Palm Beach-based biotech industry group.

- What it'll do: Run a marketing campaign, including ads, to promote the statewide benefits of the biotech industry.

- What it won't do: Pick a side in the dispute over where the Scripps research campus will be built in Palm Beach County.

- What's next: CURE Florida next week will make a fund-raising pitch to Palm Beach County business leaders.
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