Peoria weighs aiding TGen on bioscience site.
By: Sonu Munshi - Jul. 6, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The Peoria City Council today will consider whether to contribute $200,000 to help TGen establish headquarters for a new international bioscience consortium in the northwest Valley city.
Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute is applying for a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The city money would help TGen cobble together $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to receive the maximum federal match of $1 million.
If the effort is successful, TGen and Glendale's Thunderbird School of Global Management would launch the International Bioscience Commercialization Consortium, specializing in genomics, bioscience and life sciences. The consortium would network worldwide to connect typically regional commercialization efforts.
In addition, city officials are in early talks with Phoenix-based Core Institute, which specializes in orthopedics, to run a biotech incubator that might be housed at the same site.
Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett said he's comfortable with the city making the financial commitment because it would bring Peoria to the attention of the medical and biomedical world.
"If we could get on that train, it could turn out to be really good for the city in the long run," Barrett said.
Peoria's economic development chief, Scott Whyte, described the plans as a "bioscience business attraction concept," in which the consortium would share a planned 10,000 square feet of office and laboratory space with the Core incubator. A location is undetermined.
Any further city contribution for land or the facility is in the conceptual stage, Whyte said.
"This is a great way to become a destination for the bioscience industry and for bioscience startups," he said.
James Walbom, director of commercialization at TGen, said the potential partnership with Peoria was "all about timing and availability of resources and opportunities."
The aim of the consortium would be to provide members with global resources to help plug gaps between academic research and its conversion into commercial products and ideas.
Walbom said across the world there are a number of regional organizations, often at universities, that help technology developers commercialize their ideas. But the commercialization groups focus exclusively on their region, he said.
TGen and Thunderbird would aim to better connect those regional groups with global resources.
Peoria's financial commitment to help get the partnership off the ground would come from a half-cent-per-dollar sales-tax fund, and would be paid in two installments, the first of which would be this fiscal year.
A report to the City Council does not quantify what Peoria might get in return for the taxpayer money. The report cited a TGen affiliate in Scottsdale that brought an economic impact of more than $26 million in 2009.
Like many municipal leaders, Peoria officials have considered a state Supreme Court ruling in January that Phoenix's $97.4 million subsidy to the CityNorth project in north Phoenix was an unconstitutional subsidy. The ruling indicated that any gift of taxpayer money must provide a direct benefit from the entity receiving the money.
Le Templar, a spokesman for the Goldwater Institute, which had challenged the CityNorth subsidy, said TGen would have to provide a specific guarantee of revenue to Peoria for its return on investment. "You can't speculate that they might generate future tax revenues or might generate money into the economy," Templar said.
Whyte said he was confident that the investment would satisfy the court ruling because the city would get 80 cents on the dollar with the $1 million it would get from the federal grant.