The law includes $250 million in tax credits for life sciences companies that agree to create jobs in the Commonwealth. Another $250 million is set aside for research grants to encourage those conducting the cutting edge research to stay.
The remaining $500 million would be dedicated for construction and improvement projects designed to benefit the industry.
Overseeing much of the initiative is Susan Windham Bannister, the new CEO and president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
The center will have wide discretion in distributing nearly half of the $500 million for construction to help biotech businesses expand, including creating new laboratory space. The center will also distribute matching grants to encourage young researchers to stay in Massachusetts.
“We want to make this a friendly environment,” she said. “We are making sure we are protecting and encouraging that sector.”
Melissa Walsh, the center’s chief of staff, acknowledged that means making decisions about which companies should have access to state funds and which shouldn’t. She said the center will rely in part on recommendations from a scientific panel.
“We believe we should be taking a solid look at applications for these funds and running them through a peer review process,” she said.
But critics say the law is flawed because it forces the state to pick winners and losers. That’s bad for business and could leave Patrick, and future administrations, open to charges of favoritism, according to Senate Republican Leader Richard Tisei of Wakefield.
“We will never know under this bill the reasons why one company got the tax credit and another company didn’t,” he said during the Senate debate. “This is very, very dangerous.”
Business groups also have criticized the law saying that with all the focus lavished on new technologies, lawmakers shouldn’t forget about the bread-and-butter industries that employ the bulk of Massachusetts workers.
Those in the biotech industry say the initiative is long overdue.
The company Organogenesis began its life 20 years ago, spinning off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And as long as it remained a small, research-oriented venture, there was no question of remaining in Massachusetts, according to company president and CEO Geoff MacKay.
But when the company became a major player in the world of regenerative medicine, it started to care more deeply about the finer points of tax law, MacKay said.
As the company ballooned from 12 employees in 2003 to 350 today, it began scouting locations from New York to South Carolina and already had made the decision to leave Massachusetts when the administration said it was working to pass the bill.
“Before the life science initiative, we had reached the decision that Massachusetts was not competitive relative to neighboring states,” MacKay said.
He said he convinced the company’s directors that the tax climate would brighten and the company — which takes living cells and builds therapeutic products like tissues for diseased or injured skin — opted to set up shop in Canton.
MacKay said the life science initiative will be key to luring businesses not only from other parts of the country, but from Europe, which boasts a thriving regenerative medicine industry interested in finding locations to expand on the East Coast, particularly New York or Boston.
Steve LeBlanc covers the State House for The Associated Press.
The governor, the House speaker and the Senate president hope to use the life sciences initiative to
lure biotech investment to Massachusetts. Yet the industry is rebelling
because of a provision in a separate bill that would ban gift-giving by pharmaceutical manufacturers. More »
The governor, the House speaker and the Senate president hope to use the life sciences initiative to lure biotech investment to Massachusetts. Yet the industry is rebelling because of a provision in a separate bill that would ban gift-giving by pharmaceutical manufacturers. More »
Keeping residents in Massachusetts will require job growth, business development and retooling a workforce to handle jobs in emerging fields like life sciences and renewable energy. More »