(Marin Independent Journal (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 02--A cure for cancer, AIDS, or the heartbreak of psoriasis just might be discovered in Novato if plans underway to attract more biotech firms to the city come to fruition.
Chris Stewart, Novato's economic development manager, is working with the Marin Economic Forum and representatives from Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties as part of the new North Bay Bio/Life Science Cluster Alliance to create a three-year, $1.5 million marketing campaign to bring such firms to the city, Marin and the North Bay.
"With the Buck Institute (for Research on Aging) located in Novato, we stand to gain the most in attracting other research firms and jobs, but Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties have the space to accommodate manufacturing, warehouse and distribution centers -- something that neither Novato, Marin or San Rafael have space to do," Stewart said.
"That is why we partnered with the other three counties. To attract bio/life science companies, a community has to offer all of three of these service capabilities -- research, manufacturing and warehouse distribution," Stewart said.
The city of Novato has contributed $292,000 and the Buck Institute $50,000 in in-kind services to kickstart the campaign, Stewart said.
"The city approved $292,000, $250,000 for consultants and $42,000 for internal marketing efforts including sales calls on companies here in the Bay Area, trade shows, and VIP tours of the Buck and Novato," said Stewart. "The Buck has committed $50,000 of in-kind services, including the use of their facilities, video production equipment and staff assistance."
The group plans to raise $1.5 million, but has not yet asked any of the other public and private partners to make commitments or contribute funds, Stewart said. "We want to develop the branding and marketing strategy first so our partners will have a better understanding of the marketing and recruitment campaign details and the potential benefits of their community participating in the regional campaign."
To that end, Stewart, the Marin Economic Forum, the Buck Institute and the Novato Chamber of Commerce planned a wine and hors d'oeuvre event for industry insiders at the Buck Institute last week to introduce Chempetitive Group, the marketing firm that will design the campaign, to community and industry leaders.
"They are going to be interviewing executives from firms" at a later date, Stewart said. Groups involved include Raptor Pharmaceuticals Inc., BioMarin, the Buck Institute, Sonoma State University, University of California at Davis and San Francisco and the Bay Area biotechnology association BayBio.
The purpose is to see what people's perceptions are of the North Bay and what they feel would be the best opportunities to help the industry thrive.
Marin has several elements that might appeal to biotech firms, according to Robert Eyler, head of the Marin Economic Forum and a professor at Sonoma State University who is involved in the effort.
"There are firms here and workers potentially set to go for a biotech business," Eyler said. "It's pretty close to a bunch of other biotech firms in the greater Bay Area. The Buck Center is a place to draw labor and laboratory resources.
"A firm could lease facilities at the Buck Center. There are incubation possibilities at the Buck," Eyler said. He was referring to the idea that a nascent company with only a few employees could rent laboratory space at the center while getting going, then move to its own quarters as it got bigger.
"The key is making Marin County the centerpiece of that action, and that's what Chris and I are trying to do together," Eyler said.
A representative of BioMarin, one of Marin's most prominent biotech firms, had good things to say about the plan. While BioMarin is now headquartered in San Rafael, it still has facilities in Novato.
"BioMarin fully supports the efforts of the North Bay Bio/Life Science Cluster Alliance to grow the life sciences presence in this region. We have been a steadily growing company for the past 16 years, and continue our commitment to Marin County," said Jeff Ajer, chief commercial officer at BioMarin.
"We appreciate the alliance leading a marketing and recruitment campaign, as we look to hire talent who will assist us in our mission to help sick children suffering from rare genetic diseases," Ajer said.
Contact Janis Mara via email at email@example.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/jmara.
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