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Location of Proposed Jackson Labs Facility Clarified

Officials of the Barron Collier Companies have clarified the location and ownership of land that is proposed as the site of a research facility to be built by the Jackson Laboratory, a genetics research institute based in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The site would be at the southwestern edge of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District, about three miles from the town of Ave Maria, and will have a Naples, Florida, address, Blake Gable of Barron Collier told The Ave Herald.

Mr. Gable said in a statement that when Barron Collier began discussions with the Collier County Economic Development Council and the Jackson Laboratory last year, the site was identified as a possible location because it met the lab's "primary requirement" for a "large, permitted parcel."

The 50-acre tract was on land controlled by Ave Maria Development, a joint venture of the Barron Collier Companies, which is the managing partner, and Tom Monaghan. Mr. Gable said that Barron Collier proposed last year that it acquire a 100-percent interest in the land to develop a research and technology park independently of the joint venture, which owns most of the land for the town of Ave Maria and Ave Maria University.

Before agreeing to sell his interest in the land, Mr. Monaghan consulted the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) in Philadelphia, Mr. Gable said.

"Knowing the complexities of modern science and its interface with Catholic moral teaching, Mr. Monaghan decided to verify that this sale of property for the designated purpose would be permissible according to Catholic moral teaching," Mr. Gable said in a statement.

The NCBC, which is an advisor to many Catholic institutions as well as committees of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, "advised Mr. Monaghan that, in its opinion, there was no moral impediment" to proceeding with the land transaction.

The Jackson Laboratory has said that some of its educational work at its headquarters in Maine deals with human embryonic stem cells. Click here for a previous Ave Herald story with a statement by the Jackson Laboratory on its work.

Neither Ave Maria Development nor Ave Maria University will have any involvement in the project, Mr. Gable said.

The institute primarily uses mice as models for the human genome. Its work has led to a number of medical breakthroughs including the capability to transplant human organs and bone marrow.

If funding is secured, Mr. Gable said that construction on the facility could begin in August.

Mike Hyde, the vice president for advancement at the Jackson Laboratory, said that the commitment of $260 million - half from the state of Florida and half from local contributions - will be needed to proceed. The appropriation of $130 million is moving through the legislature and Collier County commissioners have said the county can come up with its share.

The funding would cover the cost of construction and equipment. Mr. Hyde said the lab initially thought it would need $300 million but the lower amount would be sufficient because construction costs have dropped since initial estimates were made. The lab projects that its total expenditures over 10 years would be about $700 million, including construction, operations, other capital costs, maintenance and staff. The lab would employ about 200 people initially, and would grow by another 50-100 scientists after several years, he said.


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