Next Few Months Critical for Jackson Labs Project

Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 23:59

Collier County has become practically a second home for senior executives of the Maine-based Jackson Laboratory, as they pursue numerous paths for securing funding for their proposed research and “personalized medicine” facility planned to be built near Ave Maria.

The next six weeks are particularly critical as the Collier County commissioners face a July 27 deadline for setting tax rates for the coming year.

Officials from the Jackson Lab submitted a business plan to the county earlier this week, outlining how it would spend the $260 million in subsidies that it says it would require to build and operate a branch facility in Collier County. Half of that money would come from the state of Florida and half from Collier County, plus Jackson Lab says it would need to raise more than $120 million itself over 10 years.

 There are uncertainties regarding both the state and the county funding.

At the state level, Gov. Charlie Crist has approved a budget that earmarked $50 million this year, with $80 million committed in two subsequent years. That funding, however, assumed that the state would receive about $1 billion as its share of about $24 billion in additional Medicaid subsidies. The U.S. House of Representatives stripped the Medicaid payments from stimulus legislation it passed, and efforts to reinstate it in the Senate have so far proved unsuccessful.

“I don’t know what the options would be if the stimulus funds don’t come through,” Jackson Lab VP Mike Hyde told The Ave Herald.  “Further delay and discussion would be likely, though,” he added.

Collier County commissioners and a committee of citizens are looking at the county’s share of the funding.  Current plans value the land contribution by the Barron Collier Companies at $5 million, meaning the county would have to raise $125 million. Options being examined include extra fees on Florida Power and Light bills, an increase in the property tax rate and an increase in the sales tax. The deadline for setting property tax rates for the coming year is July 27. An increase in the sales tax would require a referendum.

Proponents of the subsidies say that the Jackson Lab would be the anchor for a biomedical research park that would be built on 200 acres of land adjacent to the 50 acres occupied by the Jackson Lab. The Naples Daily News is sponsoring a forum on that aspect of the proposal June 21, at its headquarters on Immokalee Rd. in Naples. Click here for more information on the forum.

The next meeting of Collier County Commissioners is June 22.

The Jackson Lab says that its facility near Ave Maria would focus on “personalized medicine,” and says in its business plan that the initial focus will be on finding cures for “complex diseases and conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).”

Click here for a PDF of the business plan submitted by the Jackson Lab

Click here for recent coverage from the Naples Daily News