Tuesday, May 08, 2007
By Tom Still
BOSTON -- Gov. Jim Doyle is a realist when he talks about Wisconsin's standing in the biotech world. He doesn't pretend the state is on a par with Boston's biotech cluster or San Diego, but he's quick to cite specific areas where the state enjoys a competitive edge.
That message came through clearly Monday during Doyle's stops at the annual BIO convention, where he addressed the Wisconsin delegation, met with Boston-area tech leaders, talked with Boston press and presided over a state reception.
"We live in a very competitive world, and all you need to do to understand that is to take a walk around this convention floor to see what is happening," Doyle told a crowd that gathered at the Wisconsin Pavilion. "Every state is saying it's the best in the country, but we really are a state that stands apart. We do have something to say."
In several formats, Doyle talked about the history of innovation in Wisconsin life sciences, breakthroughs in human embryonic stem-cell research, the state's commitment to the public-private Institutes for Discovery, and a growing number of companies that have grown up in Wisconsin or, in some cases, relocated or expanded there.
Doyle also cited Wisconsin's expertise in bio-based energy, which may emerge as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels. In addition, he urged Wisconsin business leaders to support initiatives to strengthen the state's education system.
The governor was joined at two presentations by one of UW-Madison's rising stars, Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a leading expert on bird flu and isolation of that killer virus.
In an interview with Boston Business Leader editor George Donnelly, Doyle was asked if he was afraid that Wisconsin could lose some of its up-and-coming biotech companies to states or countries with "open checkbook" recruitment policies. That's an emerging problem even in high-tech havens such as Boston, which must compete with places that offer lower costs of living, reduced barriers to research, tax incentives and cheaper land.
Doyle said the Wisconsin experience thus far has been the opposite, with larger companies (EMD-Merck, Abbott Labs, Genzyme, SAFC and Invitrogen) establishing or growing a presence. He noted that more companies are discovering "there is a vast middle part of the country," and that Wisconsin has natural advantages beyond its research base.
Doyle continued with meetings through Tuesday, when he was scheduled to return to Wisconsin.