I’m the president and CEO of a publicly traded bioscience company who recently decided to locate and expand my company, Abeona Therapeutics, in Northeast Ohio instead of any other state or region in the United States. Why? Because Northeast Ohio provides a unique set of assets to aid the growth of a bioscience company, including internationally renowned clinical, educational and research institutions; supportive government and economic development engines; funding; and a highly talented and abundant workforce.
Abeona is developing novel gene therapies in an effort to treat patients — mostly children — with rare diseases. In 2015, Northeast Ohio institutions received more than 650 awards from NIH, bringing more than $280 million coveted research funds into the region. This funding supports research and development in the life sciences, providing support for discoveries at our Northeast Ohio institutions and private companies. Without this significant support from NIH, and collaboration with our world-class Northeast Ohio institutions, companies like Abeona could not develop the therapies that change people’s lives.
Since 2006, Northeast Ohio educational institutions have graduated more than 18,000 bioscience workers. A company like Abeona is only as good as its employees and must find those employees quickly to sustain our rapid growth. Within the past year, Abeona has increased its local employee base 300% and plans to add additional scientific, manufacturing and technical positions for our new Cleveland facility in the coming year.
Abeona isn’t the only local company enjoying success. Our region is rich with talented entrepreneurs who have chosen to make Northeast Ohio their homes and have since garnered significant investment dollars, often from investors who are outside our region. Many of these entrepreneurs have come from other parts of the country and even other parts of the world. They came to Northeast Ohio specifically because of our strong reputation for health care and biotech success.
Here are just a few shining examples of that success, many of which were highlighted in the Ohio Bioscience Growth Report 2015 published by BioOhio summarizing an economic analysis conducted by the University of Cincinnati:
First, consider that the average wage of Northeast Ohio bioscience workers increased from $61,774 in 2009 to $68,866 in 2014. This is a $7,092 (11%) increase during a time when our nation was in recovery from a near-depression. Jobs in the Northeast Ohio bioscience industry have demonstrated increased value and appreciation as a key area of growth in a highly technical sector.
Similarly, another success highlighted in the BioOhio report is that the number of Northeast Ohio bioscience locations (defined as an office or facility operated by a bioscience company) increased from 1,105 in 2009 to 1,234 in 2014. This is a 12% increase of 129 locations over a five-year period. Bioscience companies are expanding their operations in Northeast Ohio with economic incentives supported by the city, county and state. The recent expansion and improvements in the Heath-Tech Corridor further reflect this growth.
The numbers prove it, and those of us living and breathing bioscience every day here in Northeast Ohio know it firsthand: the region is one of the leading bioscience locations in the nation.
A version of this piece first appeared in Crain’s Cleveland Business on January 31, 2016