11/16/07 — County takes aim at luring biotech

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County takes aim at luring biotech

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 16, 2007 2:13 PM

Hoping to take advantage of Wayne County's proximity to the Research Triangle Park and the facilities at East Carolina University and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in Greenville, county officials have agreed to partner with their counterparts from four other areas to form the new BioEast Alliance.

Cut out of the larger North Carolina Eastern Region, the BioEast Alliance is made up of Wayne, Edgecombe, Nash, Pitt and Wilson counties.

"The Eastern Region is made up of 13 counties and we have a lot of diversity in that region, so they decided to look at smaller clusters," explained Wayne County Development Alliance President Joanna Thompson. "This is just one of those sub-clusters. These are the five counties in the region that have the best potential to recruit life science industries."

Included under that life science moniker are pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology industries and ag-biotechnology industries.

And while Pitt might rank higher in its ability to attract those companies because of its resources, she said Wayne isn't too far behind.

"I'd say we're probably on the jayvee side, but we're trying to move up to varsity," she said.

Helping boost Wayne County's case for inclusion in the alliance is Cherry Research Farm, the home of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and Goldsboro Milling.

The goal, though, is to recruit more.

"That's why we're so anxious to be part of this alliance. We can't do it ourselves, but we can do it with some of these others," Ms. Thompson said. "And even if don't land a biotech firm here in Wayne County, our citizens might be employed there. You might not get the tax base, but you're still putting people to work."

But first, the five-county organization must figure out how best to market itself, and so, having met for the first time earlier this fall, its leadership is currently going through an in-depth review of its strengths as a region.

"They're still in the infant stage of gathering data and getting that report together," Ms. Thompson said.

She expects the results to be complete sometime in early 2008.