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NM bioscience growth boosts commercial real estate industry

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s commercial property sector may be one of the beneficiaries of the growth of the bioscience industry in New Mexico.

Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor for research at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center, on Monday outlined some of the current  economic benefits realized by the state and some of the steps New Mexico is taking to further grow its bioscience sector. Larson was addressing the monthly luncheon of the New Mexico chapter of NAIOP, the trade association for commercial real state and developers.

Some 700 biotech companies of varying sizes now work in human health, agriculture and environmental issues around the state, generating $1.2 billion in revenue in 2015. That includes new medical devices, diagnostic tools and treatments, as well as improved methods and tools for food production and safety, and innovative use of microbes and enzymes to make manufacturing and chemical processes environmentally friendly, said Larson.

Since 2004, 42 companies have either “spun out” of UNM labs or licensed university technology to form a commercial enterprise, he said.

Those businesses directly employ about 9,300 people, and up to 41,000 if related support jobs are included. That represents about 7 percent of all New Mexico’s private sector jobs, according to the a new report from GrowBio, an initiative headed by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the Albuquerque Economic Development Department.

And those are generally high-paying jobs that often don’t require advanced degrees, Larson said.

“The takeaway is that every professional group growing the economy needs to get on board with this,” said Larson of the potential not only for bioscience-related job creation, but capitalizing on the need for real estate. These companies, whether startups or more established, will need specialized facilities for research and development, light manufacturing and administrative offices.

Larson said while 75 percent of the country’s bioscience sector is concentrated in nine cities, places like New Mexico still can compete. “Venture capital looks for deals” either in terms of less expensive real estate, costs of doing business and an available workforce,” he said. “Both coasts are saturated.”

Larson said New Mexico is bolstering its competitiveness with the establishment of a bioscience authority, which will establish connections between the innovation community and sources of capital to fund bioscience startups or attract new companies to the state.

Such an entity will help coordinate policies and incentives to attract investor capital and reduce administrative roadblocks, helping to translate biotechnology discoveries made in the state’s universities and national laboratories into new job-creating enterprises, Larson said.