Battelle, a research firm hired to track Arizona's biotech industry, has released a report detailing the growth of biotech firms and employment in Arizona during the 2000-2004 period.
Battelle reports that biotech employment increased from 65,710 in 2000 to 73,433 in 2004 an 11.8 percent increase. The number of Arizona biotech firms increased from 578 to 616 during the same period, a 6.6 percent increase. The Arizona Republic says Arizona is "catching up in the biotech race." Arizona Bioscience Steering Committee chairman Marty Schultz echoes the sentiment saying that "our progress has been substantial."
Biotech boosters constantly stress the importance of biotech to the future of the Arizona economy. Arizona Republic business columnist Jon Talton, for example, described the establishment of the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix as "a seminal event in the history of Arizona."
Don't expect to see a History Channel documentary on Arizona biotech just yet. Despite the Batelle presentation, biotech employment as a percentage of the Arizona economy remained flat during the 2000-2004 period, stuck at around three percent of employment despite public "investment" in the sector. Likewise, the increase in biotech employment represents less than three percent of the increase in Arizona employment during the 2000-2004 period.
Representatives of the three percent in biotech have become fairly adroit at justifying subsidies from the other 97 percent of Arizona workers. Arizona biotech, far from building the brave new economy of the future, seems to be running to stand still despite the subsidies and hype.