Column: McKinsey study sets goals for state research

By Maria Saporta
Friday, January 22, 2010

One way to measure Georgia’s success as a bioscience center of measure is by how many federal research dollars it attracts.

Back in 1990, Georgia ranked 26th among states in its share of National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation research and development funds.

That’s the year that the state established the public-private Georgia Research Alliance, an entity that includes the presidents of the state’s six research universities and top business leaders. Nearly 20 years later, Georgia is now ranked 18th in its share of federal research dollars.

At GRA’s recent quarterly board meeting, a strategic assessment by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. set a goal that by 2020, Georgia could rank 13th in its share of federal research dollars.

But for Georgia to reach that rank, it would have to enjoy a $90 million annual increase in federal funding. Currently, Georgia receives about $450 million in funding from the NIH and NSF.

The strategic assessment also set a private-sector goal for bioscience employment in Georgia. Currently, Georgia’s bioscience workforce totals 13,600 jobs. But for Georgia to “fully” tap its research strength by 2020, it would need to add another 11,000 bioscience jobs.

To reach that level, McKinsey said, GRA could contribute 2,500 jobs through university startups. Company expansions could add 2,500; and industry recruitments could bring in 6,000 new jobs.

Those 11,000 jobs would increase Georgia’s annual tax revenue by $90 million.

One of the opportunities outlined in the report was to build a bioscience park, possibly at the soon-to-be-closed Fort McPherson between downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

GRA President Mike Cassidy said the recruitment and retention of eminent scholars “continues to be the centerpiece of our program.” Georgia now has 60 eminent scholars, up from 37 a decade ago. The eminent scholars, among the top researchers in their fields, are instrumental in the state’s efforts to attract federal research dollars and private-sector investment.

Historically, GRA has been able to secure $30 million to $40 million in annual state funding. But given the state’s economic shortfall, that number is now in the $23 million range.

GRA board member Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, expressed concern that other states were investing more in their research and development efforts and could have an edge over Georgia when it comes to recruiting new companies.

Research Alliance campaign

The Georgia Research Alliance has until the end of this year to secure a $1 million challenge grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

GRA Chairman Bill Linginfelter, an executive with Regions Bank, is chairing the “Break-through Campaign,” which has a goal of raising a total of $3.5 million to fund the operations of the alliance for three years.

“The administrative part of the GRA is funded by corporate gifts and foundation grants,” Linginfelter said, adding that all the funding it gets from the state goes directly toward research and development initiatives. The Woodruff grant states that GRA needs to raise at least $2 million to meet the $1 million challenge. As of Jan. 1, Linginfelter said, the organization had raised $1 million toward its goal.

“I’ve been involved in four fundraising campaigns this past year, and not one has met its goal,” Linginfelter said. “Corporate giving has definitely decreased.”

Given the economy, many companies have shifted donations more to social service needs. Also, many companies no longer are making multiyear gifts, one way GRA has secured its private contributions in the past.

“We are going to refresh our campaign, and we will retool our message a little bit,” Linginfelter said. “We have a commitment to meet the Woodruff challenge grant.”

Moody takes chair of ABL

As the new chairman of the Atlanta Business League, Dave Moody wants to do all he can to have African-American companies help up-and-coming business leaders succeed at growing their own enterprises.

Moody, president and CEO of C.D. Moody Construction, was inducted as ABL’s new chairman on Jan. 19.

He takes the helm from Erica Qualls, general manager of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel.

“One of my major goals is preparing the next generation for leadership and business,” Moody said. For him, success is having African-American businesses that can survive generation to generation.

It’s both a professional and personal quest. Moody, who will turn 54 in May, said his two adult children are now working at the company.

“We’ve got to start getting ready for black enterprise to enter the second and third generation successfully,” said Moody.

Women’s fundraising

The Atlanta Women’s Foundation raised $370,000 at its annual “Numbers Too Big To Ignore” luncheon last November, $20,000 above its goal.

But what made the luncheon quite unique was when Kayrita Anderson, CEO of the Harold and Kayrita Anderson Family Foundation, made a special appeal during the lunch to the 1,400 people in attendance.

That appeal resulted in $50,000 in donations, and those dollars went to the Buckhead Christian Ministry, Partnership Against Domestic Violence and the Renovación Conyugal. The grants will go toward those organization’s operational budgets.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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