Local leaders “ecstatic” about BIO convention
Now that BIO International is winding down from its week in Atlanta, local leaders are feeling good about how it went.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “This BIO convention has exceeded our expectations. It was a very wise use of the state’s money.”
The state of Georgia invested a total of $1.79 million on the BIO conference. Of that, $500,000 went towards bidding on the event with other partners. That number also included the Georgia Pavilion exhibit space, promotional materials, marketing, the welcome reception and “familiarization” tours for attendees.
The state will be reimbursed for some of that amount by companies and entities that subleased space in the Georgia Pavilion.
“This has put us on the map,” Stewart said. “This is like the Olympics, but it’s the Olympics for bioscience.”
The number of attendees to BIO was down from San Diego’s 20,000 attendees with a final count of 14,352. But convention organizers said they were relieved because they feared that number might have been much lower because of the economic downturn.
Stewart said he met with numerous attendees and convention organizers, and every one he talked to told him that “Atlanta had done a great job” hosting BIO.
“I’m convinced that BIO is going to come back in four or five years,” Stewart said.
The energy level among economic development leaders during the week was at an all-time high as they were visiting with existing prospects and meeting new ones.
“What’s going on across the street is phenomenal,” Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams told me during a VIP reception Tuesday night on his building’s rooftop. (The chamber’s headquarters is virtually across the street from the Georgia World Congress Center). “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Stewart said he has a stack of business cards that is four inches thick of people he met during the BIO convention. Now the “critical” job will be following-up and maintaining those relationships.
The bioscience sector clearly is the sexiest industry in the world these days.
For the state of Georgia, the number of bioscience establishments increased by 38.3 percent between 2001 and 2006, compared to an average growth of 13.8 percent for all industries in Georgia. Bioscience employment jumped by 11.3 percent compared to an industry average of 4 percent in the state for that same period.
And when it comes to wages, bioscience salaries increased 38. 4 percent in the state compared to an average of 19.5 percent for the state’s overal economy.
“Every state and every country wants to grow this industry because it’s the industry of the future,” Stewart said. The theme of the BIO conference was “to heal, to feed and to fuel the world,” a theme that really resonated with Stewart.
“The future of all three of them is related to bioscience,” he said.
For the record, a study recently released by the University of Georgia and Georgia BIO showed that the industry already is having a strong economic impact in the state.
There are 17,942 jobs in life sciences companies; there are 62,033 jobs in all bioscience industries contributing $6.2 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. The indstry also generates $517 million in tax revenues for the state and local governments.