Jonathan L. Sangster, Senior Managing Director, CB Richard Ellis (Biotech Location Guide 2007)
It is acknowledged that the definition of "biotech" is broad and can include the life sciences, bio-pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, medical technologies, and more. It is further recognized that biotech projects can cross a wide spectrum, from early-stage development to commercial production. The intent of this article is to address some of the major strategic location criteria that will enable you to achieve your scientific and business objectives, regardless of your biotech focus or project type.
Where is the best location for biotech operations today and where might be the "best fit" for my operation? What factors should I consider when approaching this decision? In an environment where the development and expansion of biotech companies continues to trend upward, these are topics that are routinely debated among economic developers, business location consultants, and - most importantly - among company leadership responsible for strategic business location decisions.
The location decision is becoming increasingly complex as many states and communities are aggressively competing for and indicating that they are best-positioned to be the new home for biotech operations. A frequently asked question is whether a company should locate its operations on the East Coast, West Coast, or near a major "bio-cluster" city? The reality is.it depends. Every project is unique; every project is different; and every company is at a different stage in its product-development process. At the end of the day, a company's location decision should be one that aligns with its strategic business goals and objectives and should be based in a location that enhances the likelihood of long-term success.
The foundation for that success comes from understanding and articulating the strategic drivers and the criteria supporting those drivers: • Should you target a location where you can network with other life science and biotech programs aligned with your company's area of specialization?
• Should you locate your operations in a community where you can hire from a work force possessing the necessary skill sets that support your company's operations, or more importantly, where you can recruit and retain the talent to take your business to the next level?
• Should you locate to an area that is easily accessible to your investors, future funding sources, supply-chain network, or customer base?
• Should you consider an area where state and local agencies can assemble the best package of economic incentives to support your company's start-up and long-term operations?
• Should you look for an environment where facilities are immediately available at competitive costs that will enable your company to achieve its "speed-to-market" objectives?
• Should you consider a community with the necessary infrastructure (electric, gas, telecommunications) to help create or produce your company's product or service?
.and the answers are.YES!
Once your business planning process has identified the need for your next business operation (concept development, research and development, product development, or production), the next step is to define the criteria that will drive your company's ultimate success. The development and the decision criteria should be unique to each opportunity and project. Each project should begin with a clean slate. It is important to remember that there is no "one size fits all" approach to evaluating and determining the best location for your operation.
A starting point for developing your location criteria is to consider the factors that fall within three primary categories: strategic, operational, and financial.
Each category is important to project success and all should be considered in the decision process. Additionally, you should consider the right balance of these categories. Similar to the importance of each leg on a three-legged stool, each of these categories should be evaluated when identifying and considering potential locations. If one category is ignored or slighted, the stool will not be balanced and risks collapse.
While all three categories are crucial to a successful location decision, we suggest that the strategic business drivers be considered initially as they are the foundation of what you are seeking to build. (Failure to recognize any of these drivers could result in a location decision that only meets short-term objectives, and thus may not position the project for long-term success as the business model changes.)
Determining your specific criteria is often best determined by exploring the following list of initial questions:
• Where is our operation in the product development cycle? Are we at a point where a move is practical or cost-effective?
As the company advances through the product or business development
cycle, will the location criteria change significantly? If so, what
will change and what is the impact of that change?
• How important is "speed-to-market"? Am I ahead of or behind the competition? Will this decision impact our speed-to-market?
Where will I be able to successfully attract and recruit the "core"
team of talent for this operation? Where might I be successful in
convincing critical members of my team to relocate?