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The New Orleans' BioDistrict, a Model for Industry Collaboration

Q2 / Spring 2013
Spread over 1,500 acres across downtown New Orleans, BioDistrict New Orleans will be one of the largest developments in the world of biosciences. Its mission is to create a state-of-the-art development to support bioscience research and industry by bringing together hospitals, medical schools, and economic development organizations. BioDistrict officials say their model of industry collaboration is a unique partnership of industry, educational institutions, and private enterprise that will not only result in better healthcare but also provide a major economic impact for the region.

One of the flagships of the BioDistrict is the new $1.2 billion University Medical Center which, when completed in 2015, will be one of the largest of its kind in the country. The 424-bed complex will serve as a world-class teaching facility for up to 2,000 medical students. The adjacent Veterans Affairs Medical Center (set to open in 2014) will feature a 200-bed complex, have a targeted enrollment of 70,000 veterans, and is expected to be on the cutting edge of VA hospitals.

A Holistic Approach
BioDistrict New Orleans President and CEO James McNamara says the development will also feature healthcare research facilities, work force development initiatives, and a strong emphasis on attracting bioscience industry and entrepreneurship. It's massive footprint will even include enhanced streets with landscaping, bikeways, and sidewalks, along with pedestrian-only avenues and proposed streetcar lines that will tie into the city's existing routes. "We're creating an environment where we're looking at everything and taking a holistic approach to managing energy, stormwater, transportation, communication, social impact, and zoning," McNamara says.

Over the next 20 years, the BioDistrict is expected to create 34,000 direct and indirect jobs and 3,600 annual construction jobs. The total $3.3 billion in economic activity is also estimated to create $2 billion in increased personal earnings and $1.9 billion in state taxes and local taxes.

McNamara says the BioDistrict is also already revitalizing surrounding neighborhoods. It will add 11.6 million square feet of new, absorbed, or renovated buildings plus 2,000 housing units. Since the BioDistrict started planning in 2006, developers have pumped over $200 million into mixed-use and mixed-income housing development on formerly blighted areas of Tulane Avenue. Inspired by the future development of the district, businesses including retail shops to restaurants have already begun grabbing available space.

"There has been a tremendous amount of development in the vicinity [of the district] with new housing and retail. It's part of the continuous development we've seen since Hurricane Katrina," says McNamara.

An Incubator for Startups

Aaron Miscenich is president of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, an organization that was formed in 2011 to help recruit bioscience businesses and foster entrepreneurship. He says by having the right assets in place, including the hospitals, infrastructure, work force, and leasing space, they can serve as an incubator for bioscience startups. "We have and will have tremendous assets here. We have all the pieces and we're brining everyone together to make the most of it," he says.

The BioDistrict can serve as a model for industry collaboration and coordination focused on industry development, work force training, investment, development of new facilities, and public policy. Collaborative efforts such as this can pull collective resources to appeal to common interests across multiple sectors and spark area development on a massive scale. McNamara says the BioDistrict's success rests upon its ability to serve as an ambassador and help direct public policy. Its high-profile and diverse partners not only include hospitals and medical schools but hotels, chambers of commerce, the New Orleans Downtown Development District, and even the New Orleans Public Library.

Developing the Work Force
Work force development has also been an important part of the BioDistrict. Current projects include incumbent worker training and curriculum development to bring together government and educational entities. It will also expand exposure to the healthcare industry in elementary and secondary schools and even locate the new Math and Science Charter School within the BioDistrict.

"The pipelines we lay will help develop the work force of our future. You can't offer companies nearly as much until you have [the workforce] in place," says McNamara.

The BioDistrict was originally started with a $2.4 million planning grant from the Louisiana Recovery Authority in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That allowed them to do a comprehensive analysis of the district and determine how it would work and how the pieces had to be put in place. McNamara says in addition to the $2.1 billion of construction currently under way, there is another $750 million worth of projects in the pipeline.

"Many people across the country have cited us as an example of how we are using collaboration, work force training, and investment in new facilities to get this industry to capacity," he concludes.

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