Life sciences jobs pack 2-for-1 punch

February 24, 2014
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I still remember it vividly.

In February 2002, city, state, university and corporate leaders launched the Central Indiana Life Sciences Initiative.

The initiative was touted—at least by journalists, pundits and the local booster class—as the thing that would turn Indiana from its 20th century manufacturing roots to a 21st century, knowledge-based future.

That idea stuck with me. I was, at the time, less than three months into my first full-time reporting job, as a business reporter at The Indianapolis Star. So I was rather impressionable.

But it’s an idea that was always wrong.

Why? Because the math just doesn’t work.

In February 2002, Indiana boasted 587,000 manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state had lost about 85,000 manufacturing jobs since the start of the 2000 recession. And it had another 100,000 still to lose.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s life sciences sector—even when jobs in life sciences warehousing, or biologistics, are added in to pad the numbers—boasts just 55,000 jobs. That’s the latest figure from BioCrossroads, the entity created by the Central Indiana Life Sciences Initiative.

So life sciences will never be the job creator it was hoped, rather naively, it would be.

Even today, life sciences company payrolls are roughly one-tenth the size of the manufacturing sector—and that’s even with some overlap between the two. (Major life sciences companies, like Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics Corp., Cook Medical Inc. and Zimmer Holdings Inc. are, after all, manufacturers.)

I was certainly slow to realize that.

But not so slow to realize it have been city governments, legislators, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Elevate Ventures.

They have, over the years, given tax breaks to employers paying just-higher-than-average wages--in part because those companies produce more jobs than life sciences companies. Investments in startups, meanwhile, have in recent years gone to information technology companies, in part because such firms can produce jobs faster than life sciences companies.

For background, read my story from a year ago on the plan life sciences companies hatched to try to circumvent IEDC and Elevate Ventures. The situation may have improved a bit in the past year, but I haven’t heard anyone from the life sciences world cheering, either.

The major life sciences-themed initiative of the Pence administration, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, is focused at the large corporate and university level, not at startups directly. BioCrossroads’ latest initiative is focused on agriculture, not on the traditional areas of life sciences—medical devices, health care services and biotech.

But the latest data from BioCrossroads include, again, a key statistic state leaders should remember: life sciences jobs pay great wages.

In 2012, life sciences jobs paid $89,056 on average, according to BioCrossroads’ data, which was compiled by the Indiana Business Research Center. That compares with an average annual wage of $41,357 in Indiana’s entire private sector.

Economic development is really about two things: jobs and incomes. The more jobs there are, the more incomes Hoosiers collectively receive. But higher-paying jobs also boost collective income.

So while life sciences companies don’t rack up huge jobs numbers, their relatively high pay means that for every job they do create, it’s worth two in the rest of the private sector.

With IEDC and local governments doling out tax incentives each year to attract jobs with average wages of about $47,000, it’s at least worth considering whether that money might be invested in other ways to boost higher-paying sectors.

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  • Worth two?
    I don't really think you can say a high-paying job is worth two lower paying jobs in terms of the very real effect on families. That's one family that benefits from a steady paycheck instead of two. Plenty of families would be pretty happy with a job paying half of one of those $89K jobs.
  • One or Two?
    While the larger salary does not support 2 workers/families, it seems that the higher salary does benefit more people. Greater income almost certainly translates into more spending and investing in the local economy as the money circulates to grocery stores, retail goods, doctors, dentists, banks, etc.

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  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

  5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!

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