A day of hope for the future

Enough doom and gloom. There was, finally, this past week a feel-good story for Palm Beach County and all of Florida really.

Scripps Florida, and its promise of a better tomorrow for our economy, finally opened on the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University. An enthusiastic Gov. Charlie Crist declared 2009 the year of science, and rightly so.

The reality, is of course, that it will be years, perhaps decades more, before the hundreds of millions of tax dollars that went into building that facility begin to create the thousands of high-paying jobs envisioned when then Gov. Jeb Bush visited Scripps’s La Jolla campus six years ago and conceived the idea of luring the research institute east.

The reality is that Florida remains a long way from having a world-class educational system that can support Scripps and a vibrant biotech industry that the research institute is supposed to seed. It will take a monumental commitment by the Legislature to support our schools at every level if our children are to find jobs there as scientists, technicians, accountants and lawyers and other professionals that fuel a knowledge-based industry.

Those are problems to be discussed on another day. Instead, let’s focus on the potential that Scripps brings and the people that worked to bring us this day.

Let's remember that Florida was a biotech backwater at best before the Scripps deal. Even now, we might not rival California, Massachusetts or even Pennsylvania as a hub of the industry, but in 2003 we weren't even on the radar screen.

Let’s remember the efforts of Bush, who convinced  Scripps to come to Florida in the first place, who saw biotech as a way to move the state’s economy beyond tourism and real estate. Let's remember that in 2003, the economy nationally had yet to recover from the aftershocks of 9/11 and that a Democratic-led Congress pushed for an aid package for the states. Florida's share of that money — $310 million — became the financial backbone of the Scripps deal.

Let’s remember the efforts of Larry Pelton, the former head of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, who along with former Commissioner Mary McCarty in the span of a few days put together the original package of financing and land needed to lure Scripps locally. Never mind that it kicked off a monumental three-year battle over where Scripps eventually would be built, South County versus North County, east versus west; without their initial efforts, the research institute would have gone elsewhere. 

And let’s remember that the Scripps deal has brought the Burnham Institute to Orlando, the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to Port St. Lucie and the Max Planck Center to Jupiter — right next door to Scripps. No way would they be in Florida without Scripps.

With the economy in tatters, unemployment nearing 8 percent, it’s hard to focus on the promise that Scripps et al brings. But the promise is there if we do it right.  Let's hope we do it right.

palm beach business.com
FEBRUARY 28 , 2009 click to go home
click to go back to the top
Delray's Online Business and Community Newspaper