Bio-park developer says he was attracted by area schools
By Tom Harlan
South Florida schools could play an integral role in training workers for a Liberty City industrial park.
The clout of South Florida's university and hospital systems helped persuade a Boston developer to build a biopharmaceutical park in Liberty City that could lead to 1,500 jobs for low- and middle-income residents.
Quality universities and hospitals are critical to the park's success, said Dennis Stackhouse of Town Center Properties, developer of Poinciana Park, a $111 million multipurpose commercial and residential community in the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust's Poinciana site at Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue.
The first phase of a two-phase construction plan for the park is to begin by the end of the year, Mr. Stackhouse said, and tenants are to begin arriving in about a year.
Universities are to help train the park's workers and a strong hospital system could lure other biopharmaceutical companies to become tenants, Mr. Stackhouse said. The park is to contain about 600,000 square feet of office, industrial and manufacturing space, 60,000 square feet of retail space and 40 apartment units.
The master plan for the park includes the headquarters of MediVector Biopharmaceutical Centers, which would include a biopharmaceutical career-training institute and a manufacturing facility. In addition, the park is to contain a research clinic, an outpatient clinic, other biopharmaceutical companies, retail space and an apartment community.
As part of the venture with the empowerment zone, the biopharmaceutical career training institute is to work with local colleges and universities to create a program that would teach residents technical skills.
Mr. Stackhouse said the students' training would prepare them for jobs in the park and around the country.
MediVector, a privately held drug development company based in Cambridge, MA, is to create a pharmaceutical manufacturing company that would use graduates from the institute to fill professional biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing positions.
The firm also plans to establish a clinical research unit that would perform studies to provide data that could help large pharmaceutical companies make faster decisions about the economic potential of new drugs, Mr. Stackhouse said.
"It's essential to have a biopharmaceutical training institution to train people for this industry," Mr. Stackhouse said.
"Miami has (many) research and teaching hospitals," he said. "That's a major plus for us. It enables us to attract other drug companies."
As part of a joint venture with the park's developer, Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust is to form a $150 million fund that would acquire specialty biopharmaceutical companies for location in South Florida that have specific market niches in line with drugs manufactured in the park.
Bryan Finnie, president and CEO of Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, which authorized $60 million in tax-exempt bonds to develop the park, said the county is very attractive to the biopharmaceutical industry. The area has a large labor force and incredible medical facilities and universities, he said.
"We have the infrastructure here for researchers," he said. "It's all about putting it all together and making it work."