Monday, March 14, 2005

BIO 2005

The annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), BIO 2005, comes to Philadelphia this summer, June 19-22 2005. This means 18,000 conventioneers will descend on our city, pumping $35 million in our economy, filling the Convention Center, and reserving 23,657 hotel rooms around town.

More importantly, this convention is a real opportunity to show off the city as a potential center for the bio-tech industry, its companies and research. As the article says, "BIO 2005 is coming to Philadelphia because organizers say the region has all the ingredients for growth as a biotech hub: a large concentration of major pharmaceutical companies, vibrant academic institutions, and a workforce skilled in the life sciences."

This is exciting news, a hopeful sign for those considering the future of the city. The "death" of the cities in the 60s and 70s coincided with the end of the industrial economy in this country, which led to crippling unemployment, the loss of the middle class and a greater instability in neighborhoods. [I put "death" in quotes for obvious reasons, as not all of us ran from the cities during these decades. In fact, cities were still quite alive, as something called hip-hop started here and in NYC, graffiti started showing up on the walls and trains, and political rebellion found its home in places like Paris, Prague, SF and London. So much more to say, but you get the point.] Here is a new industry, one reliant on people, higher education, wealth, and other companies working in similar fields, giving urban centers the edge.

Philly has been slow to adapt to the post-industrial/digital economy, a major factor in the resurgence of places like San Francisco and Boston. Things are slowly changing, but the leaders of this city have been resistant to making the city more business-friendly. These businesses are essential in keeping our college graduates in the city, bringing people from other cities and countries to Philly, and increasing our tax base. More to come on the changes the city needs to make, the people trying to make them happen and what we can do at the grassroots/citizen level.

Interestingly, what has been the problem in capitalizing on these advantages? According to Jim Greenwood, former Representative and new President of BIO, "The only catalyst that's really needed to have Philadelphia explode as a national biotechnology center is for the investment community, both national and international, to recognize what we have here". BIO 2005 brings these very investors to the city, which should make crystal clear what an amazing opportunity this is for the city and region.

Read the article, as it is a nice dose of optimism for Philadelphians. Hopefully, we will look back on this event as the start of an economic boom in the area, a watershed moment when Philly was able to take a major step on the way to becoming a bio-tech hub, a center of commerce, and a world city.

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