City officials hope group attracts biotech companies, jobs
Round Rock may soon be the center of the Texas bioscience universe if a new industry alliance meets its stated goals.
The Texas Bio Corridor Alliance, a group looking to connect the more than 4,500 biotechnology companies along the I-35 corridor and throughout Texas, will locate its headquarters in Round Rock, officials announced June 1.
The newly formed group, which plans to have offices at one of the higher education campuses along University Boulevard, seeks to increase collaboration, attract bioscience business to Texas and improve innovation for an industry with a $75 billion annual economic impact on the state, said Russ Peterman, president and chairman of the TBCA
"We think that by doing this, the effect of everything that's going on in Texas can go way up," said Peterman, who also serves as the executive director of the Texas Life-Sciences Collaboration Center in Georgetown.
City officials, meanwhile, said they hope the TBCA—which itself is not expected to produce many jobs—can have a similar effect on attracting bioscience companies and jobs to the city in order to grab a piece of that $75 billion biotech pie.
"These are kind of the jobs of tomorrow," said Ben White, vice president of economic development for the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce. "We have always been interested in having [a biotech] incubator in Round Rock, and I think this helps streamline that effort."
The TBCA plans to use its Round Rock headquarters as a launching pad to foster greater connectivity among the state's biotechnology companies—which include everything from hospitals and research facilities to pharmaceutical companies and agricultural companies.
"What we were really lacking was a global collaboration method," Peterman said of the industry in Texas. "We could all do better, greater things."
Starting out with a paid staff of two plus several interns, Peterman said the group will serve as a "quasi-trade organization," organizing events, conferences and trade shows while providing a network of resources to companies throughout the state.
"It's an opportunity for the regions to connect it's a pipeline of information that will flow along the corridor," said Tom Kowalski, president of the Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute, a bioscience advocacy group.
Peterson said the group would hold a number of small conferences in addition to one large conference every year. This year's large conference will be held in September in Round Rock.
Though branded as an I-35 corridor alliance for companies from San Antonio up to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Peterman said the group embraces the entire state, including Houston, which already has a significant presence in the bioscience industry.
The TBCA will start with a number of "launch partners" on June 1 that includes the Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute, Emergo Group, Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center, Texas A&M Health Science Center, North Texas Enterprise Center, and Independent Bank—Round Rock
Why Round Rock
The geographic centrality of Round Rock was, Peterman said, a big draw.
"It is the center of the corridor. It's well-placed," he said.
Peterman also cited the city's "neutrality" due to the absence of any biotech incubators in the city as well as the proximity to the medical and nursing schools in the higher education center.
Kowalski said the proximity of Texas State, Texas A&M University and Austin Community College campuses made Round Rock a strong location for the TBCA.
"Round Rock's a great spot," he said. "You've got a lot of vibrancy in the area."
Benefits for Round Rock
White said that the vibrancy of the medical industry along the University Boulevard corridor affords the city an opportunity to capitalize on the growth in the biosciences.
"There's a lot of opportunity for a company coming to and having a good area to test their product or have a very trained workforce all in one spot," White said.
Biosciences are big business in Texas. According to a 2011 industry report by the Texas Economic Development and Tourism division of the Office of the Governor, state and local governments take in about $2 billion every year from the industry's economic impact.
Those companies, the report said, employ more than 108,000 workers with an annual average salary of $74,800.
For those reasons, and others, biotechnology is one of Round Rock's target industries for economic development.
Currently, the city's largest employers in health care and life sciences are its three major hospitals—Seton Williamson Medical Center, St. David's Medical Center and Scott & White Hospital–Round Rock.
However, White said the city has been in search of more opportunities in the field.
"We have always been interested in having an incubator in Round Rock," he said, "and I think this helps streamline that effort."
In other words, he and others are hoping TBCA becomes something of a magnet for the
$75 billion industry.
"We're not going to create the jobs. The jobs are going to create around TBCA," Peterman said. "The big payoff comes when you start attracting larger companies.
"It's going to focus a lot of spotlights on Round Rock," he said.