Life sciences expands career opportunities for SC graduates see more
COVID caused pain and heartache and death across the world and here in the Lowcountry, but it also revealed some bright spots. One of those is the life sciences industry, which was responsible for diagnosing COVID, providing responses, and ultimately developing effective vaccines.
Coincidentally, the life sciences industry in South Carolina is itself on a growth spurt that was accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry had doubled in the last four years, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Darla Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion before the most recent spike.
Life sciences produce next-generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines; advanced medical devices, diagnostics, and testing; digital health; bioscience distribution; bio-agriculture and biomaterials; and biological solutions for advanced manufacturing.
Life sciences also encompass two areas of focus for the Lowcountry Graduate Center – advanced manufacturing and healthcare management. While the connection with healthcare is obvious, many people don’t realize that life science research and advanced manufacturing work symbiotically. Many life science innovations, like medical devices, require advanced manufacturing to produce, while life science innovations can power the process of advanced manufacturing itself.
Career Opportunities in Life Sciences
That means jobs, and not just for M.D.s and Ph.D.’s, but for technical college graduates and university biology and chemistry majors as well. The average life sciences position pays $79,000, according to the official state affiliate of the U.S. Biotechnology Innovation Organization, also referred to as SCBIO, the nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the life sciences industry in S.C. Because workforce development is the primary challenge facing the industry, SCBIO is engaged in an initiative to promote the industry as a career path for students, guidance counselors, and parents at the K-12 level and in two- and four-year college.
Indeed, SCBIO is in the process of developing an industry-advocated life sciences curriculum for technical colleges that can prepare graduates for jobs in the field. Courses would cover manufacturing processes; safety and technical protocols like measurements and ISO standards; soft skills required for all workplaces; and the connections between the various life science components and the life-saving innovations they support.
“We want to get to students even sooner so we’re partnering with organizations that are already in schools to add more of the ‘S’ in STEM,” said Erin Ford, interim CEO at SCBIO. “If someone takes a course at Trident Tech, they can get a job paying $50,000 or more with health insurance while working on a product that helps people live better lives.”
The vector of life science development is different depending on the area of the state, with the Lowcountry showing strength in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing, says Ford.
Life Science Companies Need Space to Grow
Besides workforce development, the next big challenge constraining growth is space. Lab space at the new WestEdge development in downtown Charleston was fully subscribed when it opened and now developers are seeking new space. Clean labs are more complex and costly to retrofit and build than ordinary office or warehouse space.
Nonetheless, the firms keep coming – or starting – and the state has gotten behind the industry. As a critical step, it authorized and funded SCBIO as the state’s lead life sciences industry economic development organization.
Life science provides more than just more job growth: it provides diversification of an economy that 30 years ago relied heavily on a Navy base that packed up and left. Life sciences are more recession-resistant than automotive and aeronautics, two areas of manufacturing strength in the Lowcountry that respond to retail market demand. People never cease needing health innovations.
Recognizing that, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) and South Carolina Research Authority have backed the industry. CRDA was the first development authority in the state to build map out a strategic plan to attract and retain life science businesses.
Headwinds for Life Sciences in South Carolina
Sam Konduros of KOR Medical, a clinical cannabis firm launched by the Charleston-based diagnostic and testing company Vikor Scientific, says South Carolina and SCBIO have created a business climate conducive to the industry, and the health care and advanced manufacturing infrastructure have added tailwinds to its development. Citing Vikor’s growth from 45 employees to 450 during COVID, he says recruiting a talented workforce has not been a significant challenge so far. He notes the usual Charleston quality-of-life benefits – weather, beaches, history, and food, in addition to the growing vibrancy of the industry – as recruiting tools have contributed to the success.
Ford and Konduros see possible headwinds elsewhere for the industry. Roadways and other transportation infrastructure could use improvement, and housing availability and affordability are statewide issues. For example, the state’s franchise tax, now eliminated by 36 states, penalizes early-stage companies successfully raising venture capital before going to market. In an industry that often spends millions to earn FDA approval prior to commercialization, the tax is a burden, they say.
Charleston, Vikor Scientific featured in national media see more
Empty hotel rooms, half-full offices, and shuttered retail. The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the most established commercial real estate asset classes, creating short-term financial crunches and raising long-term secular concerns as remote work is tested and e-commerce rates rise.
Other asset classes, once alternatives, have become institutional investing gold standard. Logistics assets such as warehouses are providing a punch to the portfolio of the world’s largest landlord, Blackstone.
As industrial real estate investing becomes more crowded, and many of the other large asset classes slump, attention is turning to life sciences real estate — or space that’s used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies for research, development, and even manufacturing of new diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines.
The life science industry had been growing rapidly before the pandemic, attracting $17.4 billion in venture capital funding in 2019, up 370% from $3.7 billion in 2008, according to a Cushman & Wakefield report. Funding has continued to pour into the sector, even as coronavirus has slowed down venture funding overall, creating demand for more lab space.
Many major life science firms have made the move to the Charleston region, and more are on the way see more
Compliments of Industry Today
December 19, 2019
Charleston leads the nation for job growth in scientific R&D firms. In the past two decades, major life science firms have made the move to the Charleston region. Charleston is home to 75+ medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, research laboratories and service companies. Life science executives across the globe are discovering that the Charleston region offers what many other larger, oversaturated markets cannot: a lifestyle that attracts and retains top talent, easy connections to life science and healthcare executives, and business-friendly regional and state support.
Read the full article HERE.
South Carolina Named Top 3 in Best States for Business see more
South Carolina has another opportunity to promote its economic development prowess thanks to a magazine’s business climate rankings.
The Palmetto State tied for third with North Carolina in Chief Executive’s 2018 “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas was No. 1, followed by Florida. Indiana was fifth.
“A high ranking like this is a great tool that drives industrial prospects to consider South Carolina and our region for new investment and jobs,” says Will Williams, president and chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership, which serves Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties.
It was a slight improvement for the Palmetto State, which finished fourth in 2017. Economic development officials say there’s value in “best” lists.
“We certainly use these types of rankings in our marketing to differentiate ourselves from other states and regions,” says John Lummus, president and chief executive of the Upstate SC Alliance, which serves a 10-county region. “I feel that these rankings are important not only because they shine a light on the positive, but also often show where improvements may need to be considered.”
This latest ranking, which is based on a survey of CEOs, is in its 14th year. Publications devoted to business and/or economic development produce various types of state-by-state rankings throughout the year.
“The Palmetto State consistently scores near the top due to a number of factors, such as low unionization rates, strong cooperation between government and business, low-cost utilities, established transportation and infrastructure, competitive wage rates, and availability of a talented workforce,” Lummus says.
South Carolina ranked 10th overall in the Chief Executive rankings in 2015, fifth in 2014 and eighth in 2013.
“This doesn’t just happen by accident,” says David Ginn, president and chief executive of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. “The S.C. Department of Commerce is one of the best-performing economic development teams in the country.”
Texas, Florida and North Carolina have been one-two-three for each of the past four years. Texas has been No. 1 all 14 years of the ranking’s existence.
“The difference between the top five states is negligible, roughly within the statistical margin of error,” says John O’Toole, executive director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Corp.
Meanwhile, California anchored the bottom of the list at No. 50 for the seventh consecutive year. The seven lowest-ranked states were all the same as in 2017.
The magazine speculated that the reputations, leadership and governing philosophies in the top and bottom states don’t change much, while states in the middle of the rankings move up and down in response to those factors.
“Our legislature has provided us tools to be competitive and our state and local permitting agencies understand the importance of keeping it simple,” Williams says. “Our collective economic development team has an enviable global reputation for delivering projects, both big and small, on time. And our focus on existing industry success demonstrates we take good care of you once you get here.”
This year, the magazine noted that South Carolina was a right-to-work state and cited the South Carolina Innovation Plan, an initiative to support the advanced manufacturing, life sciences, biotech and computer software sectors.
“In our targeted industries – aerospace, agribusiness, automotive, manufacturing and technology industries – we can compete with any state or nation,” O’Toole says.
There were three subcategories used in the ranking: taxation/regulation, workforce quality and living environment. South Carolina ranked 10th, 14th and seventh in those three categories, respectively.
Living environment is a selling point for O’Toole.
“To punctuate our value proposition, at the end of the day you can be in Hilton Head, Beaufort, Bluffton or Port Royal,” he says. “What could be finer?”
The Charleston area also makes many “best” lists related to quality of life and tourism.
“National rankings make great headlines so we use them to grab attention and reinforce our strengths as a globally attractive location for business and talent,” Ginn says.
MED-ALLY is growing! The organization is locating new operations in South Carolina... see more
COLUMBIA, S.C. – MED-ALLY, a privately-held medical device manufacturer, is locating new operations in Berkeley County. The $2.38 million investment is expected to create 90 new jobs.
MED-ALLY is an innovative design, development and manufacturing company specializing in active implantable medical systems. The company has designed and developed VersaStim® neuromodulation platform technology, which treats patients with movement disorders, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain and traumatic brain injuries. The VersaStim® technology platform is available in external and implantable systems for clinicians to maximize therapy effectiveness and improve patient outcomes.
The company’s state-of-the-art, 10,000-square-foot manufacturing operation will be located in the Charleston International Manufacturing Center at 2040 Bushy Park Road in Goose Creek, S.C. An ISO Class 6 Clean Room, critical for the fabrication of implantable devices, will take up approximately half of the operating space. Expected to be fully operational in March 2018, MED-ALLY is already hiring for its new technical positions. Those interested in joining the team should visit www.med-ally.com(link is external).
The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to this project.
“We are indeed fortunate for the opportunity to join the many successful and class-leading companies that call the Lowcountry and Charleston home, and can only aspire to one day approach a close enough level of similar lofty accomplishments! Through the professional South Carolina organizations and wonderful associates at every level at the CRDA, SCRA, SCBIO, S.C. Commerce and others, more akin to treasured business partners over all else, we believe that we are surrounding ourselves with an enabling, empowering and conducive team like no other. We look forward to growing and prospering in Berkeley County amidst its wonderful constituency and leadership team.” –MED-ALLY, LLC CEO and Co-Founder Raja Edward Hitti
“We are excited to join the growing South Carolina medical device community and deliver innovative bioelectronic products that positively impact the global Healthcare market. The MED-ALLY team is looking forward to working with distinguished clinicians, university medical teams, industry partners and university students dedicated to providing disruptive medical device solutions to treat debilitated patients worldwide.” –MED-ALLY, LLC President and Co-Founder John Mulvihill
“It’s always exciting when a company decides to locate new operations in South Carolina, and we’re pleased to welcome such an innovative firm that’s focused on cutting-edge advanced manufacturing. I congratulate them on this new investment and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them here.” –Gov. Henry McMaster
“The life sciences industry is one that presents significant growth opportunities for South Carolina, and today’s announcement by MED-ALLY is proof of that. I congratulate this innovative company and wish them much success in the Lowcountry.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt
“MED-ALLY’s announcement of its medical device manufacturing project in the Lowcountry is extremely exciting for Berkeley County; we are honored to welcome MED-ALLY, their investment and the 90 technical jobs they offer. MED-ALLY’s announcement is also further proof that Berkeley County is open for business, and Berkeley County means business. Through meetings with the company’s team, I am confident MED-ALLY will thrive in Berkeley County and also be incredible partners in job creation opportunities for many years to come.” –Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler
“We’ve been talking with MED-ALLY for some time about the competitive advantages the Charleston region offers, and we’re thrilled our community successfully competed against much larger U.S. metros to attract this implantable medical device manufacturer to locate its headquarters, R&D and manufacturing facility in Berkeley County. We are proud to welcome MED-ALLY to Charleston’s growing life sciences cluster. They will be a tremendous asset for many years to come.” –Charleston Regional Development Alliance Chairman Will Helmly
FIVE FAST FACTS
- MED-ALLY is locating new manufacturing operations in Berkeley County.
- $2.38 million investment to create 90 new jobs.
- MED-ALLY is a personalized health solutions company dedicated to manufacturing medical devices.
- Located at 2040 Bushy Park Road in Goose Creek, S.C., the company’s new facility is projected to be operational in March 2018.
- Those interested in joining the MED-ALLY team should visit www.med-ally.com(link is external).