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Updated 10:00 AM June 8, 2009

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Michigan national leader in life sciences despite recession

As Michigan lost a quarter of its manufacturing jobs, its University Research Corridor partners helped the state become a national life sciences leader, boosting the number of jobs in that sector 10.7 percent as average wages jumped 29 percent, according to a new analysis released recently at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

More than 79,062 Michigan residents now work in the state's life sciences industry, the report found, with the average worker's salary climbing from $64,602 in 1999 to $83,494 in 2006.

Michigan lost 2,400 jobs when Pfizer Inc. cut its operations worldwide in 2007. From January 2006 through March 2009, state labor officials estimate, the overall Michigan manufacturing employment fell by another 26 percent.

"Despite these losses, however, Michigan's life sciences industry has shown signs of substantial growth and promise for continued expansion in the future," the report states.

The report found positive developments in the following areas:

• From 1999-2006 the average life sciences salary grew 29 percent to $83,494.

• Among seven leading innovation clusters nationwide, the URC was topped by just two (North Carolina's Research Triangle and three Silicon Valley research universities) for the percentage of research spending devoted to life sciences.

• The life sciences industry now accounts for 2.1 percent of the jobs in Michigan and 4.4 percent of total Michigan payrolls, both a greater percentage in Michigan than the United States as a whole.

• About 75 percent of life sciences jobs are in biological. Another 18 percent are medical and 7 percent are in an agricultural-related field.

"At U-M, we are weeks away from taking ownership of the former Pfizer R&D property," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "MSU is reviving the former Pfizer laboratory in Holland, and Wayne State is investing in the state's first stem cell commercialization lab. It is an exciting, and critical, time for establishing a leadership role in what is a potentially limitless sector of our economy."

Mason named first executive director of URC

Jeff Mason, senior vice president and chief business development officer for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., will become the first executive director of Michigan's University Research Corridor effective July 6.

Mason currently leads the MEDC's business development efforts focusing on national and international business attraction, as well as Michigan business expansion and job retention.

In 2008 Mason and the MEDC team assisted more than 205 companies such as Hemlock Semiconductor, IBM, and United Solar Ovonic to make more than $60 billion in private investment, thereby creating or retaining more than 100,000 jobs.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman says hiring Mason marks an important step forward for the URC.

"Our three universities are working to really collaborate on a deeper level than we ever have in the past, and Jeff's presence will enhance our drive to advance technology, innovation and creativity in our state," Coleman says.

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