County incubator aids biotech company’s growth from 20 jobs to 120 in 3 years
PIMA COUNTY– Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent the Board of Supervisors a memorandum Jan. 21 highlighting the success of the county’s biotech incubator at Abrams Public Health Center, which has helped Accelerate Diagnostics grow from 20 employees to 120 in three years.
After a small amount of criticism of the World View incentive package approved by the board Jan. 19, Mr. Huckelberry wanted to remind the board how county economic incentives and public-private partnerships such as the Abrams incubator can help grow and diversify the local economy, and do it sooner rather than later.
In 2012, the company, then known as Acceler8, was a small biotech startup in Denver seeking to expand its research and development of testing and diagnostic solutions to drug resistant organisms and hospital-acquired infections that included lease options of a portion of the fourth floor of the Abrams Center, which was built with 2004 bond funds.
The county contributed $2 million in incentives via below market lease rates and improvements to Abrams, including wet labs Accelerate needed for its research and development. The original term of the lease was three years and the company guaranteed it would employ at least 30 employees with average salaries of $70,000 over the course of the initial three-year lease. Accelerate reached that milestone in its first 30 days at Abrams. It now has more than 120 employees who average $79,000 in annual salary.
Accelerate has since expanded three times and now occupies the entire fourth floor of Abrams and is renovating another county building nearby and is still looking for more room to grow. The company is now paying market lease rates and by October, the county will have recouped its $2 million investment.
After renegotiating Accelerate’s lease for the third time in three years in July 2015, company CEO Lawrence Mehren said, “We couldn’t be more pleased with our move to Pima County. County administration and supervisors have been very supportive and the business community welcoming. This, combined with a strong pool of talent and a world-class facility, made the decision to expand our operations here straightforward.”
Mr. Huckelberry in his memo told the board, “It is very important we continue to support this successful startup firm as it grows and ultimately expands to a new, larger and permanent facility in Pima County.”
Expanding the county’s role in business retention and recruitment, seeking to create more business incubators, recruiting high wage, technology, biotechnology, aerospace and export-based businesses are all strategic goals of the county’s Economic Development Plan, first published in 2o12 and updated last year.
Read the Administrator’s memo, which has more details about the financial relationship with Accelerate.