Incentives could spur life-science industry growth

The county is expected to approve the tax plan Thursday.
Wednesday, October 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:37 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Boone County Commission is expected to give final approval on Thursday to an economic-incentive plan that could encourage growth in the life-sciences industry.

The plan, under Chapter 100 of the Missouri Statutes, offers property-tax incentives to businesses looking to expand and has been brought before the commission in the past. New motivation to approve the incentive was driven by a presentation made by Columbia-based Analytical Bio-Chemistry Laboratories in early September.

“We’re looking to double our employees and expand our facilities,” said Bryon E. Hill, president and CEO of ABC Labs.

Hill said that the expansion — scheduled for completion within the next five years — would cost $15 million and that his company is looking for the most efficient way to manage those costs.

Some are concerned that, without the approval of the incentives, ABC’s drive for efficiency might lead them elsewhere.

“I think that if ABC Labs moved, it would be a horrible loss to our community,” said Don Stamper, a spokesman for the Central Missouri Development Corp. “With this (plan), they will have an opportunity to grow more, and we have the ability to offer some kind of incentive.”

Although ABC Labs hopes to remain in Boone County, recruiters from other counties within and outside Missouri have offered incentives for the company to relocate.

“There’s this perception that we were threatening to move; really, we’re just looking for our most efficient option,” Hill said. “We just presented our situation to the county board, and the commissioners indicated that they understood our situation.”

“I think that the ABC Labs situation has probably been the catalyst in getting this passed, but it is not catered to the company at all,” said David Griggs, co-chairman of the Regional Economic Development Inc. Incentives Subcommittee.

The county commission is expected to approve the measure, which would provide added incentives to life-science companies entering Boone County.

“This community has said over and over that it wants to embrace life sciences to diversify the community,” said Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller. “The federal and state (governments) have invested, and this can be our contribution to the life-sciences recruitment effort.”

Stamper said that the growth of life sciences in the community also reflects the mission of MU, calling the plan a “great marriage.”

ABC Labs, located just east of Columbia, conducts research and development in the fields of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, animal health and chemistry. The company employs more than 200 people, many of whom are graduates and affiliates of MU, Hill said.

When the plan was discussed last April, there was concern about what the potential loss in county revenue would mean. However, only revenue collected from facilities that haven’t been constructed would be affected.

Lynn Barnett, an assistant superintendent for Columbia Public Schools, said that while ABC Labs does fall within the jurisdiction of the system, she didn’t know what effect the incentives would have. Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd, who has been following the plan, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Columbia Missourian reporter Lindsay Jackson contributed to this story.

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