Groundbreaking is expected for the first Columbia company to build at MU’s new Discovery Ridge research park this summer. Analytical Biochemistry Laboratories Inc. has partnered with MU for economic and technological development to produce marketable technology.
The partnership was celebrated Friday at a gathering at Discovery Ridge. Gov. Matt Blunt, Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent and UM System President Elson Floyd spoke before a small crowd.
“The fact that a life sciences company is partnering with the university comes as no surprise,” Floyd said, calling the initiative a sign of a prosperous future for the university, the city and the state.
The hope is that the partnership between the university and the private sector will generate jobs and money.
“This is a symbol of how the university can partner with the private sector to produce dividends for the community,” Blunt said.
ABC Labs, a research and development firm for pharmaceutical, agricultural, animal health and chemical companies, plans to move its regional headquarters to 11 acres at Discovery Ridge, university-owned land open to lease to life science companies. ABC will pay $500,000 for a 99-year lease.
ABC has been investigating the long-term needs of the company since 2004, said John Bucksath, senior vice president of operations. The firm concluded that rather than improve its present facilities — 19 separate buildings — it would be more economical to build new headquarters with laboratories housed in a single building. The company plans to break ground some time this summer.
“We’d really like to be in the building ... by the end of third quarter 2007,” Bucksath said, adding that early 2008 is more realistic.
The Boone County government approved the Chapter 100 application to life science companies last October. This is a property tax break given to companies wishing to expand and invest at least $15 million. ABC is one such company. Another stipulation is that the company increase its employment numbers.
“Our long-range plan has us somewhere in the north of 500 employees,” Bucksath said.
Presently, ABC Labs employs 253 people.
ABC will increase its internship program with MU, Bucksath said, giving life science students an opportunity to apply their studies in the real world. This will create a pool of educated people from which ABC can hire employees.
ABC was founded in 1968 by an MU professor and graduate students.
“It represents a homecoming — back home to MU — to locate our discovery group right here,” said Byron Hill, CEO of ABC Labs.
ABC Labs was offered less expensive development locations, Bucksath said, and the decision to stay in Columbia is as much a matter of loyalty as it is economics.
“Columbia is our home,” Bucksath said. “We are committed to Columbia.”
In the coming years, Bond said he believes the partnership will yield advances in technology that can be applied in the real world.
“Missouri is the perfect place for science to make the leap from the university and the laboratory to Main Street,” Bond said. “The growth potential for life science is greater than any other.”