Report: MN Improves Biobusiness Standing in U.S.

According to a recently released study, Minnesota has improved its position in the biobusiness industry by creating jobs and continuing to grow its strongest sector-medical devices.

The state of Minnesota increased its competitive position in the biobusiness industry from 2002 to 2007 by increasing the sector's workforce by 20 percent and continuing to grow its medical device sector, according to a report commissioned by The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota.

The report, called “Minnesota's Competitive Position in the Biobusiness Technology Industries,” is a follow-up to a 2006 study done by Dr. Kelvin Willoughby. Willoughby, who also completed the 2011 study, has conducted a variety of studies focused on biotechnology and other life-science related industries.

The two studies had similar goals-to assess biobusiness technology in the state and provide recommendations to help guide the state to be more competitive.

The 2011 study looked at the five-year period, 2002 to 2007, between the two most recent U.S. Censuses. The most important conclusion of the study was that employment within the state's biobusiness technology industry outpaced the growth of the nation as a while.

In 2007, biobusiness technology employment, as a proportion of employment in all industries, was 43 percent greater in Minnesota than in the United States. The state's biobusiness technology industry had 34,500 jobs in 2007, a 20 percent increase from 2002.

According to the study, the increase means that Minnesota's future employment prospects are more dependent than most other states on what happens to its biobusiness sector. In addition, while national numbers in the industry have fluctuated over time, Minnesota remained consistently above the national norm throughout the previous decade.

Another important finding of the study was the continued growth of the state's largest biobusiness segment, medical devices. The study indicated that the percentage of biobusiness technology employment accounted for by the medical devices segment (77 percent) is more than twice as large in Minnesota than it is in the nation as a whole.

While the nation lost 11,000 medical device jobs from 2002 to 2007, Minnesota's medical device sector grew by more than 4,500 jobs, ranking Minnesota behind California for medical device employment.

The study stated that Minnesota is a relatively minor player in the nation's pharmaceutical industry, but its presence is growing. Minnesota increased employment in the industry by 76 percent to 3,398 jobs from 2002 to 2007.

According to the study, the agri-bio and bio-industrial industries also grew during that five-year period-employment increased 44 percent. Despite the increase, the study suggested that Minnesota will need to devote more resources to this industry to be competitive with many other states that saw greater percentages of growth.

The nation as a whole saw a drop in employment in the research and development area-posting a 19 percent decrease from 2002 to 2007. Minnesota managed a bit better, only posting an 8 percent decrease in employment in this segment.

Overall, the study concluded that Minnesota has managed to achieve a substantial turnaround in the status and competitiveness of its biobusiness technology economy since the 2006 report.

To further growth and competitiveness, the study suggests that the state leverage its strength in the medical device sector and apply it to other segments.

“As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it appears to be imperative for Minnesota to enhance its capacity to leverage the strength of the medical devices segment of the biobusiness economy for the other segments,” the report said.

In a release-Dale Wahlstrom, president and CEO of The Biobusiness Alliance of Minnesota and LifeScience Alley-issued a word of caution about the results of the study: Since the most recent year analyzed was 2007, “we do not have good insights into the impact the recent changes to the business environment have had on our companies,” he said.

The Biobusiness Alliance of Minnesota said it would like to continue to assess the status of the state's position in the industry and will likely release another study in 2015 using the U.S. Census data from 2007 to 2012.