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bioscience - economic outlook - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Strength Of Bioscience Helps Brighten Arizona’s Employment Outlook

Bioscience brings strength to Arizona’s employment opportunities.

Arizona’s economic doldrums are finally starting to appear in the rearview mirror.

“Here in Arizona, the state ranked No. 12 in job creation (in 2011),” says Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “That’s a vast improvement from last year at this time, when it ranked No. 40.”

Twenty percent of the Phoenix-area companies interviewed for a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey plan to hire more employees during the second quarter of 2012, while just three percent expect to reduce staff.

Leading the charge in Arizona job growth is technology, healthcare and bioscience, Ernst says. “We’ve also seen manufacturing pick-up substantially in the last month with roles in accounting and finance,” he added.

According to Manpower spokesperson Frank Amendariz, other job prospects for the next quarter appear best in construction, transportation, utilities, wholesale and retail trade, information, financial activities, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.

“Employers expect stronger employment prospects compared with one year ago,” Amendariz says optimistically.

“There’s a lot more optimism among hiring managers than in years past,” says Andy Ernst, regional vice president of Robert Half International, a specialized staffing services company. “Businesses are looking to hire. As the economy continues to regain its foothold, we anticipate an uptick in hiring as more companies look at ways to market themselves to attract new candidates and retain key members of their team. We anticipate the next 3-4 years being very good on the job front here in Phoenix.”

But no sector has shown the strength or potential that bioscience has shown. During the post-recessionary period of 2009-10, bioscience jobs in Arizona increased by 7.4 percent, compared with a 1.8 percent decline for the state’s overall private sector, according to a new performance analysis of Arizona’s bioscience sector, commissioned by the Flinn Foundation.

The annual study by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice found that since 2002 Arizona has outpaced the nation in generating bioscience jobs and firms, and in winning National Institutes of Health grants, the gold standard for biomedical research funding. Even venture-capital funding, long a challenge for Arizona’s bioscience sector, was on an upswing in the past year.

“Through the most trying economic circumstances of our lifetimes, bio in Arizona more than held its own,” says Walter Plosila, senior advisor to the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. “The bioscience sector is past the ‘promising’ stage. It is now becoming integral to Arizona’s future.”

Since Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was launched in 2002, bioscience jobs in the state have grown 41 percent to a total of 96,223, versus 11 percent growth for the nation as a whole. Those jobs pay an average annual wages of $55,353, 29 percent higher than the overall average for private-sector wages in Arizona.

With those jobs comes the demand for a better educated workforce.

“In the Phoenix market, there is high demand for experienced professionals with four-year degrees or more who have 2-3 years experience working in their field,” Ernst says. “The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers 25 and older is 4.2 percent and even lower from some specialties such as IT, accounting and finance.”

While the investment in education is paying off for Arizona’s workers, the investment of time and energy in developing a cohesive plan to further the state’s bioscience industry is paying dividends for the state’s workforce and its economy.

Martin Shultz, chair of the statewide steering committee that oversees the Bioscience Roadmap, applauded the commitment of Arizona leaders. “Over the past decade, officials ranging from school principals to mayors to three governors have made long-term investments in our state’s future by supporting the biosciences,” Shultz says. “The excellent return on those investments is undeniable.”

For more information on the Bioscience Roadmap, visit the Flinn Foundation’s website at flinn.org.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2012