A little more than 10 years ago, New Jersey was hardly what one would call a thriving market for biotech companies. Boasting a mere 80 companies with the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey (BCNJ, Trenton, New Jersey) just getting its footing, the outpour of potential biotech companies setting up shop in the Garden State was minimal at best.

Fast forwarding from 1998 to the present, the state’s outlook appears quite a bit different. With close to 14 years under its belt, BCNJ has helped usher in nearly 235 companies to the state and is transforming what once was home to a handful of biotech businesses into a booming hotbed.

“New Jersey is the best place to grow a biotech company,” Debbie Hart, president of (BCNJ) told Medical Device Daily. “The number of businesses coming has been dramatic. We’re literally getting calls every month from [interested companies looking to set up shop here]. We’ve had companies from Israel and China come here.”

A report New Jersey Biotechnology … A Robust State of Health by BCNJ and Deloitte & Touche USA (New York) states that the number of employees of bio tech companies increased from 7,800 to 10,000 between 2003 and 2006. The multiplier effect from this robust growth has also led to the creation of 9,300 jobs supporting the industry and another 7,600 jobs attributed to higher worker spending.

The total impact of the state’s biotechnology industry is estimated to be in excess of $1.7 billion in income to state residents.

“As this study clearly demonstrates, New Jersey’s biotechnology industry is delivering impressive economic dividends to the state,” said Michael Becker, president/CEO of Cytogen (Princeton, New Jersey) and BCNJ chairman. “Thanks in part to great support from state government, New Jersey is fertile ground for biotechnology. Because of this, biotechnology companies are choosing to move here, new companies continue to emerge here, and established members of New Jersey’s biotechnology sector are thriving.”

The reason behind the biotechnology sector’s growth doesn’t stem from just one factor BCNJ officials say. The growth is coming from a variety of venues: from outright start-ups, from spin-offs created by New Jersey-based biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, from companies relocating from other states and countries, as well as from spin-offs coming from New Jersey and other universities inside the state.

“We also have a supportive state government that facilitates atmosphere for these companies to settle in,” Hart told MDD.

The state’s major proximity to New York and several major universities are also a reason that the Garden State seems to be corralling these companies as of late.

However the reasons for the migration to New Jersey don’t include dissatisfaction with other states.

“It’s not that they’re displeased with the states they’re doing business in,” Hart said. “In most cases it’s just that they want to be in New Jersey and see what we have to offer.”

But the migration is a double edged sword for BCNJ, which was formed by industry executives in 1993 as a vehicle to promote bio tech companies in the state. The battle is only half over when a business comes.

“It’s recruitment and retention,” Hart said. “There are other states that would be more than happy to have these businesses in their area.”

BCNJ formulates and advocates policy positions to elected officials and regulators.

Another way of drawing New Jersey biotech businesses to the area is the PharmCountry Hotbed campaign. The initiative developed by Bio Space (Manasquan, New Jersey) includes a map that displays campaign member’s businesses to an international market. Companies from New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut are also featured on the campaign.

The effort includes bioscience and medical device companies engaged in research and development service and supply providers to the community, and also research institutes, non-profit organizations and universities. Detailed online profiles of the participating organizations include contact information, career opportunities, financial updates and history, and can be found through the Pharm Country Homepage.

“The continuing emergence of New Jersey as a vital biotechnology cluster is confirmed by the more than 235 companies that have chosen to locate in New Jersey,” Hart said. “The messages and outreach generated by the 6th edition of the Pharm Country Hotbed will play an important role for BCNJ, reinforcing the news that ‘good things’ continue to happen in New Jersey. This is a very attractive campaign that goes beyond showcasing us on a map.”

New Jersey is just one of several states trying to corner the bio med and medical device industry. In Michigan, the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium (Grand Rapids, Michigan), comprised of seven manufacturers of medical devices formed to collaborate rather than compete for contracts (MDD, July 3, 2007).

“New Jersey is a hot bed for these businesses,” Hart concluded. “And it has the potential to sustain continued growth.”