For now, the spotlight is on the risk-taking startup, the big-time biotech firm, the pace-setting research institute. But ultimately, the success of Arizona’s biosciences sector will depend equally on assets like the new life-sciences facility at Paradise Valley Community College–and the voters who made it possible.
The new PVCC building, which opened with the college’s fall semester last month, was built with $17.4 million from a $1 billion bond that Maricopa County voters passed in 2004 to expand the county’s community-college system.
“We are ecstatic with the new building,” said William “Hank” Mancini, PVCC’s science division chair. “This will allow us to double the number of courses and sections we offer in life sciences.”
One of the bottlenecks that Arizona’s bioscience advocates have been working to mitigate is an inadequate supply of highly skilled technicians and research scientists to assume industry jobs. Startup companies and established bioscience firms interested in expanding to Arizona routinely emphasize the importance of strong science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education offerings to their companies’ future in the state.
The state’s community-college systems have responded, both in terms of course offerings and physical infrastructure. Along with PVCC’s new building, a $23 million biosciences facility has recently opened at Glendale Community College, and Scottsdale Community College has spent $23.8 million on a building-and-renovation project to upgrade its science offerings. All three projects were funded by the 2004 bond. On a related front, GateWay Community College is devoting $2 million in bond money to its planned $6 million bioscience business incubator.
The new facility at PVCC includes classrooms and offices, six biology labs, and two anatomy and physiology labs, one of which is equipped to serve as a cadaver lab–a standard feature for medical schools, but relatively rare among community colleges. (PVCC will become the third community college in the Maricopa system with a cadaver lab, joining GateWay Community College and Phoenix College.)
Bob Eaton, president and CEO of the Arizona BioIndustry Association, called attention to the industrial-grade laboratories in PVCC’s life-sciences building.
“The more like an industry setting these labs are, the better the work force will be prepared when they do find jobs in the various bioscience companies,” Eaton said in the Phoenix Business Journal. “Any time there’s new and modern laboratories coming on line, that’s a good thing for the industry.”
Saundra Johnson, executive vice president of the Flinn Foundation, said that in the long term, investing in bioscience education would pay off with a more robust and resilient economy.
“In response to the challenge of competing in a global, 21st-century economy, Arizona’s education community at all levels, business leadership, and civic/nonprofit sectors have stepped up to the plate to improve existing efforts and foster new initiatives,” she said in the Business Journal. “By strengthening the education pipeline—with time and continued focus and resources—you strengthen the concurrent work-force pipeline.”
For more information:
“Paradise Valley Community College debuts $17.4M life-sciences facility,” Phoenix Business Journal, 09/18/2009
“Life Sciences Building opens to acclaim,” PVCC news release, 08/19/2009
Building the Bioscience Pipeline: Analysis and Recommendations, Flinn Foundation/Battelle report, 09/2007