Did the $525,000,000 Massachusetts Poured Into Biotech Generate 571 or 17,994 Jobs?

Yes? No? Maybe? The state of Massachusetts has spent $525 million encouraging the development of the state’s biotech industry, just over half of the $1 billion budgeted for this purpose. This public investment is being applied to grants, tax breaks and business loans for companies planning on moving to Massachusetts or expanding their operations in the state, and is intended to encourage a healthier state economy. But, just how many jobs are really being created by this taxpayer investment?

One academic study by Pioneer Institute claims that Massachusetts’ $525 million directly created only 571 new jobs in life science industries. This figure applies to a period starting in 2009 and ending in 2013. In contrast, consider a study from Northeastern University that claims that between 2006 and 2012, life sciences and related industries added 17,944 jobs in the state. While Northeastern’s period of study doesn’t exactly match Pioneer Institute’s, the astounding variance of the results illustrate that questions remain about public investment Massachusetts biotech industry.

Questions need to be answered. Should the government of Massachusetts take tax dollars collected from businesses and individuals and give them to other businesses? Should government be picking industry winners and consequently with businesses that pay taxes but don’t receive tax breaks and cash investment by government losers? If government should take money from some businesses and give it to other businesses, should the alleged investment be made from politicians who are being lobbied by special interests or independent professionals?

Creating new jobs isn’t the only way public incentives can aid select businesses and potentially the economy of Massachusetts. Specifically for a more complete picture of how biotech incentives are working, other questions should be answered. For example, one could ask how much private capital biotech firms have attracted and what kinds of returns backers have seen on their investments.

It is also useful to ask how much extra tax revenues the state may see from capital gains. Until questions like these are answered, it will remain impossible to know just how much Massachusetts has received for its $525 million biotech investment.

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