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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Editorial: Tampa’s growing medical hub brings many benefits

The opening of Quest Diagnostics’ national operations center is another big step in Tampa’s efforts to build a reputation as a place for medical companies to put down roots and contribute to the Tampa Bay area.

As the Tribune’s Yvette C. Hammett reports, the New Jersey-based Quest is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic services and chose to locate its national operations center north of Tampa near the University of South Florida.

Quest plans to create 350 jobs, some paying annual salaries of more than $48,000. In return, the company will receive about $135,000 in tax incentives from the city and the county and as much as $540,000 through the state’s Qualified Target Industry program, which is used to lure companies. The incentives are spread over years and contingent on delivering the promised jobs.

Quest follows drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb’s decision to locate a major business center in a building near Tampa International Airport, where nearly 600 workers may be employed by the year 2017. The company offers jobs that it says will pay $65,000 on average.

In return, Hillsborough County approved about $2 million in tax incentives, and the state may contribute $4.8 million, contingent on the promised jobs.

The two companies are part of a concerted effort by economic development leaders in Tampa to create a hub for the life sciences industry, which typically creates white-collar jobs that pay well.

Health care products provider Covidien decided last year to bring a medical device manufacturing facility to the county that is expected to create 165 jobs, and Healthplan Services, a services provider to the insurance industry, says it will create 1,000 jobs through an expansion of its Tampa operations.

According to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., over 600 life sciences companies operate in the area and employ more than 13,000 workers. Adding Quest can only help to attract more.

“We have a very strong life sciences cluster developing here,” says Rick Homans, the EDC’s president and CEO.

The area has long been home to companies that manufacture medical devices. Add the emergence of the University of South Florida as a leading health institution, a favorable business climate and the Florida weather, and it becomes apparent why this area is an attractive destination for medical companies looking to relocate or expand operations.

The jobs they bring are helping to diversify an economy that for too long was dominated by jobs related to the hospitality industry, or by service jobs and back-room operations that offer little more than minimum wage.

An influx of global companies and better-paying jobs can benefit our communities in many ways — a more robust arts and entertainment scene, more corporate giving and perhaps a change in the public’s attitude about funding mass transit and other infrastructure that improves our quality of life.

That’s the added value to these jobs, and why the migration of Quest and the other companies represents a welcome boost to our overall economy.

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