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Big-dollar cheers to an unseen blessing

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  • | 7:23 a.m. February 15, 2013
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Jackson Laboratory is back.

Well, not exactly. But the medical research center, the subject of fawning economic development efforts to woo the entity to town, first in Collier County and later in Sarasota County, is back in the news.

This time Jackson Lab, in an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal, is used to prove why state incentive programs for business usually fail. The column, written by onetime Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, cited Jackson Lab first in the failure section.

“Most incentive programs aren't so effective,” write the authors, after citing one example, in Kentucky, of a program that worked. “In 2011, Connecticut agreed to pay The Jackson Laboratory, a genetics research institute, $300 million in exchange for a promise to bring 300 new jobs to Connecticut. That cost a whopping $1 million per job.”

The efforts to lure Jackson Lab to Naples and Sarasota hit a fever pitch in 2010 and 2011. At one point deals that included anywhere from $100 million to $200 million in state and local money were under discussion for the Bar Harbor, Maine-based nonprofit organization. Collier County balked first, followed by Sarasota.

While several prominent officials in the economic development community lamented the “loss” at the time, Coffee Talk saluted the prudence. Now it's Connecticut's victory, err, problem.


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