Economy: High Marks For Life Sciences


In good as well as tough economic times, the companies that make up Georgia’s life sciences industry are dependable sources of high-quality jobs. From 2007 to 2009, the number of workers employed in core life sciences industries increased by 1.3 percent, or 198 jobs.

Small as that may sound, a 1.3 percent gain is remarkable, considering that total statewide employment for all industries dropped by 6.9 percent. Surgical instruments manufacturing, medical laboratories, and blood and organ banks account for much of the job growth. Meanwhile, the number of life sciences establishments rose by 14.1 percent, and average annual pay rose by 3 percent.

Georgia’s life sciences industry pays very well. The average annual salary was $64,509 in 2009; every life sciences subsector pays better than the statewide average of $42,902 for all industries. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing was the highest paying subsector at $93,397 per year.

Life sciences firms generate substantial economic impacts for the people who live, work and do business in Georgia. In 2009, these included 17,926 jobs in life sciences companies; 75,077 jobs in all industries (including life sciences); $19.5 billion in output (sales); $7.5 billion in state GDP; $4.4 billion in labor income (earnings); and $496 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

Life sciences research at the state’s colleges and universities generated 16,393 jobs (on- and off-campus); $1.8 billion in sales; $1.0 billion in state GDP; $754 million in income; and $68 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention’s (CDC) Atlanta-based staff accounts for 7,551 jobs at the CDC; 13,950 total jobs; $1.7 billion in output (sales); $1.4 billion in state GDP; $1.0 billion in income; and $63 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

Combining the impact of life sciences companies, academic research and development and the CDC yields more comprehensive estimates of the economic impact of life sciences in 2009: 35,043 direct jobs; 105,420 total jobs; $22.9 billion in sales; $9.9 billion in state GDP; $6.2 billion in income; and $627 million in tax revenues.

On average, for every direct job created by life sciences, an additional two are created in other industries. One job out of every 40 in Georgia owes its existence to the life sciences industry.

In a 2009 study, the Selig Center for Economic Growth identified 321 life sciences companies in Georgia. Data for 67 of the companies were obtained from completed surveys, and data for 129 were obtained from publicly available sources. Thus, the analysis covered 196 companies.

Geographically, these firms tend to form clusters. Atlanta, Athens and Augusta are the primary hubs in Georgia. Many companies locate near academic research institutions, which often results in the use of university facilities, contract research and licensing/patents.

Life sciences companies have raised $1.1 billion since their inception, a conservative figure that reflects only responses by companies that answered this question on the survey. The largest sum was raised by life sciences R&D companies (including biotechnology).

Companies active in this subsector raised $911 million; manufacturing firms raised $144.5 million. Founders, family and friends were the main source of funding.

Quality of life, cost of living and labor force issues are among the most important factors impacting operations of Georgia’s life sciences companies. Infrastructure, access to capital and the availability of service providers were also deemed crucial. 

Cost of living, quality of life and availability of skilled researchers are strengths for Georgia, but the availability of skilled managers and technicians is somewhat problematic, as is infrastructure. Access to capital is a weakness.

Traffic, transportation and high energy costs were singled out as pressing infrastructure concerns by more than 40 percent of respondents. Availability and cost of water and access to the airport were a concern to nearly 20 percent.

Respondents gave the state a higher rating as a location of company headquarters – 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 – than for R&D operations, 3.3, or manufacturing, 2.7.

Categories: Economy