Biotech, Devices, Pharmaceuticals Are Shaping a New Bloomington IN

A diverse economy, anchored by a Big Ten campus and a military plant nearby, gives Bloomington an especially strong profile

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On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 14:05
Bloomington IN

A diverse economy, anchored by a Big Ten campus and a military plant nearby, gives Bloomington an especially strong profile. Unemployment runs considerably below Indiana’s average. Even though the region has lost manufacturing jobs, companies such as health food distributor Tree of Life, automotive parts maker Tasus Corp., greeting card manufacturer Hallmark/Inter-At and a local General Electric plant are going strong.

Health care, tourism and social services are big sectors. But the new stars are life sciences, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Cook Pharmacia opened a new $70 million drug manufacturing facility in a former television assembly plant. Baxter Healthcare Inc. spent $10 million expanding its existing plant. In 2007, the president of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce said local life sciences companies predicted 1,500 new jobs over the next five years. Other major players include BioConvergence and Boston Scientific.

The economic impact is substantial. The Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership reports that Indiana job growth in this sector has been twice the national rate. The average employee in the state’s robust pharmaceutical industry – the state has the second-highest concentration of biopharmaceutical jobs in the country – makes $79,000. Counterparts in medical devices earn about $58,000. The average Indiana worker makes $33,000. The Life Sciences Partnership is a program of the Bloomington Economic Development Corp. with key leadership from people in government, industry, Indiana University and Bloomington Hospital. inVenture is part of the mix. It’s a business incubator and certified technology park downtown that houses more than 25 technology and life science businesses.

Downtown Bloomington Inc. supports and promotes the city’s historic core, 11 blocks surrounding the Monroe County Courthouse packed with unique shops and a vibrant dining and entertainment scene. Even downtown’s mall is funky. Fountain Square Mall kept the original historic storefronts but has all the conveniences of an indoor mall. And an enclosed walkway connects it to a parking garage nearby. Specialty stores include clothing, yarns, games, books, an art gallery and café.