Scripps Scenarios and Florida’s Future

It’s too premature, of course, to tell how the Scripps Research Institute’s plans for Palm Beach County will play out. Ground breaking for a 364,000-square-foot biomedical research facility on the eastern fringe of the Everglades has already been postponed once. The issues are the sensitive environment, per se, and the prospect of sprawl that would violate – indeed, mock — the county’s comprehensive, growth-management plan. Two lawsuits have already been filed in state circuit court in West Palm Beach.

Call it contentious right now between the county and Scripps, but don’t call it off.

Three things.

First, it’s critical that the Scripps’ facility, with all its economic and scientific implications, remain in Florida. Other states — with better biotech track records and still smarting that Scripps chose Florida – will not need much encouragement to transition into predator mode.

When Gov. Jeb Bush made his legacy-like announcement last year, he heralded a biotech bonanza of 6,500 jobs over 15 years worth more than $3 billion. This is, of course, critical to Sunshine State aspirations of a more diversified, 21st century economy.

Second, Hillsborough County is absolutely doing what it should by formulating a contingency Scripps plan and offer with new County Commissioner Mark Sharpe as point man. If Palm Beach thinks this is in “poor taste,” so be it. But should Palm Beach have to bail, Hillsborough must be well-positioned because, quite candidly, no place in the state can better accommodate Scripps’disparate amenity needs than Hillsborough County, Tampa and the Bay Area.

Third, Tampa deserved more than a token shot at competing for Scripps from the get-go. And local officials remember well all the help Jeb Bush WASN’T when it came to going the extra mile for Tampa when this city was in the serious hunt for the 2004 GOP convention.

The governor, frankly, owes us if Palm Beach can’t work. More to the point, he owes it to the state.

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