In last week’s cover story, “New Jersey Economy: Half Full or…,” James Hughes, dean of Rutgers Bloustein School, suggests that New Jersey’s once vaunted economy is losing its edge. Hughes sees a glass half empty. Since then, several more experts have weighed in on the subject, and they see the glass half full.

The optimists are the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which met in Chicago last week, and Battelle Memorial Institute, which compiled a report entitled “Growing the Nation’s Bioscience Sector: State Bioscience Initiatives 2006.” The report covered the period from 2001 to 2004 and, according to Debbie Hart, president of the Biotechnology Council of New Jersey, it shows that the biotechnology industry in New Jersey continues to see significant advancements, such as a rise in the number of employees working at biotechnology related businesses. This rate is “significantly higher than the rate seen in other areas of like size,” says Hart.

New Jersey was the only state that specialized in all four bioscience subsectors measured by the report.

Look at that list and names of companies pop to mind. Drugs and pharmaceuticals? That’s easy. Start with Bristol-Myers Squibb and J&J. Research testing and medical laboratories? We have plenty — 100 of them listed in the U.S. 1 Business Directory this year. Medical devices and equipment? Princeton has 20 companies, starting with Integra Life Sciences. Agricultural feedstock and chemicals? FMC and Fort Dodge Animal Health, for instance.

The New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission is delighted because the report praised such policies as investment in stem cell research, innovation zones, venture capital funding, and investment in academic research. Only three other states funded stem-cell research, and only three other states increased academic funding for technology transfer and commercialization activities.

Another “glass half full” optimist is Thomas Moor, CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia, who speaks at the Nassau Club on Friday, April 21 (see page 8 of this issue). Moor flouts the commonly held view that Princeton is expensive. He claims that Princeton and Mercer County are part of the greater Philadelphia region, where average household expenses are 50 percent lower than in New York, Boston, or San Francisco. He says the Business Cost Index (which covers the costs of labor, energy, taxes, and office space), shows business costs are lower than in New York, San Francisco, or Boston.

With those statistics, who wouldn’t want to live and do business here? NJBiz, on April 17, quoted a study by Moody’s that suggests New York will run short of office space and bring more Big Apple companies to New Jersey. If so, some half empty buildings along Route 1 could become closer to full.

Directory Day. The U.S. 1 Business Directory is scheduled to be delivered to our parking lot as this issue of the newspaper goes to press. Barring a last minute printing or trucking glitch, our deliverers will carry both the newspapers and the directories this April 19.

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