Technology jobs represent just 7 percent of all New Jersey jobs, according to a just-released analysis, but because these jobs pay well, they bring in at least 30 percent of state income tax revenues. And New Jersey’s high tech jobs are hemorrhaging: Over the past five years, 14 percent of these jobs have left the state. So the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (NJSCT) is putting together a High-Tech Recovery Plan to help Jon Corzine, the next governor, apply a financial tourniquet. Meanwhile Corzine has his own plan.
Members of the technology community are invited to collaborate on the NJCST plan on Friday, December 16, at 2 p.m. at Thomas Edison State College, 101 West State Street, in Trenton. Call 609-984-1671.
The NJCST commissioned Rutgers University economists James Hughes and Joseph Seneca of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy to do the technology job study, "An Economy at Risk: The Imperatives for a Science and Technology Policy for New Jersey"
The study shows that New Jersey’s high-technology employment dropped to below 1990 job levels, moving from 285,300 in 1990 to 322,600 in 2000 and then falling 14.6 percent to 275,500 in 2004.
"Key parts of the core economy – including the state’s unique concentrations of technology-based economic specializations – have not only stopped growing in the 2000s but, in a number of important areas, have started to contract," the report states. "New Jersey has been losing high-paying technology-dependent jobs and has been mainly gaining low-paying lower-level jobs."
In the past decade (1990 to 2004) pharmaceutical jobs grew more than 40 percent nationally, but New Jersey lost 1,700, or 4 percent of those jobs, according to the report.
"New Jersey is losing its high-tech edge," said Donald L. Drakeman, NJCST chairman in a press release. "Strategic investments in New Jersey’s science and technology – guided by a clear and compelling science and technology policy – are essential to New Jersey’s future economic prosperity."
The commission’s plan focuses on creating intellectual property, developing commercial products, and promoting an entrepreneurial business climate. The NJCST has already begun to address some of those issues. It offers bridge grants to struggling companies who waiting for grants to come through (see article below). And earlier this year it began giving out New Jersey Technology Fellowships to foster collaboration and tech transfer between universities and high-tech companies (see article below).
However, implementing a comprehensive High-Tech Recovery Plan will require a larger and long-term investment by the state, insists Drakeman, CEO of Medarex, an 18-year-old biotech firm based on Route 206.
Corzine has his own plan, to float a $250 million bond as seed money for more funds from venture capital, federal grants, and budget cuts. Companies that receive this fund’s monies would share some revenue. Corzine targets six research areas: stem cell, nanotechnology, renewable and clean energy, advanced imaging, genomics, and national defense.
Whatever New Jersey is doing to help its tech sector pales in comparison to the efforts of neighboring states, Corzine points out. New York has put $500 million into its technology pot, and Pennsylvania is holding out a carrot of more than $2 billion to life science and biomedical research companies.
A Model for Tech?
Viocare Technologies is earning a reputation as a poster child for high tech success in New Jersey. "Rick Weiss’ Viocare Technology is a great example of what Hughes and Seneca are suggesting for the future of high-tech businesses in NJ with the university collaboration and multiple federal grant success," says Nat Bender of the U.S. Small Business Development Center in Newark.
Viocare, based on Witherspoon Street, makes technology tools for health professionals, such as software for dietitians to track their patients’ eating habits.
In the first week of December Viocare was announced as a winner in the NJSBDC Success Awards program, the first repeat winner in the program’s history. Ezekiel Fleming, who has a weatherization firm in Trenton called Airseal Insulators LLC, was also on the winners’ list. Awards also went to non technology companies around the state: an employee counseling service from Northfield, a water testing firm headquartered in Haworth, a hair salon in Union, a Long Branch language school, a liquor and wine store in Hoboken, a gourmet food store in Bridgewater, medical management service companies in Marlton-based and Paterson, a food distributor in Kearney, a camera store in Washington, a Newark construction firm, an IT firm in Iselin, and an injury-prevention consultant in Parlin.
"As anyone who has ever tried soon finds out, grants for small businesses are few and far between," says the SBDC’s Bender. "However, the high technology arena is where federal programs make funds available for innovators like Rick."
Weiss won his first NJSBDC success award in 1998, when he worked with Randy Harmon and the former NJSBDC Technology Commercialization Center to get his business (incorporated as Princeton Multimedia Technologies, Inc.) off the ground. He pushed all the right buttons. For instance, he tapped the services of Rutgers Business School’s MBA Team Consulting Program to do a market analysis.
Then Weiss won his first Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant rom the National Cancer Institute to develop handheld technology for individual consumers to track their diet and physical activity. One of his current grants from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease to run a two-year nutritional program for 50 subjects and up to 1,000 participants in Princeton. This test program will help decide whether similar programs could be self-sustainable (U.S. 1, September 21, 2005).
Operating mostly on grant monies, plus some commercial sales, Weiss runs in the black, has avoided getting outside investment, and is beefing up his sales efforts. "I love being an example of how to grow a business," says Weiss, "and now I would like to be an example of financial success." He is in the middle of a year-long sales training program and this month will hire his first full-time sales person. One sale of a commercial product, to a research center, is worth $5,000.
In October Viocare and another Princeton firm, Nanonex Corporation, won bridge grants from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. (Based at Princeton Corporate Plaza and founded by Princeton University’s Stephen Y. Chou, Nanonex is getting monies from the defense department for nanoimprint lithography, www.nanonex.com.)
These $50,000 bridge grants aim to increase federal research funding for small technology firms in New Jersey by them while they wait for the second phase of their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) monies to come through. When Weiss gets the bridge grant, he will replace some hardware and hire a web development programmer. "I didn’t want to hire the programmer without the money in the bank," says Weiss.
Weiss is now looking hungrily at another NJSCT program, the doctoral fellowships that are intended to boost collaborations between the research universities and the business community. Under this program he could get the services of a post doctoral fellow, and the NJCST would pay $50,000, the first year’s salary (see article below). As a success story, Weiss is called on to speak for various groups, and averages two or three speaking engagements a year, and does not begrudge that time: "I like giving back and actually look forward to a time when I can do more to help others. So I’ve always included in my talks that anyone should feel free to contact me regarding help with grant writing."
Self interest does play a role. "Many of my opportunities happen by meeting others – and these presentations provide an opportunity to meet and talk to others who might be in similar fields or have similar interests," says Weiss. "And I have always had, in the back of my head, that if I do need to get capital, an angel or a venture capitalist would have seen my name once or twice, and would have some comfort level that I am not a fly-by-night."
Viocare Technologies Inc./Princeton Multimedia Technologies, 145
Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08542. Rick Weiss, president.
609-497-4600; fax, 609-497-0660. Www.viocare.com
The New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology announced its second set of fellowships that are designed to encourage recent PhD graduates from New Jersey schools to work at New Jersey companies. The state pays the $50,000 annual salaries for the new PhDs to work at technology companies for the first year, so the young companies acquire a staff member almost for free. Among the companies employing the fellows are four in central New Jersey:
Advaxis, 212 Carnegie Center, Suite 206, Princeton 08540. J. Todd Derbin. 609-895-7150; fax, 609-497-9299. Vafa Shahabi, director R&D. 732-545-1590; fax, 609-497-9299. Home page: www.advaxis.com
One of the fellowship winners is Mariela Reyes, who has her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from UMDNJ. She will work for Vafa Shahabi, director of R&D at Advaxis, a company with a headquarters at the Carnegie Center and a laboratory at the Technology Center of New Jersey.
Founded in 2003 Advaxis looks forward to conducting clinical trials of a vaccine for late-stage cervical cancer patients. It is also working on a breast cancer vaccine which may have applications for melanoma and pancreatic cancers as well. Other therapeutic vaccines could help prostate, colon, and brain cancers.
PharmaSeq Inc., 11 Deer Park Drive, Princeton Corporate Plaza, Suite 104, Monmouth Junction 08852. Wlodek Mandecki, president. 732-355-0100. Www.pharmaseq.com
James Flint will bring his Rutgers PhD in biomedical engineering to PharmaSeq, which provides ultra high-throughput, low-cost multiplex bioassays and instruments for research and clinical use. The company has an ultra-small silicon integrated circuit, a microtransponder. When activated by laser light it sends a radio frequency signal with a unique identification code.
PBL Biomedical Laboratories, 131 Ethel Road West, Piscataway 08854. Robert Pestka, president and CEO. 732-777-9123; fax, 732-777-9141. Www.pblbio.com
Kathleen Gilbert will work for William Clark, director of drug development and discovery at Pestka Biomedical Laboratories. She has a PhD in chemistry and environmental science from NJIT and will help Clark look for new treatments for infectious diseases and cancer.
Pestka Biomedical Laboratories, founded by Sidney Pestka, searches for better targeted, more effective therapeutic molecules to minimize adverse side effects. Pestka won the 2001 National Medal of Technology for his focus on innovation biotechnology and the dramatic impact his efforts have had on the treatment of diseases including hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
RelevantNoise Inc., 78 Main Street, Flemington 08822. Dan Lynn, CEO. 908-788-8844; fax, 908-788-8322. Www.relevantnoise.com
Songmei Yu will join RelevantNoise Inc., which is working on how to mine the world of blogs to collect business intelligence – what bloggers are saying about a company or its products and services. Yu has a Rutgers PhD from the department of management science and information systems.
"Having this knowledge summarized into actionable categories can give the company’s clients the ability to proactively launch and track the success of marketing campaigns," says a press release.
Fellowships also went to Nazieh Masoud to work at UV Solutions, now being incubated at NJIT. The firm works on ozone treatment of water and wastewater (www.uvsns.com). Jason Steffener has joined another NJIT firm, Medsonics US, which develops medical monitoring and imaging diagnostic devices.
In April four area companies – ExSar Corporation, Signum Biosciences, Visible Tech-knowledgy, and Energy Photovoltaics – secured the services of a post doctoral fellow.
New in Town
Action International, 3 Sutton Lane, Princeton Junction 08550; 609-297-8003; fax, 609-750-1950. Holly Jerome, owner. Home page: www.actioncoaching.com
Holly Jerome has opened a business coaching franchise of Action International. After training and certification at the North American headquarters in Las Vegas, Jerome now offers coaching in these areas: sales, marketing and advertising, team building and recruitment; systems and business development, and customer service. She is offering free diagnostics, valued at $345, to area businesses for a limited time.
"After going through a merger and a downsizing I decided to fulfill my dream to start my own company," says Jerome. A graduate of Barnard, class of 1981, Jerome has had 16 years of pharmaceutical experience with such firms as Roche Diagnostics and Covance. Her jobs ranged from bench scientist, to sales, to corporate communications. She is married to a television network executive, and they have two children, one in college and the other in high school.
"Business owners need to remember that – what you know got you where you are," says Jerome. "To get where you want to go, you’ve got to make some changes, and more than likely learn new things."
Able Sold To Sun
Although a Plainsboro office of an India-based generic pharmaceutical company had bid for the assets of bankrupt Able Laboratories, the contract will go to Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, the second-largest drug maker in India, according to SEC filings.
Sun Pharma will pay $23.14 million for the Cranbury facility, Able’s former location in South Plainfield, and some contracts to manufacture generic drugs. Able Laboratories stopped operating in May after a massive product recall.
Aurobindo Pharma, based in Hyderabad, India, but with a U.S. headquarters at Princeton Meadows Office Center, had hoped to buy Able’s assets.
Donald E. Wise, 62, on December 3. He was chairman of Rider University’s department of management sciences and had a computer and network consulting firm.
Elizabeth Johnson, 84, on December 4. She had owned Mom’s Peppermill Restaurant on Route 33 and was working at a restaurant on the New Jersey Turnpike.