I was pecking out a story at my desk in the newsroom of The Oklahoman one afternoon in early September 2005 when the ringing phone interrupted my train of thought. Some folks from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber were downstairs to see me about something.
Back then I was a business reporter for the newspaper, so I went to see what was up. Turns out, chamber President Roy Williams and a representative from the Battelle consulting firm were waiting with a thick report that they called the “road map” for Oklahoma's bioscience industry.
Battelle had spent nearly nine months interviewing key industry players in Oklahoma — scientists, business leaders and service providers. Then it prepared a strategic plan that outlined actions that it said could lead to 7,000 new high paying jobs and nearly 90 new businesses over the next decade.
The actions revolved around four strategies:
Build the region's bioscience research and development base and encourage commercialization of bioscience discoveries;
Develop and attract bioscience talent to the region;
Grow a critical mass of bioscience companies by creating an environment in which such firms can start, grow and prosper; and
Build a bioscience image and market the region.
Since that report was issued, the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OKBio) was created to help build the state's image and market the region as a bioscience hot spot to the world. The state Legislature authorized funding for the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, and spinouts continue to fill the economic development pipeline.
And bioscience research? It remains strong at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park, Oklahoma State University and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, among others across the state.
But I wanted to know how closely Oklahoma has followed the recommendations and where we are on the strategic plan's timeline. So, I called up Williams at the chamber this week and asked him how the state was doing.
He told me that the Battelle recommendations had encouraged collaboration between key industry players and narrowed the focus of their efforts. It's all good for Oklahoma.
“The Oklahoma City area has seen incredible growth in the bioscience industry since we implemented the recommendations from the Battelle Strategic Plan,” Williams said. “The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's partnership with i2E, the continued development of the OMRF and our support of funding programs for bioscience have increased the strength of our research and development organizations in the region.”
I retired from my newspaper career in 2008 and now work here in the PHF Research Park, where OKBio recently became a part of i2E. We are ready to continue carrying out its mission of building the state's bioscience industry's image and marketing the region to the rest of the world.
Now I am writing the column about Oklahoma's bioscience industry and the important developments that are emerging from laboratories and businesses from Ardmore to Stillwater to Tulsa.
It's the great circle of life.
Jim Stafford is a communications specialist with i2E, Inc. in Oklahoma City.