In 2003, the state under then Gov. Jeb Bush began a life-sciences recruitment spree by using $310 million in state money to lure California-based Scripps to open a Florida campus. It was said to be a transformational investment in Florida’s economy, the first of several research outfits recruited with tens of millions of state and local taxpayer dollars.
Scripps cost the most. The final deal in 2006 included the $310 million from Florida and another $269 million from local government. Now, the University of Florida has acquired the 30-acre Scripps Florida campus and absorbed its 500 researchers and staff. Scientists will have titles under UF and Scripps. UF also gets a 70-acre tract adjacent to Scripps that the county handed over to Scripps last year for $1. As part of the deal for Scripps in 2006, the county agreed to turn over the land if Scripps stayed 15 years and created a specified number of jobs. The site cost the county $16 million years ago and could be worth $1 million an acre now.
Of the marquee names the state and local governments recruited, only Max Planck Florida in Jupiter now remains as a stand-alone player. The rest were absorbed by other in-state institutions or closed.
Locally based Tortoise Properties bought a two-acre site in downtown West Palm Beach where it plans 264 luxury apartments and retail. The site is at the front of the 40-acre NORA mixed-use redevelopment area.