By Janet White
BioForward Board Member
Director of Strategic Portfolio Management, Promega

With the rollercoaster of a year we’ve all experienced, the recently released Wisconsin Biohealth: Industry Landscape and Economic Impact Report has been a welcome bright spot highlighting the amazing successes of our region’s biohealth companies and organizations.

Simply put, the biohealth industry is a leading economic growth and innovation driver for Wisconsin. The report shows us that the biohealth industry is outperforming most major industries in terms of job growth and wages.

Let that sink in for a moment. Take a minute to appreciate the tremendous amount of work and innovation that’s continued this year in the midst of global pandemic.

And then let’s celebrate the facts together.

Wisconsin’s billion-dollar asset

The total state economic impact contribution by the biohealth industry is $28.8 billion in direct, indirect, and induced sources, as well as $1 billion in state and local taxes.

A vast team of talent

Wisconsin’s biohealth research organizations, manufacturers, digital health, and distribution companies directly employ more than 46,000 individuals, and have seen 8% job growth since 2015, outpacing the state’s overall job growth of 3%.

This employment supports more than 72,000 additional jobs, leading to the full biohealth job impact reaching nearly 119,000 jobs throughout Wisconsin.

Biohealth jobs pay off

The high-quality jobs generated across the biohealth industry pay more than $87,000 on average (79% above overall industry average in Wisconsin), reflecting the high value-adding activities and skilled workforce deployed across scientific research and development, manufacturing, sales, distribution, and other key roles.

A wise investment in the future

Wisconsin-based institutions and organizations received almost $500 million in National Institutes of Health funding in 2019 (an increase of 22% since 2015) for research and development. Additionally, venture capital and angel investments in Wisconsin’s biohealth industries totaled $517 million during the 2015-19 period, which was invested into 104 start-up, early-stage, and growth-stage companies.

Also, Wisconsin biohealth companies received a combined 131 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards totaling $71 million between 2015-2019.

Answering the COVID call

The report specifically emphasizes the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic stating.

“To meet the increasing demand for testing, treatment, and prevention of the novel coronavirus, several Wisconsin biohealth companies have pivoted their activity to focus on the virus. Whether increasing production of supplies to boost testing capacity within the state, developing diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to test for, prevent and treat viral infection, or providing R&D or manufacturing capacity to other companies, Wisconsin’s biohealth industry has worked to provide key resources in the fight against this deadly pandemic.”

This report details our strengths and considerable areas of emergence in Wisconsin. As a proud BioForward Wisconsin board member, I echo the sentiments of our CEO Lisa Johnson: Our biohealth region is one of the most successful in this country because of imagination and true partnerships.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some additional areas of opportunities that are also identified. We all know COVID-19 has caused significant strain on the healthcare sector and public health institutions, as noted in the report. That leaves us with necessary work to prioritize ways to promote additional job and wage growth, as well as meet ongoing workforce demand challenges.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank TEConomy Partners LLC for preparing the report and to funding partners BioForward Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and Madison Gas and Electric.

Please read this report in detail and join me in celebrating our wins as an industry and in the commitment by BioForward’s board, team, and member organizations to continue driving Wisconsin’s biohealth region forward.