Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners approves Grant Agreement for Max Planck Florida Institute

Momentous decision brings world class research organization to County’s life sciences cluster, and the effects "… will be measured in historic proportions."

July 23, 2008

Following unanimous approval by the seven members of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, for the first time in its 60-year history Germany’s Max Planck Society has established an Institute in the United States. The County approved the allocation of $86.9 million to build and operate a 100,000 sq. ft. biomedical research facility called the Max Planck Florida Institute. It will be located near Scripps Florida on six acres at Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) MacArthur campus in Jupiter. The total value of the agreement with the county and partners in the deal, including FAU, is $94 million, with a 50-year sub-lease on land worth approximately $6 million and the balance allocated to items such as rent on a temporary facility and waived impact fees from the Town of Jupiter. On March 12, the Florida Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development signed an agreement for $94 million from the state’s Innovation Incentive Fund, of which $10 million has been disbursed.

Palm Beach County is an ideal location for the Max Planck Society because of our synergy with Scripps, and the proven commitment of the county and the community to enhance the life sciences sector," said Dr. Peter Gruss, president of the Max Planck Society, who attended the meeting and presented the commission with a summary of the value Max Planck will bring to the county’s economic base and educational offerings.

"This is a very important day for our organization as we finalize our entry into the United States. This decision impacts the overall advancement of cutting-edge biomedical research not only in Florida but also in the U.S. and beyond," he added.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) played a leading role in bringing the Max Planck Society to Palm Beach County, providing a dynamic and inspiring environment that convinced the Society’s leadership that Palm Beach County was an attractive option.

Approximately 40 members of the Palm Beach County business community attended the meeting in support of the Max Planck deal. BDB President and CEO Kelly Smallridge anticipates that the research organization will support the creation of more than 1,800 jobs -- both directly and indirectly --- over the next two decades, and generate more than $2 billion in economic activity.

"Adding Max Planck to the Palm Beach County business community brings a strong international component to the life sciences cluster we are building and nurturing here," she said. "Together with Scripps Florida, the Institute will position Palm Beach County as a powerful magnet for the bioscience sector around the world, and lay a new, sustainable foundation for an expanded economic base that will bring high paying jobs with unparalleled educational and social dividends to our community. The effects of bringing Max Planck to our community will be measured in historic proportions. On behalf of the taxpayers, we thank the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners for their vision."

Founded in 1948, the Max Planck Society operates 80 institutes in Germany and around Europe, with a staff of nearly 13,000 and an additional 12,000 researchers and visiting scientists pioneering scientific research in areas ranging from astronomy to the humanities. Among its achievements, Max Planck has 17 Nobel Laureates and most recently developed the sensor currently being used on the robotic arm on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander. The Max Planck Florida Institute plans to advance the world’s knowledge of bioimaging by using advanced techniques to study the molecular process.

"When we achieve a deeper understanding of the structure, dynamics and function of molecules and tissues, we can then address some of the most challenging problems in biology, bioengineering and medicine, which can ultimately be used to help improve medical diagnostics and medical care," Dr. Gruss added. Max Planck Florida Institute plans to collaborate with Scripps Florida on health-oriented research applications, and to establish relationships with Florida Atlantic University, Palm Beach Community College and other local universities to enhance their bioscience programs.

"Science education is an important component of our philosophy," said Dr. Gruss. "In addition to the many layers of our partnership with FAU, we believe we can make a very important impact on Palm Beach County’s K through 12 science education program. As we grow our presence in the county, we will be introducing initiatives leading to an internship program, mentoring, a speaker’s bureau, a school lab for local student fieldtrips, BIO-MAX educational materials and the renowned Science Tunnel. Starting in 2012, a few years before we expect to be self-sustaining, we will invest three percent of net royalty revenue generated through our Florida-based research into the promotion of science education, such as scholarships to local science students."

FAU President Frank Brogan assured the commission that a decision in favor of bringing Max Planck to Palm Beach County has the full, committed support of his Board of Trustees. "This has tentacles that reach deep into our graduate and undergraduate programs and it advances our mission to create even more connections and integrate at deeper levels with the county’s K-12 educational system and the community colleges in our area."

One of the next steps for the new Institute is to begin fundraising efforts, which got a head start with a personal pledge of $100,000 by Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria.
The Max Planck Florida Institute plans to move into temporary space at FAU’s McArthur campus in the Spring of 2009. They anticipate breaking ground on the permanent facility in about 18 months.

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