Trans Ova's Iowa future turns cloudy
State-aid hitch could be trouble
DES MOINES -- A northwest Iowa biotech company must go on with new projects that could go outside the state if officials controlling an economic development fund aren't ready to help, its chief executive officer said last week.
Iowa missed an opportunity to attract Hematech Inc., a Connecticut-based company which is working to turn animal proteins into drugs for human use.
The company, instead of building in Iowa, will launch a $15 million expansion in Sioux Falls, S.D. The site is about 60 miles from Sioux Center, the home of Trans Ova Genetics, which many state officials hope will become the center of a biotechnology corridor.
It has been the goal of Gov. Tom Vilsack's administration to group several biotech companies like Trans Ova and Hematech in a cluster of businesses that will attract further similar enterprises.
Businesses in the corridor would include protein purification labs using blood and milk from cows. Hematech is one of the companies Trans Ova will work with to develop the purification technology.
Jan Schuiteman, Trans Ova Genetics chief executive officer, said Iowa could lose more business if the process of allocating money from the $503 million Iowa Values Fund, passed by the Legislature, drags on for very long.
"I think the whole legislative process put a very complex set of rules in place," he said. "There are two committees and the rules have to be written. It's just going to be a slow process. We can't stand still as rapidly as things change. We're going to continue to try to work with Iowa, but we're going to move forward."
A spokesman for Vilsack said Iowa plans to be a strong competitor for future ventures in northwest Iowa.