Gov. Mike Easley brought a packed luncheon crowd to its feet several times as he expressed strong support for the state’s biotech industry at Biotech 2003 on Wednesday.

Easley declared May 21 “Biotech Day,” and spoke to the more than 800 people attending the annual Biotech conference sponsored by the CED and NC Bio at the Sheraton Imperial in the Triangle.

Easley echoed the focus of many of the event’s panels and its overall theme when he spoke of “plans to spread the biotech sector throughout the state,” adding, “we will train our workers in every corner.”

Easley peppered his luncheon talk with humor. Telling the group a voter in East Carolina once asked him, “Just what is biotech, anyway?” Easley said he answered, “Better than $20 an hour.”

“If you asked 10 different North Carolina legislators what biotech is you would probably get ten different answers – none of them right,” he said, tongue obviously in cheek. “Two will be close. Three will think it has something important to do with being re-elected. Several will give a reason why human beings shouldn’t be cloned.”

Easley said North Carolina has a chance to be the number one biotech and pharmaceutical manufacturing center. He pointed out that historically, companies locate biotech and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities “outside the urban areas.” Most of the biotech facilities outside the Triangle in North Carolina are biomanufacturing plants, including several of the largest.”

Although the initiative to fund a biotech workforce-training center failed when presented to the legislature last year, Easley said he is firmly behind it as are legislative leaders. “The industry is clamoring for workers, and we will guarantee they will be in North Carolina,” he said.

“Money is a challenge, but we will find the money this year,” he promised.