Editor’s note: Dennis Burns is an NC BIO Board member and a Partner at TCG, LLC, a group of executives from global life science companies who take interim management and strategic advisory roles for small and mid-sized companies. Burns wrote this blog for the N.C. Biotechnology Center. It is reprinted with permission.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - During the squabbling in Washington and the Raleigh debates about the Old North State’s priorities, three Europeans firms (Novartis, Bayer Crop Science and BASF) have announced more than $100 million of local investments in the last two months.

With challenging times in economic development, do these commitments represent a trend or unusual events?

Based on frequent discussions that we have with life science firms based in Europe, the U.S. remains a very attractive place to do business.

The pharmaceutical, medtech, diagnostic and agricultural markets are still the largest in the world. U.S. growth projections are positive for the next decade. Plus, American pricing policies and distribution options are very good.

Yes, there can be commercial challenges to cover the large territory of America along with legal and regulatory issues that need to be addressed. But the right experts with U.S. life science experience can manage those challenges, which are more than offset by the enormous revenue potential.

So how does North Carolina rate competitively versus other states when an international company wants to set up a US operation?

To paraphrase three senior European company execs at a recent NC BIO Board dinner: “North Carolina has an excellent environment for our life science businesses.”

This state still has excellent universities that can contribute life science expertise and trained personnel. The presence of health care and related firms over many years has created a pool of talented employees ready to join new companies.

In addition, our world class medical centers(UNC, Duke, ECU, Wake Forest) and superb research institutions provide high-quality facilities as well as access to research and clinical studies. The global reputations of our Contract Research Organizations (CRO’s) along with that of critical development firms like SAS add to the superb technical environment for R&D and manufacturing sites.

The NC BIO speakers in October cited three practical considerations for Europeans:

  • The quality of life and cost of living appeal to relocating employees
  • The time difference is not as great from Europe as the West Coast so communications are better
  • You can reach 2/3 of the US metro areas within a two hour flight from our international airports

European companies remain excellent targets for North Carolina recruitment with their high quality products, sophisticated technology and well educated executive teams. Hopefully, our state leaders will recognize their significant potential as new economic development programs are created.

Investment Central?

So, were the three investments in September/October unusual?

Not really. A number of other European firms also made substantial investments in 2013, including Syngenta’s July plan to put $94 Million into their RTP site and BioMérieux’s $44 Million expansion in Durham.

Yes, the Europeans are still coming to North Carolina!