NCEast Alliance, a Greenville-based economic development organization serving 28 counties with about 1.3 million residents in eastern North Carolina, will receive $100,000 from the state to help develop the region’s growing life science sector.

The grant funding was included in the state’s $23 billion biennial budget approved June 22 by the N.C. General Assembly. The money will be used for strategy meetings, planning and marketing activities to build the life sciences sector, the Alliance said in a news release.

“The life science community is very important to this state and to my district, in particular,” said state Representative Greg Murphy, M.D., a Greenville Republican who advocated for the funding. “I am impressed with the efforts of the Alliance and the level of investment they have obtained from the private sector, including pharmaceutical and health care organizations. Over the past couple years, this sector has had several major expansion announcements that have set the stage for even greater employment growth.”

The core of the region’s life science sector, biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing companies, employs over 8,000 workers, and several thousand more are employed in the supply chain that supports these companies. The healthcare sector, including hospitals, medical practices, mental health providers and others, employs another 20,000 people.

Eastern NC biopharma workforce comes from 50 counties

While the region’s key biopharmaceutical manufacturers are concentrated in five areas — Clayton, Greenville, Rocky Mount, Wilson and Zebulon — they employ people living in some 50 of the state’s 100 counties, and their supply chains stretch north to Ahoskie and Elizabeth City and as far east and south as Washington, Morehead City and Beulaville.

The Alliance, in partnership with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, local economic developers, educational institutions, workforce development boards and others, will analyze gaps in the supply chain as well as workforce development needs of the life science sector, “then address those in a collaborative fashion,” the Alliance said. The Alliance will also explore opportunities for area healthcare providers to prioritize the purchase of products produced in North Carolina, especially eastern North Carolina.

“One critical component is to strengthen the educational response to fill workforce needs of existing employers,” said Alliance CEO John Chaffee. “For example, one hospital in the region has over 200 job openings that could be filled by developing a more robust supply of locally educated and trained talent.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center