An Economic Engine for Maine

The Jackson LaboratoryWhen The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) reached out to me fourteen years ago to see if I would be interested in serving as its chief operating officer, three things attracted me:  the opportunity to work with wicked smart, dedicated people in improving human health, the quality of life and environment of Maine, and the potential to create great jobs in our state—for Mainers and for biomedical scientists from around the world.  The opportunity to build good jobs and stimulate a thriving economy in down east Maine perhaps held the greatest meaning for a Maine native whose family has lived on our coast since the American Revolution.

Often thought of as merely the “mouse house Down East,” JAX conducts cutting edge biomedical research, leads the world in providing the scientific community with more than 10,000 exquisite mouse models of human development and disease, and increasingly provides diagnostics and other tools to help physicians more precisely identify and effectively treat the causes of disease—especially cancer and pre- and post-natal developmental challenges. 

A true generator of opportunity, JAX provides world-class jobs, fosters innovation in a wide variety of companies around the state, and generates considerable revenues from outside Maine that are then invested in our state. 

With more than a million square feet of facilities in Maine including its main campus in Bar Harbor, its Maine Cancer Genome Initiative located in Augusta, and its new $150 million mouse production facility under construction in Ellsworth, JAX today employs 1,500 Mainers who reside in 88 cities and towns.  World leading scientists, veterinarians, physicians and other employees with advanced degrees comprise a significant portion of JAX’s workforce and hundreds of others with high school or college degrees round out our team.  Nowhere else is more known about the production of mice and the use of the mouse as a research tool than the area within a 50-mile radius of Bar Harbor.

By far the largest employer in Hancock and Washington counties, JAX is the 21st largest employer in Maine.  However, unlike many of the larger employers (such as hospitals and the university system) who primarily recycle money that Maine already has, JAX’s $214 million in revenues to its Maine operations come almost entirely from out-of-state making it an almost unparalleled wealth creator for Maine communities.  This incremental money adds new wealth to our state compared with simply turning over funds that already reside here.

In the last dozen years JAX has been investing heavily both in new facilities such as the Ellsworth center previously mentioned and its Bar Harbor Center for Biometric Analysis ($21 million) and also in maintaining and upgrading its existing physical plant and laboratories.  These maintenance and upgrade activities alone totaled $26 million in 2016 and generated another 195 direct jobs among our vendors.  JAX has also reinvigorated its education programs with visiting faculty, students, and other visitors spending nearly $13 million per year and sustaining another 130 full time jobs. JAX has worked hard to improve science, technology engineering and math (STEM) education across Maine and, as part of that effort, has reorganized and financed the Maine State Science Fair.  And while JAX is a non-profit organization and does not pay taxes, our employees and vendors pay over $20 million in taxes within Maine.

When all of this spending is added together and the indirect jobs it creates are also considered (for example, grocers, pharmacists, hardware clerks, restaurant employees, and many others), JAX is generating more than $575 million in economic impact and north of 3,500 full-time jobs in Maine. To put this in context, total employment in Maine is 620,000 and our state has a gross domestic product of ­­­­­­­­$59 billion so JAX is supporting more than one-half of one percent of all Maine jobs and nearly one percent of its gross domestic product.

In addition to playing a major role in driving the Maine economy, one of the few institutions in the state with a truly global reputation and reach, JAX helps put Maine on the map.  But its reach is more than financial and reputational.  Our employees and their significant others help to provide access to high quality education for their children; donate countless hours of volunteer work; and, provide board leadership for many other non-profit organizations across Maine.

Proud to call Maine home, the “mouse house Down East” is doing pretty well.  It’s the “little engine that could!”