Why a Seattle biotech leader opposes a state income tax
The Seattle Times editorial board says it is notable that Initiative 1098, which would create a Washington state income tax, is opposed by the biotechnology industry — and particularly by Dendreon, which is recruiting talent from around the country.
SEATTLE'S biotech industry opposes the state income tax, which is something all voters in the Seattle area should care about. Biotech is one of the most promising industries here.
The most promising company at the moment is Dendreon — and its top management is outspoken against the state income tax proposed in Initiative 1098.
Dendreon has a treatment for late-stage prostate cancer. Not a pill or a shot, it is a labor-intensive process that involves extracting a patient's blood, isolating certain cells, "re-educating" them to attack cancer cells, and re-injecting them into the body. The treatment has been shown in many cases to keep patients alive and healthier many months, and sometimes years longer.
In the past year Dendreon received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration to offer the treatment to patients. It is not cheap; it costs $93,000 a year. But it works, and patients want it. In response, in the past year the company has brought 150 employees to the Seattle area and hired hundreds locally.
Dendreon CEO Mitchell Gold says more is to come. "My goal is to build a fully integrated biotech company in Seattle," he says. The company envisions a campus of buildings that would include a pilot manufacturing plant.
And that requires the hiring of top talent from around the United States, says Rich Ranieri, the company's head of human resources. The need is for scientific talent and also commercial talent specific to biotechnology — a talent pool that has not existed in Seattle since the sale of Immunex in 2002. And that means recruiting men and women from the big biotech centers in Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.
Some people in those states jump at the chance to move to Seattle, but many do not. This is not the center of their universe. A recruiter needs enticements — and one of ours is no state income tax.
"Having no state income tax is an attractive tool for us," says Ranieri. "It matters."
For this city, biotech matters. It is part of our future. Let's not mess it up with Initiative 1098.
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