<figcaption>Joseph Cortright</figcaption>
Joseph Cortright

If you've been to any Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in the past several years, you'll have noticed dozens of booths staffed by economic development officials from all over the world, all working to lure biotech investment in their regions. Biotech, many seem to believe, is one of the most important drivers of growth and jobs.

Joe Cortright disagrees. The economist and vice president of Impresa Consulting in Portland, Oregon, calls biotechnology an "idea virus" that has infected public officials and economic development agencies. "There's a lot of boosterism out there," Cortright says. "The fascination with biotech says a lot about the group-think mentality in economic development." It also says a lot about the relationship between economic consultants and their clients, he says: "People don't pay consultants to tell them what they can't do."

Cortright gained notoriety after co-authoring a 2002 Brookings Institution report, "Signs of Life: The...

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