Concept Companies to bring new biotech facility to Alachua in 2022

As reported in the Gainesville Sun on April 20, 2021, the article explores Concept Companies’ newest venture, Momentum Labs, and how the turnkey, fully furnished, and equipped laboratory facility will provide a solution for early-stage biotech companies looking to expand.

Gainesville, FL – Alachua is home to both incubators for start-up biotech companies and spaces where mature companies can grow, but a new facility is looking to bridge the gap between the two, allowing for even more local growth in the lucrative sector.

Momentum Labs, a laboratory facility coming to the city of Alachua, will serve as a space for growing biotech businesses to perform work without the upfront costs of purchasing their own lab equipment. The venture is spearheaded by Concept Companies, a national real estate development firm headquartered in Gainesville. “It’s challenging for those companies to jump into a bigger space,” said Brian Crawford, chief executive at Concept Companies. “There’s a large expense for all the equipment needed. There’s not a product out there that offers the solution.” Momentum Labs is Concept Companies’ idea for a solution — one that will provide turnkey, fully furnished, and equipped laboratories that early-stage biotech companies can lease under flexible terms. A building site inside Alachua city limits has been chosen, though Concept Companies is not yet disclosing its location. The initial building is expected to comprise between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet, though it can be expanded to up to 120,000 square feet. There also will be space for an additional building if needed in the future.  Construction is expected to begin in late 2021 or early next year, with a completion date by summer or fall 2022.

“We continue to develop a lot of space in the area,” Crawford said. “This is a product we’re rolling out because we see a need for it.”

Alachua County is already home to several incubators for startup businesses.  Sid Martin Biotech, the University of Florida’s bioscience incubator, has since 1995 provided assistance to, space and equipment for more than 100 startup companies. Once the companies start to grow beyond their early phase and begin the process of commercialization, they are ready to graduate and move onto next steps.  Most of the companies remain successful upon graduation and contribute thousands of jobs and raise billions of dollars in funding annually.  Mark Long, director of incubation services at Sid Martin, said that currently, some program graduates move to other areas where more lab facilities are available, like the Boston area or Silicon Valley.  He said there are two important benefits that can result from introducing an intermediate step for companies after they outgrow Sid Martin: one is that mid-size companies, their employees and their tax dollars remain local. Another is that it will free up more room at incubators sooner so that more entrepreneurs have a chance to get their foot in the door.  There’s currently a waitlist of companies eager to join Sid Martin as soon as more space is available there. Long said the goal is for Sid Martin to work with Momentum Labs to keep the spaces flowing with new occupants more often.

“When you grow your own companies, they tend to stay local,” Long said. “It’s easier to do that than do something like bring an Amazon here, which might work out or it might not.”

Written by: Emily Mavrakis, The Gainesville Sun