Scoot over Minneapolis, Cleveland and Philadelphia

Arizona may not have the same star power as Seattle and New York City when attracting young workers to bioscience jobs. But three of the most exciting and vibrant neighborhoods in the state are leveling the playing field.

They are meccas of research and bioindustry mixed in with warehouse and arts districts, and an ever-growing roster of restaurants and cafes.

One is the SkySong mixed-use complex in south Scottsdale. This sleek tech haven was created for university and industry to nurture startups. Within walking distance are some of the tastiest eateries and most packed night spots in the city.

SkySong tenant Vivek Kopparthi, 28, said the energy in the area is what gives him and his team “lots of drive” every day. Kopparthi is CEO and co-founder of Neolight that developed a device to eradicate infant jaundice. Last year, it received FDA clearance.

“Synergistic working is the future, and SkySong has done that really well,” said Kopparthi, who formed the business with another Arizona State University student. “It’s a very cool tech space and it always gets the attention of whatever investor comes here. It’s the kind of place where millennials would like to work.”

Kopparthi and co-founder Siva Palaniswamy, 27, are among young professionals here to stay.  

Currently, there are 116,443 bioscience jobs in Arizona. That represents a 22 percent increase since 2008, outpacing the national average of 14 percent, said Brad Halvorsen, executive vice president of the Flinn Foundation, a non-profit that nurtures biosciences in college students and entrepreneurs, and tracks the industry. 

Salaries are one of the main reasons employees are coming, he said. The average bioscience wage in Arizona is $63,801, a third higher than private sector jobs elsewhere.  

With the growth, expect more professionals to leave bioscience hubs in cold fronts like Minneapolis, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Many will end up in one of these neighborhoods:

Downtown Phoenix Most renowned for its bioscience community, it was recently designated as an innovation district to tout the “critical mass” of entrepreneurship, research and business collaboration. The Phoenix Biomedical Campus is shared by the three state universities. Nonprofits and companies like TGen, InnOvention and Scientific Technology are thriving. Phoenix Union Bioscience High School is here, too. All in walking distance are warehouse and arts districts, theaters, the baseball stadium, clubs and eateries like the Fair Trade Cafe that often is packed with politicians, students, and workers.  

Downtown Tucson The University of Arizona and the Banner University Medical Center are the grounding force for the surrounding activity. New restaurants are scattered among historic buildings. Spots like Seis for soft tacos and Street Tacos for margaritas are always bustling.

Bioindustry businesses like Reglagene collaborate in spaces over historic buildings like the Rialto Theater. A startup, the company is fighting cancer with a technology known as DNA quadruplex science to regulate genes through drug discovery processes.

SkySong Scottsdale ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation mixed-use complex is pulling in some of the smartest bioscience minds in the world. SkySong helps young innovators and entrepreneurs get a start with funding, office space and patents, investors, and hiring. When the 42-acre mixed-use center is built out, it will encompass 1.2 million square feet. It has apartments, condos and hotels including the new Element Hotel.

Victoria Harker

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