Editorial: Waco's future as biotechnology hub - Sent Using Google Toolbar

Editorial: Waco's future as biotechnology hub

Editorial: Waco's future as biotechnology hub

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Waco suddenly has an opportunity to become a biotechnology hub for the state.

Assuming the prospects are as viable as they appear, this is not an opportunity to let slip away.

Dr. B.B. Chang, a local blood and cancer specialist, seeks to turn Hillcrest Medical Tower into a medical research center.

Chang said he has commitments from six researchers to come to Waco if the group can purchase the tower, which is perfectly outfitted to take on such a role.

The main obstacle is negotiations between the city and the Hillcrest Health System for the purchase of the tower.

In May, Waco voters approved a $13 million bond proposal to be used for a new police headquarters. Waco City Council agreed to buy Hillcrest Medical Tower and renovate it for that purpose.

Pending Hillcrest's approval, the city wants to spend $3 million for the 100,000-square-foot, 10-story tower and adjacent parking. The city plans to spend the rest of the $13 million bond issue to renovate the building.

Chang said his group is prepared to pay more than the $3 million offered by the city. He said funding for the institute wouldn't be a problem because the scientists already have grants for their projects. Also, the group has already secured a loan to pay for the building.

While the city would have to spend $10 million to renovate the tower for police work, Chang said it is in turn-key condition for medical research.

With the potential economic development attached, opportunities like this are the stuff of dreams. If those prospects are real as they seem, officials must work to turn opportunity into reality.