The Oklahoma City Innovation District will soon welcome a new biomanufacturing workforce training center (BWTC) program. One of only a few of its kind in the U.S., the program will help create inclusive, non-degreed bioscience industry careers within the region.
The Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster (OBIC) was recently awarded $35 million through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which allotted $1 billion to the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to be administered through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The BWTC program will build on these efforts by training, retaining and attracting new talent to the OKC Innovation District.
The OBIC was created by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the OKC Innovation District and the University of Oklahoma, along with industry leadership from Echo Investment Capital and support from over 40 partners across academia, tribal nations, government, industry, community and investors.
“This training center positions OKC as one of the few hubs for biomanufacturing talent in the U.S., on top of the state’s benefits of cost, location and infrastructural advantages,” said Dallas Browning, partner over research and investments at Echo Investment Capital. “It will attract business expansions and new direct investment in biomanufacturing, further growing the industry in Oklahoma, and it will fuel the continued development of existing companies in the area, like , creating hundreds of new no-degree-needed jobs that pay at or above the area’s median income.”
The BWTC will impact research already being done by at Cytovance, and help attract more companies to Oklahoma City, according to Stephanie Wickham, the company’s senior director of research and development.
“The biomanufacturing workforce training center will provide researchers with technicians that are already trained in the basic lab skills needed to hit the ground running,” said Wickham. “With that, the research labs won’t have to do as much on-the-job-training and will be able to generate data sooner, which leads to launching new offerings sooner, which attracts more industry. The sooner our researchers can get pivotal data for grant submissions, the sooner we can been seen as a hub for science and innovation.”
“I think Oklahoma City’s BWTC will play a pivotal role in the President’s recent executive order, and Oklahoma is strategically located at the center of the U.S. to be able to service both of the country’s coasts equally, while maintaining a low operating cost,” Wickham added. “Having a workforce ready to plug into the industry will be attractive to companies looking to build here.”
Wheeler Bio CEO and co-founder Jesse McCool agrees that the BWTC program has potential to help Oklahoma City position itself as a national hub for biomanufacturing.
“An industry shift toward entrepreneurial discovery and development is underway in biomanufacturing, with emergent biopharma companies now responsible for 90 percent of next-gen product discovery and development,” McCool said. “OKC’s biomanufacturing workforce training center has the chance to fill a gap in the region’s biomanufacturing process by providing a missing piece to the area’s puzzle; Full spectrum integration across the product development lifecycle—uniting regional research, manufacturing, clinical trials, and more—could offer a frictionless and cost-effective environment for global drug developers. This gives a unique advantage to Middle American ecosystems to compete against incumbent coastal leaders, and due to Oklahoma City’s natural advantages (cost, location, existing infrastructure and business favorability), the city is well positioned to meet the above needs, as it seeks to scale its workforce with the BWTC.”
The BWTC is one of six core investment projects set to expand the region’s biotechnology industry, bolstering domestic resiliency within the biopharmaceutical supply chain, and making the cluster more globally competitive. The additional five core investment projects, most of which are centered in the heart of the OKC Innovation District, are:
Provalus Opens Tech Innovation Center In Historic Tahlequah
Provalus recently opened its fourth technology innovation center in Tahlequah, OK. As the solutions and managed services brand of Optomi Professional Services, Provalus will bring more than 200 new technology and support jobs to the area. The project is projected to have a multi-million-dollar economic impact on the local community over the next five years.
“Oklahoma and the city of Tahlequah have really embraced technology and recognize what that can mean for creating a skilled population in the region,” said Laura Chevalier, President of Provalus. “Between the local talent, students graduating from the career tech center programs and NSU, we feel as though we have a community and talent pool that recognize the career path and opportunity within the tech field.”
Provalus elevates under-employed individuals by providing technology, business and support positions to undiscovered talent in the U.S. By up-skilling local American talent, Provalus is able to provide Fortune-listed companies with dependable, quality, and practical services. It specializes in professional services including Business Process Optimization, Infrastructure Operations (HD, IAM, NOC, SOC) and Application & ITO Support.
“Tahlequah stood out because of the people,” explained Will Ruzic, Provalus Vice President of Facilities. “When we experienced just how strong the partnership is between all of the entities here, we just knew this would be a community we could call home. Our business is about collaboration and partnership and innovation. All of the attributes that make our business successful are present here. We’re looking forward to partnering with the people of Tahlequah to influence revitalization in this community.”
“The Tahlequah Regional Development Authority is thrilled to welcome Provalus to our community,” commented Nathan Reed, President/CEO of the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority. “We could not be happier Provalus chose Tahlequah and thank them for considering and choosing our community for their investment. They will bring over 200 well paying, stable jobs to Downtown Tahlequah over the next several years. This influx of new jobs in the Downtown area will continue to strengthen the community and provide opportunities for local businesses. This is a huge win for Tahlequah and the surrounding area as we look to continue growing our community and providing opportunities to improve quality of place.”
• OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center for Therapeutics – Translational Research Labs: development of 10 translational research labs dedicated to drug discovery within the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.
• Oklahoma Biotech Startup Program: Supportive programming to build a vibrant regional biotech startup pipeline led by the University of Oklahoma.
• The University of Oklahoma Biotech Core Facility: A facility with state-of-the-art high-throughput, advanced bioprocessing equipment and services for OU instructors and researchers, local nonprofits and private companies.
• OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Early Phase Clinical Trial Network: An initiative to double the size of the existing clinical trial program at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center and to commensurate with the demand for trials.
Building An Equity-Driven Workforce
• Oklahoma Bioscience Cluster Initiative: An initiative to lead regular meetings of industry leadership, conduct needs assessments, encourage regional connectivity, and spur policy advocacy.