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Southwest California home to leading biotech companies

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FFF Enterprises has become a leading provider of human plasma products, vaccines and clinical trial drugs by offering a secure distribution network, responding to the marketplace and keeping its customers happy. The company's model is so effective that it became the nation's largest distributor of flu vaccines during the 2005-2006 flu season.

FFF is among biotech and technology firms that have put down roots in a fast growing region of Southwest California. The firm employs 166 and last year posted sales of $659 million, up from about $550 million one year earlier.

Company officials believe future growth will be fueled partly by close proximity to San Diego's Biotech Beach, a biotech and medical research cluster. FFF provides services to nascent biotech companies that are seeking regulatory approval for wonder drugs and biomedical devices of the future.

"Because of our proximity to Biotech Beach we have developed business arrangements with emerging biotech companies in San Diego," said Patrick M. Schmidt, chief executive of Temecula-based FFF. "We'd like to think that they have one of world's top and secure distribution channels on their doorstep."

When FFF Enterprises entered the biopharmaceuticals market in 1988, the distribution channel was rampant with unstable pricing, ill-managed shortages and unpredictable product allocation. In response, FFF developed a secure distribution system that helped stabilize pricing and supply and guaranteed the integrity for every vial of product. A secure distribution system is necessary to prevent the spread of counterfeit and tampered drugs.

FFF is a trusted distributor of biopharmaceuticals, plasma products and vaccines, serving over 80 percent of U.S. hospitals. FFF headquarters is part of a region that is fast developing the technological and educational resources to support a growing concentration of biotech companies and suppliers.

For out-of-state vendors looking to better serve the more than 200 biotech companies in San Diego, Southwest California is a good place to be. Like real estate, the biotech business is all about location and being in the right place at the right time. With lower land costs and availability of skilled work force, Southwest California is that location.

"Clusters of existing and emerging science-based technologies are crucial factors in shaping the economic winners and losers of the first half of the 21st century," according to a study by the Milken Institute.

San Diego's life sciences industry is responsible for 55,600 jobs and $5.8 billion in income.

Southwest California boasts an available pool of skilled labor familiar with clean room policies, affordable real estate, special business zones, easy access to other key Southern California markets and a resident infrastructure to accommodate research and entrepreneurial activity associated with stem cell research.

One of Southwest California's selling points is its work force. One-quarter of its residents hold bachelor's degrees, and over 35 percent are professionals and managers. The built-in pool of homegrown workers has allowed large companies to prosper.

"If you are going to locate a biotech company here, we already have people who live here who are knowledgeable," said Bob Larson, former VP operations at Abbott Laboratories.

Submitted by Southwest California Economic Alliance

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