Roughly two weeks ago, Arvinas — one of the city’s most successful biotech companies — grew its New Haven office by 5,000 square feet, aided by city officials who feared the company would otherwise relocate.
Arvinas CFO Sean Cassidy said the company started to consider leaving New Haven during the summer, after directors struggled to find sufficient lab space in the city to accommodate their growing business needs. The city’s economic development offices caught wind of these discussions, Cassidy said, and quickly directed Arvinas to potential lab spaces. Cassidy said the city helped Arvinas secure additional space in Science Park after around three months of negotiations. Matthew Nemerson, the economic development administrator, said New Haven worked to prevent Arvinas from relocating because of the prominent role the biotech industry plays in the city’s job-expansion strategy. He said high-tech employers improve economies because their employees spend disposable income at local businesses.
“High-tech companies are laid out with people who eat out a lot, don’t do their own laundry and don’t clean out their own apartments … younger people who … have a lot of money to spend and spend it on personal services,” Nemerson said.
Nemerson said a 2013 study by economist Enrico Moretti found that cities with a large high-tech industry also have larger job markets. Moretti argued this correlation is caused by tech company employees spending large proportions of their salaries on local businesses such as housekeeping, therapy and personal grooming. According to Moretti’s estimates, Nemerson said, each high-tech job could bring five new jobs to a city.
Arvinas currently has 29 employees, Cassidy said, adding that this number could grow to around 40 within the next four years. According to Moretti’s estimates, Arvinas could bring around 200 additional jobs to the city if it grew to this size.
New Haven has seen its restaurant scene explode over the past few years, partially because of the growth of high-tech companies, Nemerson said.
“There has been a boom in restaurants and food carts,” he said. “People are just buying stuff.”
Vinny’s Food Store owner Vincent Yik said he has seen the area around his shop — located just a block away from Arvinas — become the home to a handful of new restaurants. He added that he has also noticed that more professionals have moved to the area.
New Haven’s job market’s continued growth will depend on the city’s biotech growth, Nemerson said.
Still, New Haven has seen mixed results in attracting biotechs. In his 2013 book, Moretti cited New Haven as an example of a city that had not become a world-class biotech hub, even though it plays host to a prestigious university. He explained that this is partially because talented graduates are not choosing to stay in the city.
New Haven, Cassidy said, must do more to attract more biotech firms.
In particular, the city should have more buildings that can easily be converted to house labs, Cassidy said, adding that such spaces are common in cities that are biotech hubs.
Despite its shortcomings, New Haven has several strengths that could attract biotech companies, Cassidy said. Arvinas stayed in New Haven to remain near Yale’s research resources and faculty, including Arvinas founder and Yale faculty member Craig Crews, Cassidy said.
Cassidy added that the Elm City has become a more desirable place for Arvinas employees to live over the last few years. Workers can easily find affordable, comfortable living for themselves in the city, Cassidy said. He added leisure options have also grown over the last few years, especially downtown.
Alexion, another biotech founded in New Haven, will be relocating to 100 College St. from Cheshire, Connecticut in January 2016.