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City to talk Merck incentives

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by Chad Swiatecki

The biosciences giant Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation’s request for an economic incentive package from the city of Austin worth up to $856,000 will get its first public discussion at Thursday’s City Council meeting. The package is tied to the company’s recently announced plan to open an information technology hub near the new Dell Medical School’s “innovation zone” area located around 15th and Trinity streets. Documents for the project show that the company estimates it will cost $28 million to construct and create 600 jobs by 2023 with a median income of $79,000. Thursday’s meeting will include a staff briefing on the project, with a public hearing to take place the following Thursday, with written feedback taken through April 12. The incentives are structured as a $200 payment by the city for every full-time job created and retained each year from 2017 through 2026. The Merck project would be one of the biggest wins thus far for those who expect the medical school to serve as an economic engine for the city. While not specifically endorsing the incentive package, medical school dean Clay Johnston said in a prepared statement that having a big name like Merck operating in Austin will have many benefits to the growing health care community here: “While a number of details need to be worked out, a collaborative relationship with this company could create unique opportunities to fulfill our mission in different and far-reaching ways. We have discussed projects and initiatives to improve health, reduce inequities, improve patient outcomes and lower community health costs — potentially ranging from an effort to eradicate human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer in Austin, to pilot projects around better uses of health data, to community-based programs that increase the pipeline from schools into the health professions. These kinds of initiatives would be difficult to achieve without a relationship with this specific kind of collaborator.”

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