ANALYSIS: Life sciences lift Laval

By Robert Frank

The Suburban

Laval has prospered mightily from the drug and biotech cluster here. That makes it unsurprising that the city is pondering hiking its contribution to building the new Armand Frappier Museum.

As reported in last week’s edition of The Suburban, it’s possible that taxpayers will pick up most of the projected $5 million cost.

The city’s transit authority, Société de transport de Laval (STL) has already started offering free bus transportation to the museum from different schools.

“STL launched the service June 1, and it will continue through mid-May 2016, said city executive committee vice-chairman David de Cotis, who also doubles as STL chairman. “Anyone can board these buses at no charge. It’s our way to give back to a good cause, to educate and to encourage people to visit the museum and bring them there in large numbers.”

De Cotis extolled STL’s “partnership with the museum, which at the same time helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging people to use public transit.”

He left unspoken the rich dividend that Laval has earned through its investment in turning Laval’s biotech city into a major life sciences hub. It has well over $3 billion in investment, 88 companies, and 11 institutes and other organizations which bankroll 5,000 high-quality jobs.

Last month, for example, Laval-based pharmaceutical giant Valeant surpassed the TD Bank to become Canada’s second largest corporation after the Royal Bank, in terms of market capitalization.

“It made sense to…concentrate our activities in Laval,” Valeant spokesman Sébastien Beauchamp told The Suburban in an interview two years ago, when it became the first drug firm to set up its world headquarters in Quebec.

Valeant operates worldwide and could easily instead have located its head office in Toronto, Montreal, the United States or Europe.

“The life sciences cluster made Laval very interesting,” Beauchamp explained. “The proliferation of well-qualified people here, together with easy access to the city and the airport by highway made Laval a good place to consolidate all our manufacturing and administration.”

Dozens of other firms have followed suit, as the city’s reputation as a biotech cluster snowballs. The biotech city accounted for 50 percent of all the industrial investment on the island. It is already bigger than similar centres near Paris and Boston.

It didn’t happen by accident. Rather, the Laval’s biotech city is in large part the product of a strategic initiative by the city’s economic development arm, Laval Technopole.

Technopole’s recruited Jean-Marc Juteau from McGill to lead its biotech efforts.

Juteau subsequently put together a network which brings together contract research organizations to tap a global market worth $72 billion to do research for global pharmaceutical giants.

Growth strategies like this have created a virtuous circle: The more life sciences firms set up her, the more attractive it becomes for others to do likewise. It has helped Laval prosper, create jobs and serves as a useful economic growth model for other Quebec communities.

Armand Frappier Museum

Armand Frappier Museum

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