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Charlotte hopes to attract biotechnology businesses

It is an industry that promises plenty of growth but also is the source of fierce competition for jobs.

In a region known for banking, manufacturing and motorsports, biotechnology has become a primary target for Charlotte-area business recruiters. Their goal: to build on North Carolina's solid reputation in the industry and complement efforts in other cities, including the well-known Research Triangle.

Advocates say they know Charlotte won't be as big a hub as Raleigh-Durham. But they hope to portray the companies already in the region and the new North Carolina Research Campus as the foundation for an emerging "life sciences" cluster that includes a variety of employers, from biotech firms to hospitals to medical equipment makers.

Without question, biotechnology itself has been a minor presence to date, employing about 3,000 people last summer, according to an analysis of federal labor statistics. That's up more than 19 percent from 2000 but pales in comparison to the Raleigh-Durham area, which had nearly 27,000 such jobs – more than double its 2000 total.

In the Charlotte area, biotech workers last summer accounted for less than 0.4 percent of all jobs. Even using the Charlotte Regional Partnership's broader definition of life sciences, the total was just over 10,000, or about 1.2 percent of all jobs. By comparison, the city's signature industry, banking, makes up more than 5 percent.

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