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VOL. 126 | NO. 237 | Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bioworks Foundation Expands Team

By Aisling Maki

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After receiving several competitive government grants, Memphis Bioworks Foundation is expanding its team by hiring for three new positions focused on bringing more bioscience industry jobs to the region.

Memphis Bioworks Foundation, at 20 Dudley St., is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to lead the collaboration between public, private, academic and government entities to accelerate the growth of the bioscience industry in the region.

Just two weeks ago, the foundation hired a coordinator for the Wolf River Environmental Jobs Training Program, a partnership of employers, public agencies, training providers and nonprofit entities.

The program provides environmental workforce development and job training focused on hazardous and solid waste management, assessment and cleanup activities for unemployed residents of Memphis ZIP codes of 38103, 38107 and 38108.

The program is funded by a two-year Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grant that was awarded to Memphis Bioworks Foundation through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s a very positive reflection on the Memphis area,” said Pauline Vernon, Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s director of workforce development. “Various federal agencies are seeing there are partnerships developing in this region, and that’s what all the grants reflect – partnerships with a lot of different organizations and entities and a real need here in this general area. We have programs and partners in place so that, given the opportunity and funds to make a difference, we’re actually going to make a difference with the funds they provide.”

Memphis Bioworks Foundation will now hire a senior manager of grants and compliance, project manager for Southern Education Training Consortium-Health & Information Technology (SETC-HIT), and a project coordinator for the foundation’s Agbioworks Initiative.

The SETC-HIT is a group providing training in biotechnical lab research and computerized health information technology for long-term unemployed and underemployed workers in Shelby and Fayette counties.

Its senior manager of grants and compliance will identify funding sources; assist in preparing proposals to be submitted to government funding agencies, foundations and corporations; and collect and analyze data tracking to the performance of grants awarded to Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

The project manager position is funded through a four-year, $3.7 million H-1B Visa Technical Skills Training Grant, awarded to Memphis Bioworks Foundation in October through the U.S Department of Labor.

Job training and placement under the grant will focus on fields in which employers are currently using the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program, whose visas are granted to nonimmigrant foreign workers in specialty fields, such as advanced manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology.

Memphis Bioworks Foundation is leading a consortium of training providers that includes Southwest Tennessee Community College, Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis, Lab Four, Seedco and Workforce Investment Network (WIN). The partners will provide classroom training in a number of health care occupational fields.

“The grants are really a reflection of Memphis Bioworks’ great success that we’ve had in developing a positive relationship with a variety of federal funding agencies and coming through and actually demonstrating that we when get a project, we follow through and are successful with it,” Vernon said. “I think that speaks to the confidence that these funding agencies have in Memphis Bioworks to lead the efforts and to fulfill the goals of the grants that we’ve been given. These things don’t happen overnight and it’s been a lot of hard work on the entire management team here at Memphis Bioworks to develop those relationships and that track records in all the areas that we’ve been working on.”

Lastly, Memphis Bioworks Foundation is seeking a project coordinator for its Agbioworks initiative, which works to make the Mid-South a leader in agricultural biotechnology research, discovery, business development, crop advancement and economic growth. Funded by a Delta Regional Authority grant for agriculture economic development in Western Tennessee, the project coordinator will work with farmer networks to develop alternative energy and bio-based products in 21 counties.

“I think the real story is it’s not so much just getting grants and adding a couple of staff positions to the organization, but it’s the multiplier effect, where we’ve received these federal funds that are obviously going to be spent in this region,” Vernon said. “We’ll be implementing these programs that are going to have a tremendous positive economic impact on the region.”

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