Investor says Elk Run project going slower than expectedby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Rochester, Minn. — The California venture capitalist who says he plans to bring a billion-dollar bio-science park on a former elk farm in southeastern Minnesota said Friday it's going slower than he hoped.
Steve Burrill spoke to a bioscience trade group in Golden Valley. Word broke earlier this year of his proposed Elk Run project, between Rochester and the Twin Cities.
"When this was first kind of disclosed to the public a number of months ago, everybody thought it was going to happen overnight," Burrill said. "And you know, things take a while.
"It doesn't happen overnight. You don't raise a billion dollars overnight. You don't suddenly deploy a billion dollars overnight. You don't build a biotech park overnight. You don't build 50 spinouts out of Mayo overnight. You don't actually build all these things off the University of Minnesota overnight. So it takes some time."
Burrill told Lifescience Alley, a bio-tech trade group, that raising money for his company's Elk Run development has gone slower than he expected. But he said the project would defy critics who said it was too big or couldn't be done outside well-known biotech centers, like the Bay area or Boston.
"We have more than one building under development, meaning we're deep into architecture and planning," he said. "We have lots of dialogue with some tenants who want to be in those buildings. We're separately in the process of spinning out some companies both from Mayo in other things in the state. We're raising capital in the state."
Burrill also said his company is shifting from health care to clean energy as it makes investments in the biotech industry going forward. He said his California company has also come to terms on a significant investment in a biomass-to-energy company in the state.
"Seventy-five or 80 percent of what we've done to date has been on the health care side," he said. "Maybe 15 or 20 percent on the [agriculture] and energy side; that may be more balanced going forward. I think if you go out 50 years and you look back, biotech may have made a bigger contribution to energy and agriculture than it did to health care."
Burrill announced plans earlier this year for the business park and so-called "healthy living" community in Pine Island, Minnesota, a few miles north of Rochester on Highway 52.