From 2007 before the recession to 2010 after it ended officially, employment in the field grew 1.5 percent while employment in all industries statewide fell by 7.9 percent. Wages in the field rose 4 percent while they dropped by the same amount for average Georgia workers.
The average salary in 2010 was $64,000 in the life sciences compared to $44,000 elsewhere in the state.
Georgia Bio, the trade association for the life-sciences industry, produced the report with data from the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth. The association's chairman, Dr. Thomas Callaway, said one in 40 jobs in the state is tied to the industry, comparing it to traditional manufacturing companies like heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar that announced in February it is building a 1,400 plant in Athens.
"You can tell the governor and the Economic Development Department are paying attention to us now that we have our own announcements," he said, noting that in March drug maker Baxter International announced 1,500 jobs for a new plant in Covington.
"It's wonderful to have Caterpillar. We're delighted to see that as well, but we also have good-paying jobs," he said, adding that pharmaceutical companies here pay an average of $94,000.
The industry's 360 Georgia companies add $9.3 billion to the state's gross domestic product and pay $577 million in state and local taxes, according to the report.
The trade group released its annual analysis at its convention held in a complex near the Atlanta airport. The site was appropriate because many of the senior executives of large drug makers said that having access to direct flights to nearly anywhere in the globe was one of the reasons they chose Georgia for their companies.
Other reasons are the research universities, the regulatory climate and the quality of life.
However, executives of companies large and small said over and over again during the daylong meeting that the state needs more large investors willing to fund young companies.
"That has tended to be the biggest challenge for this industry in Georgia," said David Dodd, chief executive officer of the start-up VaxyGen and the former president of several large, Georgia pharmaceutical companies.
Edward J. Schutter, CEO of Arbor Pharmaceuticals, agreed.
"I've started a couple of companies ... and not one time have I been able to get funding in the Atlanta area," he said.