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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Tax break legislation next step in ARMI's development

By MIKE COTE
May 27. 2018 12:32AM
Manchester inventor and DEKA and ARMI founder Dean Kamen walks by a sculpture of Albert Einstein at DEKA headquarters at Manchester in June 2017. Gov. Chris Sununu said last week that he intends to sign a bill that would exempt ARMI businesses from state taxes for 10 years. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)



Dean Kamen didn’t need New Hampshire to pledge hundreds of millions worth of incentives to clinch the ARMI project from the Department of Defense — he turned instead to his Fortune 500 CEO friends — but he managed to convince legislators to approve some tax breaks.

The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) has the potential to elevate the Granite State to become a global leader in biotechnology with the production of human body parts. On Wednesday, the House and Senate agreed to approve Senate Bill 564, which exempts businesses involved in the ARMI project from state business taxes for 10 years.

“We are poised to become the global hub of regenerative medicine, continuing our long history on the forefront of science and technology,” said Gov. Chris Sununu, who plans to sign the bill into law. (The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, which says the tax incentive sets a bad precedent for New Hampshire, won’t be cheering.)

The measure seems primed for the arrival of Lung Biotechnology PBC, the company headed by Martine Rothblatt. She is also the chief executive of Lung Biotechnology’s parent company, United Therapeutics, and serves on the ARMI board of directors.

Lung Biotechnology, which is working on treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension and other fatal lung diseases, will be celebrating the opening of its research and development facility at 100 Commercial St. in Millyard on Wednesday. Rothblatt will be on hand to dedicate the R&D shop.

My colleague Katie McQuaid, who forwarded me her email invitation, thought the headline on the invite — “An Unlimited Supply of Organs” — sounded kinda creepy. I know she’s too young to remember “Coma,” the 1978 film directed by physician/author Michael Crichton from Robin Cook's novel about a conspiracy to steal human body parts from people who were still using them. Stealing them is indeed creepy. Making them? Not so much. People probably thought the idea of replacing hips and kneecaps with artificial parts sounded creepy decades ago. Now you can get that done at an outpatient surgical center and go home the same day.

Kamen has a history of working on projects that have made a lasting impact — including a portable dialysis machine, a high-tech prosthetic arm and that two-wheeler used by Kevin James in “Paul Blart Mall Cop.”

OK, so the Segway will forever be a novelty item, though it should be noted that Kamen was working on a wheelchair that climbs stairs when he came up with the idea. Meanwhile that wheelchair, the iBOT, is poised to make a comeback more than 15 years after it was introduced. But that’s a story for another day.

When he’s pitching ARMI, Kamen peppers his speeches with short updates on projects like the iBot. He’s also sure to mention how the Millyard was the largest single textile mill operation in the United States in the late 19th century.

Actually, the Millyard was the largest single textile mill operation in the world. Kamen knows this. How could he not? The New York transplant has bought up and redeveloped so many mill buildings over the past 35 years we should call him “Amoskeag.”

I couldn’t help but remind Kamen of the Millyard’s international distinction a couple of weeks ago after he gave a speech at Oracle + Dyn. I might have annoyed him when I walked over with my iPhone, my web browser dialed up to an article about Manchester in the Library of Congress.

Kamen has a beef about New Hampshire having a problem with its self-image. He loves this state and believes it has great potential. So why not remind everyone that we were once a world champion — especially when you’re working on another shot at the title?

Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or mcote@unionleader.com.


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