Those were the findings from a new biannual industry report from the national biotech trade association BIO. The report provides a snapshot of the industry in the U.S. and for each state during four-year and 10-year periods.
Medical device and equipment manufacturing — an area that's been a focus of economic development efforts in West Michigan — grew a solid 8.1 percent statewide from 2007 to 2010 to employ 10,328 people who earn an average annual salary of $63,629.
Jobs at companies involved in agricultural feedstock and chemicals grew 13 percent, although that area remains comparatively small at just a little more than 800 jobs.
The two subsectors represented the positives for Michigan in the report prepared for BIO by the not-for-profit research and development firm Battelle.
The report shows that overall employment in the life sciences industry in Michigan declined 7.7 percent from 2007 to 2010 to 39,282 jobs and dipped 4.7 percent since 2001, which is actually better than what overall private-sector employment in the state did during the same period, according to the report.
The report says jobs across all private economic sectors in Michigan declined 10.8 percent to 3.1 million during the four years — one of the worst economic periods the state has ever experienced — and 17.1 percent in the decade.
"The industry, by and large, is holding its own," said Steve Rapundalo, CEO of the trade association MichBio. "We've maintained the status quo. We haven't seen a huge increase and we haven't seen a huge drop off."
The growth in medical devices even elevated Michigan to one of eight "specialized" states in the subsector, right behind national leaders California, Massachusetts, Indiana and Pennsylvania that each hold at least 5 percent share of total device employment in the U.S.
"It's nice to see growth in that sector and we're seeing that on a number of fronts. Not only are the big companies expanding, like Stryker (in Kalamazoo), but we're also seeing it in terms of emerging companies. A lot of young startups are springing up in the device space," Rapundalo said.
The Battelle report shows that the number of medical device companies in Michigan grew between 2007 and 2010 to 211, or by 3.9 percent, but were down slightly from 2001, which compares to a 6.7-percent increase during the four-year period nationally and 12.8 percent during the entire decade across the U.S.
At the same time, the number of research, testing and medical labs operating in Michigan grew 20.1 percent over four years to 408, which Rapundalo believes bodes well for the future as the economy improves following the recession and as the small firms mature and grow.
Overall, the number of life sciences companies based in Michigan increased 0.5 percent from 2007 to 2010 to 1,595, and is up 6.9 percent since 2001.
The growth in life sciences companies came as the number of private-sector employers in Michigan declined by 3.5 percent from 2007 to 2010 — and by 4.6 percent since 2001 — to 240,789 companies.
Given the economic climate in Michigan during that period, and comparatively to the overall state economy, "our industry is just as robust as it's ever been," Rapundalo said.
Yet amid the bright spots there were negatives. An overall decline for life sciences employment came during a four-year period when Pfizer Inc. pulled its human research operations out of Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. The Pfizer pullout cost the state 2,500 direct jobs and an undetermined number of indirect jobs, Rapundalo notes.
The Pfizer downsizing in Michigan was "almost singlehandedly" responsible for the 11.5-percent decline in drugs and pharmaceutical employment to 7,305 jobs, and a 21.7-percent decline in employment at research, testing and medical labs, to 9,802 jobs.
The number of pharmaceutical companies in Michigan also declined to 60, although Rapundalo questions that figure as "way low."
"That just doesn't make sense at all," he said.
Rapundalo wonders whether the startup pharmaceutical companies that formed in the last several years in the wake of the Pfizer pullout and remain in their product-development stage are instead counted as research companies in the Battelle report.
"We've seen an increase in pharma companies," he said. "We know there has been growth there, but it's all been on the young company side. It bodes well for the future if they can all keep going and many of them have."
The largest subsector in the state's life sciences industry was bioscience-related distribution, an area that includes cold storage, highly regulated product monitoring and automated drug distribution systems. The subsector grew employment 13 percent during the decade to 11,045 jobs, but slid 4.3 percent from 2007 to 2010.