ATLANTA – It may be a down year for the biotechnology industry, but the competition for biotech sloganeering, branding and marketing pitches on the floor of the annual BIO convention is up. Way up.

Attendance at the 2009 BIO convention fell by about 25 percent from recent years, which might be better described as “only” 25 percent given what’s happened in the last nine months. A few states that were regulars in the past (New York and Iowa) are no-shows in 2009.

Venture capital investments in biotech were down 46 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year ago, bankruptcies outnumber initial public offerings by 20 to 1, and 40 percent of the publicly traded biotech companies are down to their last 12 months of cash.

On the exhibit floor, however, life seems somehow… well, rosier.

States, provinces, nations and companies are competing for the attention of the 16,000 or so BIO attendees through eye-catching exhibits, giveaways, food, music and other techniques, all designed to snare their fair share of foot traffic.

Wisconsin does so under the slogan of “Collaborate, Commercialize, Connect,” which shares alliterative qualities with Indiana’s “Discover, Develop, Deliver.”

No state has yet claimed “Research, Reject, Reapply for another Grant.”

Wisconsin’s immediate neighborhood on the expansive exhibit floor of the Georgia World Congress Center includes Maryland, Italy and Puerto Rico. Within a few hundred yards either way, a visitor can learn the following:

-  California is very much in touch with its collective feelings. Its slogan is “California: Find yourself here.”

-  Arizona wants to get in touch in more physical ways. It invites people to “come relax in our gene pool.”

-  Host state Georgia is the “crossroad of global health,” which is certainly true this week with biotech visitors from 60 countries hanging around town.

-  Massachusetts is self assured. “It’s all here,” the Bay State claims.

-  Quebec is understated. It’s “a nuclear of creativity,” and they even brought in a guitar player to prove it.

-  Not to be outdone by neighboring Massachusetts, “Connecticut delivers.”

-  Kansas is the home of “sky high bio” and one of the most visited exhibits on the floor, a flight simulator.

-  “Made in Germany” is a brand that suggests quality, engineering prowess and Vince “The Sham Wow Guy” Shlomi from the television commercials. Actually, for Wisconsin, it also suggests the sister state of Hessen, which hosted a networking breakfast Tuesday morning.

-  Utah has mountainous ambitions with its “Life Elevated” theme.

-  Illinois is “Putting science to work,” which, after all, is what this whole convention should be about.

-  The former Republic of Texas is apparently having some separatist issues again. BioTexas is located on one side of the aisle, but Houston is about 30 yards away in an entirely different space. Hey, it’s a big state… and a big convention.