The Southern Surge of Bioscience Technology Georgia Poised to Lead the South in the Rapidly Growing Life Sciences Field On a sunny day in March 2014, 250 gathered in attendance. On-hand were seven shovels that would break ground on the anticipated Georgia BioScience Training Center. Among the attendees were Governor Nathan Deal, Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson and Vice President/Program Executive of Baxter International Brien Johnson. When those shovels broke the ground it marked the start of a promising new era, as Georgia was poised to rise yet again in the promising field of bioscience technology. Already home to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), world-class research institutions like Emory University and the Georgia Institute for Technology and more than 400 life science companies, the state has long had a strong foothold in the field of biotechnology. With the additions of Baxter International’s more than $1 billion manufacturing facility and the Georgia BioScience Training Center, it’s clear that Georgia has turned a promising new corner. Of course, the story doesn’t actually begin here. The road to the tent that was situated within the 1,620- acre Stanton Springs Industrial Park – located at the intersection of Newton, Walton and Morgan Counties – was paved several years prior by the combined efforts of the Governor’s Office, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Quick Start, visionary leaders at Baxter International and commissioners from four different county governments. CREATING A BIO TECH BUZZ Amanda Shailendra, Director of Life Sciences, Technology and Corporate Solutions for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), has a front row seat for all of the exciting developments within Georgia’s growing bioscience technology industry. “Baxter was a long-term recruitment process,” recalled Shailendra. “Our department had worked on several other bioscience projects that we didn’t land, but we learned something new from each one, and they all served to lay the groundwork for Baxter. Now, we understood what companies in that space were looking for and worked towards providing that. We also built relationships with knowledgeable consultants. With the success of recruiting Baxter and the opening of the Georgia BioScience Training Center, we are able to place even more focus on the bioscience industry as a whole and identify subsectors where Georgia is uniquely suited for growth. The foundation that was created through these efforts has helped lead the way to significant growth for these industry sectors, which include Health Information Technology (HIT), Medical Devices, Cold Chain Storage, Fill and Finish, Hematology and Immunology. For instance, Varian Medical Systems from California will soon be bringing a medical device project to Georgia, which will represent 100 new positions on the Westside. Kaiser Permanente announced in April that it would be opening an IT campus on Peachtree Street – adding 900 new jobs. And athenahealth has announced plans to bring 600 new positions to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market over the next three years.” Shailendra, Commissioner Chris Carr and the rest of the GDEcD team don’t merely wait for press releases and articles about bioscience companies making their way to the Peach State to land on the desks of bioscience CEOs. Instead, they work proactively and diligently to create a buzz of their own. One of the most effective tools at their disposal is regular attendance at industry-related conventions and trade shows – such as BIO International – where Georgia often cross promotes and collaborates with entities such as the CDC, universities and colleges, and public and private businesses. GDEcD invites them to exhibit within the Georgia footprint, which is a 40-by-50-foot pavilion-sized booth that always serves to draw a crowd. When it comes time to negotiate with a prospective company, GDEcD often brings many of the same faces to the table in order to build a strong and cohesive team. “We use best practices from our work with other industries to grow the bioscience technology industry,” said Shailendra. “A skilled workforce is so important to many industries, which is particularly true of bioscience. The Georgia BioScience Training Center just made sense to help us attract Baxter. As far as attracting other bioscience companies in the future, we have a plan. We’re sticking to the plan and adjusting when needed… but we’re definitely on a very positive path forward.” CONNECTING THE DOTS Th e Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) oversees the state’s network of 23 technical colleges and a host of economic and workforce development programs – including Georgia Quick Start. “Th e number one decision maker for most companies with regard to where to locate is availability of a quality workforce,” said Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Commissioner Gretchen Corbin. “Georgia has been highly successful in developing that quality workforce companies are seeking through TCSG and Georgia Quick Start – the number one workforce training development program in the world. Quick Start will look carefully at a company and train to fit their specific needs. Th e Georgia BioScience Training Center was built with the entire bioscience industry in mind. Now that this vision is a reality, we can actively market it to other companies throughout the world. Th e training center is just one more show of commitment to companies that Georgia is ready for them. We’ve stepped up to the plate and are fully committed to the biotechnology industry, including the Baxter workforce, their partners and suppliers and beyond. At TCSG, we’re here to support businesses through our training and workforce development programs. Equally important, we’re also here to support Georgians who wish to go into this industry by becoming a student of the Technical College System of Georgia.” REALIZING A VISION For more than 40 years, Quick Start has provided customized workforce training free-of-charge to qualified businesses in Georgia. Today, the internationally acclaimed workforce development program is one of the state’s key assets for supporting new and expanding industries, like the bioscience technology industry. Quick Start delivers training in classrooms, mobile labs or directly on the plant floor, wherever it works best for a company. In the case of Baxter International, it quickly became apparent that the best solution was a dedicated training facility close to the company’s new campus near Covington. The Georgia BioScience Training Center will be operated by Georgia Quick Start. Once fully operational, the training center – which played a key role in attracting Baxter International to Georgia – will feature a comprehensive training program. Developed in collaboration between Georgia Quick Start and Baxter, the program will focus heavily on core skills and specialty manufacturing. Also attractive to Baxter was the fact that two technical colleges nearby boast strong bioscience programs – Gwinnett Technical College and Athens Technical College. Jackie Rohosky, Assistant Commissioner for Economic Development Programs for TCSG, has led the Georgia Quick Start program since 1990 and made a point to take Baxter executives to both schools to see their programs in action. “Everything is connected – operation startup and technical college system to supply workforce,” said Rohosky. “Baxter is not the first company to convey that Quick Start played a role in their decision to locate in Georgia. They appreciate the training and the quality of the workforce we can supply them. After all, companies have to do the right kind of training in order to start successfully. Of course, it’s not solely Quick Start. We have a very strong economic development team in Commissioner Chris Carr and Amanda Shailendra. They specialize in locating companies that would be a good fit for Georgia. There was also a solid collaboration between four counties – Newton, Walton, Jasper and Morgan – to draw this company to the Covington area. The local economic development entities worked extremely well together.” Rohosky stated that locality was also central to Baxter’s decision to locate east of Atlanta. She provided the Baxter team with a map that pointed to five technical colleges and a number of university systems, as well as nine high schools and career academies that could all serve as workforce pipelines for the company. “Beyond training and the provision of a pool of workforce talent, we also collaborated with Baxter International on the design of the center by deciding what needs to go into planning a state-of-the-art facility,” Rohosky recalled. “We initially looked at other centers, but decided to go with an entirely original design – one-of-a-kind. We looked to nature and many of the aesthetics tied to the life sciences industry. We plan to host a grand opening and unveiling in September 2015. We can hardly wait for everyone to see it, particularly prospective companies who are considering a move to Georgia. In the meantime, the GDEcD will bring prospects to us, and we’ll take them through the Georgia Bioscience Training Center, as well as the KIA training center in West Georgia. Beyond a standard tour to ‘wow’ them and demonstrations of our training capacities, these centers serve as proof that we’ve done it. We provide companies with a virtually turn-key solution that alleviates concerns over ‘how will we train our workforce?’”
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
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