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Posted: August 2, 2012 8:40 p.m.

Baxter embarks on long journey to 2018

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Baxter International broke ground Wednesday, beginning the long path to commercial operation in 2018, which will see years of construction, a lengthy government approval process, the hiring of hundreds of employees and the efforts of local communities to woo Baxter executives to their neighborhood.

Dozens of local and regional volunteers organized a groundbreaking ceremony for the medical manufacturing giant, which unveiled the design for its $1 billion campus of buildings located in both Newton and Walton counties in the Stanton Springs industrial park.

Gov. Nathan Deal said some people said Georgia could never break into the bioscience arena because it was too far behind other states.

"To have Baxter as our premier Exhibit A, as a former trial lawyer, you could not have better evidence that we have broken that barrier today," Deal told a crowd of more than 200 local and state officials and Baxter executives.

Site clearing and grubbing is expect to begin within a few days, said Bryan Kyhos, Baxter's global communications director for its BioScience, with construction expected to start within the next six months.

The company is still in the process of selecting companies that will serve as construction managers and has not yet entered into any contracts, Kyhos said in a Thursday email, noting that construction jobs will be hired separately from in-house Baxter jobs.

To date, Baxter has hired eight employees out of the original 25 positions it posted; the company expects to hire 60 employees by the end of the year.

Baxter is locating in Stanton Springs, a 1,620-acre master-designed industrial park, located just west of Interstate 20 exit 101 at the intersection of Newton, Walton and Morgan counties. The park is managed by the Joint Development Authority, which is partnership of the three counties above along with Jasper County. Chris Cummisky, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development praised the authority for its' efforts in attracting Baxter.

"I hope very region in this state takes what they did as a model for how to do economic development. Baxter international is one of the largest companies in the world and one of the finest," Cummisky said. "They started a search for this and it was not a search in the southeast U.S, not a search covering the U.S.; it was global search for a place to locate this facility and its here today because of those folks and that JDA."

Stanton Springs was alluring for many reasons, including its abundance of land, its proximity to Interstate 20 and Atlanta's international airport and abundance of human capital. In addition, the state and Joint Development Authority put together an aggressive incentives package that could total $200 million or more, $94 million of which will come in the form of local property tax abatements. Baxter chose Stanton Springs out of more than 100 sites.

"Through much dedication and determination our goal to attract highly technical, professional and research related jobs is no longer a dream, but a reality," said authority Chairman Alan Verner. "This community couldn't have chosen a better partner than Baxter, and we intend to prove they could not have chosen a better community."

However, Baxter won't just bring more than 1,500 quality local jobs, with an average annual salary of $60,000, they'll bring quality people and leaders to the area communities. Newton County officials are doing what they can to convince executives that their county is the place to be.

"I fully expect you'll find us to be a strong community partner. Baxter is committed to creating social, environmental and economic values across many constituencies, including the communities in which we live and work," Baxter CEO Bob Parkinson said.

To see the 17 remaining full-time positions available at the Covington location, visit baxter.com/covington; the positions include various engineering positions, a finance manager, a director of information technology and a senior computer systems manager.

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