Global medical manufacturer Baxter International will build a $1 billion manufacturing center in Newton and Walton counties and hire around 1,500 full-time workers by 2018, giving an area that has been primed for growth its first major win.
The manufacturing plant will be the first to be built in the pre-planned, 1,620-acre Stanton Springs industrial park, located just west of Interstate 20 exit 101 at the intersection of Newton, Walton and Morgan counties.
The park, which was developed in 2000 and is jointly owned by Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties, has been a finalist on several previous projects, but finally landed the high-quality manufacturer it had been seeking.
The average annual salary for Baxter jobs is expected to be around $60,000, said Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber said last year its number one goal was to recruit high-paying jobs, which it hoped would in turn and over time help address a lack of quality retail and amenities.
Baxter plans to hire 60 workers this year, including a small number of key leadership and technical positions in engineering, quality, manufacturing, project management, supply chain and IT, spokeswoman Kellie Hotz said in an email. Construction jobs will also be filled, but are not included in that total, said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
"Education requirements will vary from high school diploma up to advanced degrees in engineering and science, and we anticipate needing employees with a range of previous work experience. We will have openings in engineering, project management, manufacturing, maintenance, quality, laboratory functions, IT, environmental health safety and security, supply chain and human resources. "Interested candidates should visit www.baxter.com to review the job requirements for open positions," Hotz said.
Julie Kim, general manager of biotherapeutics for Baxter, said the facility is a pure expansion, so the vast majority of the 1,500 jobs will be created jobs.
The company will occupy 162 acres of Stanton Springs; 54 acres in Newton County and 108 acres in Walton County. However, Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter's BioScience business, told The News that only a third of the site will be built out for the initial $1 billion investment.
The remaining 100-plus acres could be built out depending on company performance.
Baxter’s plans call for an integrated campus of buildings totaling one million square feet, including three main manufacturing buildings, as well as support components such as warehouse and utilities buildings, administrative facilities and laboratories, Hotz said.
The four-county Joint Development Authority agreed early Thursday to purchase the land on behalf of Baxter from TPA Realty Services, the group that designed the park and has been purchasing the land in installments. The $6.5 million purchase will be made with state grants and the authority will lease the land to Baxter for 10 years, after which the title will pass to Baxter upon payment of a nominal sum, said authority attorney Tommy Craig.
Craig said significant state and local incentives were provided; state incentives were $80 million according to the governor’s office, but local total incentives were not immediately available.
In addition to an aggressive incentives package, Kim told The News that Baxter felt the Atlanta region had a quality workforce because of its strong university system and job-training programs like Quick Start, which ensure workers have minimum skills needed to be effective workers. She said the logistics benefits, being close to I-20 and an international airport, were important for a company with a large global presence.
Baxter, which is based in Deerfield, Ill., employs 48,500 employees in 27 countries and is a leading developer of products for people with hemophilia, immune disorders, infectious diseases, kidney disease and other chronic and acute (short-term but intense) medical conditions. The company had $13.9 billion in total revenues in 2011, according to its annual report.
The medical plant was hailed as a huge boon to Georgia, which has been trying to market itself to high-tech, high-paying jobs, and Newton and surrounding counties, which have been marketing the Stanton Springs site as an ideal place for these high-tech businesses.
Construction will begin in 2012, but the first building isn't expected to be completed until 2015, while all construction should wrap up by 2016. However, commercial production isn't scheduled to begin until 2018.
"It takes after (construction) validation and regulatory approval. Because we are a biologics manufacturer, and as part of the natural process, we have to have the FDA as well as multiple other regulatory agencies around the world inspect the facility and give us approval," Kim told The News.
Baxter is opening a new facility because the therapies it specializes in are becoming more popular, and Kim said there's room for growth as less than 50 percent of immune deficiency cases are diagnosed.Though Baxter invested significant money in research and development (R&D), $946 million in 2011, there will be no formal R&D at the Covington location.
Gov. Nathan Deal called the deal a "huge breakthrough" for Georgia.
"Any time you have a company with Baxter's reputation and worldwide reach decide to come to your state for their expansion that in and of itself is great news," Deal told The News in an interview at the capitol. "But I do think it bodes well for the state in terms of opening up additional bioscience industries coming to the state of Georgia. I feel every confidence that Baxter is going to find this a great place to do business."
Unlike a car manufacturing plant or the Caterpillar plant to built near Athens, Kim said Baxter will not bring suppliers with it, because it's simply a different kind of operation. However, multiple plasma centers will open around the state, and Kim said Baxter could be an anchor store for the bioscience industry in Georgia.