Fifteen hundred jobs proved to be too many for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce's monthly ring the bell event, as the bell's rope broke in the middle of being rung 1,500 times.
A surprised Tim Fleming, a Newton County commissioner, held the rope up after it broke off in his hand, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
The symbolism was appropriate as local officials were impressed by the sheer number of jobs being brought to the area by Baxter International, a medical manufacturer which announced Thursday it would be locating in the 1,620-acre Stanton Springs industrial park, located at the intersection of Morgan, Newton and Walton counties.
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 company hopes to open a $1 billion manufacturing center and employ 1,500 people by 2018.
The complex deal was nearly four years in the making and was a particular triumph for Georgia and Stanton Springs because they beat out North Carolina's popular and formidable Research Triangle Park, an industrial park filled with high-tech businesses.
"This project is the perfect example that economic development is a marathon, not a sprint," said chamber President Hunter Hall. The project reportedly went though numerous code names, ending up as project marathon.
"We have been a proud partner in this project since 2008, and are ecstatic to see it come to fruition. The impact on this region cannot be overstated. Baxter's choice of Stanton Springs sends a clear message that we are the desired location to manufacture and enjoy a great quality of place at the same time."
Because production won't begin until 2018, the state and individual workers have a few years to get up to speed. As part of its incentives package, Georgia Quick Start, the state's workforce development program, will build and operate a state-of-the-art biotech training center to provide Baxter with a fully-customized training program that meets the company's start-up needs and also builds a curriculum within the Technical College System of Georgia for maintaining a long-term pipeline of highly skilled employees who are well-trained in bio-manufacturing operations.
Baxter spokeswoman Kellie Hotz said Thursday the company expects to 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 positions as they come open.