The state is in negotiations to purchase 6.7 acres of property in Stanton Springs industrial park to build the previously-promised $14 million Georgia BioScience Training Center.
The 48,000 square-foot training facility was part of the state’s incentive package for Baxter International’s $1 billion medical manufacturing campus in Stanton Springs and will be used to train not only Baxter employees but workers for other facilities around the state.
The project is a collaboration between the Technical College System of Georgia and Georgia Quick Start, the state’s workforce training program.
“The Georgia BioScience Training Center will be the cornerstone for all future BioScience industry ventures for the state,” according to a description of the project on the technical college system’s website.
“The GBTC will not only provide the needed job training for future bio technicians on the leading edge of the field, but it will also serve as the showcase facility to demonstrate Georgia’s serious commitment to the industry.
“This facility will house state of the art laboratory spaces, classrooms, computer lab, meeting rooms, administrative spaces and all associated storage and functional spaces. The building will also include a large multipurpose conference space (and a) small general food service area that can also serve the conference rooms.”
Both major state officials in charge of the project were out of town late last week and a Baxter spokesperson said all information for the project will come from the state.
Atlanta-based Architecture firm Cooper Carry won the bid and has created an initial design for the building, though construction documents are not yet completed.
Construction of the project has been bid out, but a company has not yet been selected according to technical system’s website. However, construction is expected to begin by Aug. 15 of this year and completed by April 15, 2015 so that classes could start by May 1, 2015. Construction is estimated to cost $9.6 million.
Several programs are expected to be offered in the facility, including: governmental agency approval processes; general bio lab practices; validation and risk assessment procedures; OSHA and biotech compliance; blood-borne pathogen technology; bio separation techniques; ultrafiltration; centrifugation; maintenance and calibration; antiseptic controls and techniques; HVAC systems controls, balancing and filtration; technical writing; and clean room basics.
The center will be managed by the staff at Athens Technical College.
Paul Michael with TPA Realty Services, the developer and marketer of Stanton Springs, said the facility will be located directly across the street from Baxter’s campus. Based on the preliminary drawings, the center will be a two-story building with single-story entrances on both sides as it will be built into the slope of the land.
Based on the previous incentive package offered to Baxter, the state will equip at least 20,000 square feet of the building with equipment, which will have at least four labs, four classrooms, a room for computer training and dedicated meeting space for up to 500 people or a 150-person sit down event.
The state will own at least 65 percent of the center, with the remainder belonging to Baxter.
The incentive agreement said the state will pay all operating costs for the first seven years, at which point Baxter can enter into a joint operating agreement if it chooses or give up its space. The center is expected to be a major tool in Georgia’s efforts to attract future biotech industries.
“The new training center at Stanton Springs is a long-term investment in Georgia’s future as a hub for the bioscience industry.
“It will be a state-of-the-art facility that will ensure Baxter and future client companies will have a deep pool of talent from which to draw,” Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said previously in an email.
According to the incentive agreement, Georgia Quick Start would provide an estimated $10.3 million in customized workforce training for Baxter. Quick Start employees will be sent to existing Baxter facilities to learn the company’s processes and design a fully-customized training program to meet both start-up needs and provide a long-term pipeline of workers skilled in bio-manufacturing operations.
These processes can also be made part of the Technical College System of Georgia if needed, the agreement said.
Working around snag
The pending sale of 6.7 acres to the state has been delayed because of conflicts with the state’s constitution that prevent the state from taking the title to the property, Michael told the four-county Joint Development Authority at a Tuesday meeting. Stanton Springs is jointly owned by Newton, Walton, Morgan and Jasper counties, and the authority contains officials from all four counties who oversee the park.
Michael said the attorney general’s office listed several concerns with a potential transaction.
One potential fix could be removing certain restrictions from the property.
Last year, the authority passed 84 pages worth of protective covenants for Stanton Springs, which, similar to those for subdivisions, set design standards for buildings and limit what property can be used for.
The covenants also provide a way for the authority to collect money from tenants for the maintenance of common areas, like cutting grass, and paying light bills, Michael said.
The authority voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the covenants from that 6.7-acre property if necessary, but Michael said other options are also being pursued. The covenants were jointly approved by both the authority and TPA Realty, so both parties have to agree to alter them.
Authority member Mort Ewing asked whether waiving the covenants would set a bad precedent. Michael said he didn’t think so as his firm, TPA Realty, did the same thing in another industrial park to allow the state to buy land to build a technical college.
Private companies should have no such issues.