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State investing $14M in training center

COVINGTON -- What's been nearly lost in the hoopla surrounding the announcement of Baxter International's plans to locate in Stanton Springs is the news that a first-of-its-kind $14 million state-owned biotech training facility will open there too.

As negotiations with Baxter began to look more promising, and due to Gov. Nathan Deal's efforts to target the bioscience industry, the state budgeted $14 million for the center, said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The center, operated by Georgia Quick Start, will provide customized training to meet Baxter's start-up training needs. But it will not be used solely by Baxter, although the company will be given preferential use for several years, with a certain portion of the building restricted for their equipment, Cummiskey said.

The rest of the building will include other equipment and classroom space. Cummiskey said companies coming to or expanding in Georgia utilizing the Quick Start program will use the center as an area to train employees on technical equipment.

"It's very clear bioscience is a strategic industry for Gov. Nathan Deal. It's a fast growing industry with well-paying jobs and we are perfectly set up for it," with Georgia's proximity to the airport and the variety of colleges and universities in the state, Cummiskey said.

The state will purchase the property from TPA, the company that is partnered with the Joint Development Authority as developer of the Stanton Springs park. About 3 to 5 acres will be purchased, at a total of between $150,000 to $250,000, as part of the $14 million project budget, he said.

Construction is expected to get under way by the end of the year and the facility will take 18 months to build, Cummiskey said.

The center "says to companies we are focused and committed to bioscience and we are going to continue to be for a very, very long time," he said.