:Gov. Nathan Deal greets Denny Dobbs, a member of the Joint Development Authority, at the groundbreaking for Baxter International Wednesday morning. - Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- Gov. Nathan Deal called the Wednesday morning groundbreaking at Stanton Springs to make way for construction of the Baxter International facility "a glorious day for the state of Georgia."
The governor joined Baxter representatives and local and state dignitaries at the event, held at the four-county mixed use park located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 278 and Interstate 20.
Deal said his goal is to make Georgia the No. 1 place to do business and to target the bioscience industry, despite doubters who have said Georgia can't compete.
"To have Baxter as our premier Exhibit A, from a former trial lawyer, we could not have better evidence that we have broken that barrier," he said.
Deal announced that Stanton Springs Parkway, the road leading into the park, will be renamed Baxter Parkway.
"The message that sends is that the road to success will have Baxter written all over it," he said.
Baxter CEO Bob Parkinson said the Stanton Springs site meets Baxter's needs in terms of infrastructure, workforce and distribution access. He said the facility will bring economic vibrancy to the local area and to the state.
"I fully expect for us to be a strong community partner," he said.
Baxter will invest $1 billion and bring 1,500 new jobs to the state. The facility will manufacture plasma-based therapies that treat chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The operation will also include warehouse and distribution facilities.
While clearing of the site will get underway shortly, construction will not begin until early 2013, according to Brian Kyhos, director of global communications of bioscience for Baxter.
Chris Cummiskey, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, praised the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties for its efforts in securing Baxter. "I hope every region in this state takes what they did as a model," for how to recruit industry, he said.
"Indeed this is a great day for Newton County and the four-county development authority," said Commissioner Mort Ewing, Newton's representative on the Joint Development Authority. "The JDA has worked extremely hard to bring this day to fruition. Those of us who have been elected officials have taken a lot of heat from a lot of people in the 12 years, but we had a goal and we stayed with that goal and we took the criticism. Everyone is pleased that the persistence paid off."
Ewing said Baxter will be the anchor in Stanton Springs and, "When you look at similar developments, state and nationwide, when they get an anchor other industry comes, and we think this is only the beginning."
Brien Johnson, vice president of program management for Baxter, said an increased demand for plasma-derived therapies motivated the expansion. He said the company evaluated 100 sites worldwide before settling on Stanton Springs. The facility there will separate plasma components, purify them and make life-sustaining therapies used to treat burn victims and patients with immune disorders, hemophilia and other medical conditions.
He said the Stanton Springs site will allow Baxter to build the 1 million-square-foot facility to its specifications and allow room for growth. Baxter has purchased approximately 160 acres in the more than 1,600 acre park. Incentives to draw Baxter here on the state and local level could top $200 million.
According to Kyhos, construction will be completed in 2015 or 2016, but due to various regulatory requirements that must be met, commercial production won't begin until 2018. Baxter will hire around 60 employees before the end of the year, with the majority of hires to come in the next several years. More information on positions can be obtained at www.baxter.com/covington.
In addition to the manufacturing facility, a bio-tech training center will be built and operated by Georgia Quick Start on the site. The training center will provide customized training to meet the company's start-up needs and build capacity and curricula 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, according to a press release previously issued by the Governor's Office.
The center will provide customized training to meet Baxter's start-up training needs and will be available for other companies coming to or expanding in Georgia to train employees.
Baxter International reported sales of $13.9 billion in 2011 and has approximately 48,500 employees worldwide.