Campus News

State, UGA bid to house new bio and ag defense facility

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced late last month that the state of Georgia has submitted two potential UGA sites to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as locations for the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

“I am convinced that Georgia has the right combination of resources, infrastructure and talent to bring this research center to our state,” he says. “Georgia already has invested heavily in life sciences and agriculture. We have some of the best and brightest minds in the country already working in these fields.”

The state created a working group called the Georgia Consortium for Health and Agro-Security to draft a response to a federal request for proposals. The consortium is made of up representatives from UGA, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Innovation and Technology Office, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Medical College of Georgia, other Georgia institutions of higher education, the Georgia Research Alliance and other key industry stakeholders and businesses. Two 20-page “expression of interest” packets were sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The primary Georgia site is UGA-owned property off College Station Road adjacent to campus and several existing federal facilities. They include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Richard B. Russell Research Center and the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory. The secondary site is on South Milledge Avenue near Whitehall Road on the southern end of campus.

“The state of Georgia is where the proposed facility should be located,” says David Lee, UGA’s vice president for research. “We have worked very hard to make the state a world leader in global health, especially in the areas of zoonotic infectious diseases, vaccines and food safety, and we can provide resources to make this facility as efficient and effective as possible. Given the facility’s purpose, the consortium believes that a proposal to locate the facility near UGA, its College of Veterinary Medicine and other critical assets will be most attractive to DHS.”

The NBAF would address the federal government’s need for research and development space to meet threats from emerging disease pandemics and bio- and agro-terrorism. DHS issued a notice of request for expression of interest in the Jan. 19 edition of the Federal Register.

“The state has received a tremendous amount of support from Georgia’s elected leaders in Washington,” says Perdue. “Our proposals include letters of support from federal, state and local officials that demonstrate our spirit of cooperation.”

An approximately 500,000 square-foot building would house the NBAF and employ an estimated 500 federal employees. A Vinson Institute of Government analysis estimates the 20-year impact at $1.5 billion in wages and salaries and an estimated $3.5 billion total overall economic ­impact.

“This is the kind of economic development project that we strive for here in Georgia-a high-paying, sustainable facility that makes important contributions to society,” says Craig Lesser, GDEcD commissioner. “Within the last month we’ve seen companies like Kia Motors and Gulfstream decide to invest heavily in Georgia because we have the right resources and business climate that ensures success. I strongly believe that Georgia is the right place for this facility.”