Gov. Sonny Perdue, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and Georgia’s congressional delegation announced on Aug. 9 that, according to initial reports, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has included Georgia on a short list of sites to locate the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.
The primary NBAF site proposed by the state of Georgia 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.
“I’m thrilled that Georgia has made the initial cut,” said Perdue. “We will continue working hard to convince federal officials that we have the right combination of resources, infrastructure and talent to bring this research center to our state. Our investments and expertise in life sciences and agriculture make Georgia the ideal location for this facility.”
DHS will now perform additional analysis of 18 sites on the short list selected for further review. The department received a total of 29 applications from 20 states before the March 31 deadline.
“The inclusion of this site as a finalist for NBAF is a clear recognition of the critical mass of biomedical and health research ongoing at the University of Georgia and the associated federal facilities,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “Add to that the diverse strengths of our colleagues in higher education in the state, and Georgia becomes a very strong contender to host NBAF.”
Georgia has become a world leader in global health, especially in the areas of zoonotic infectious diseases, vaccines and food safety. By choosing an Athens site, DHS and NBAF would gain great efficiency based on proximity to existing research facilities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA Russell Research Center.
Similar to the CDC, located near Emory University, NBAF’s biosafety level four laboratories will meet, or exceed, all federal safety requirements.
To respond to the federal request for proposals, the state of Georgia created the Georgia Consortium for Health and Agro-Security. The consortium consists of representatives from UGA, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Innovation and Technology Office, Emory, 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.
“The state received a tremendous amount of support from Georgia’s elected leaders in Washington, D.C.,” said Perdue. “Our advantages in the life sciences and agriculture fields are enhanced by our spirit of cooperation and support from a wide array of federal, state and local officials.”
An approximately 500,000-square-foot building would house the NBAF and employ an estimated 500 federal employees. A Carl Vinson Institute of Government analysis estimates the 20-year impact at $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion in wages and salaries and an estimated $3.5 billion to $6 billion total overall economic impact. Construction alone would create an estimated 1,000 jobs.