The Georgia Consortium for Health and Agro-Security is headed by Governor Sonny Perdue, a veterinarian who appreciates the threats to Georgia's citizenry and economy posed by zoonotic diseases, along with Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. The consortium includes our Congressional delegation, Department of Economic Development, the Board of Regents and Chancellor of the University System of Georgia (USG), the state's research universities and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA); Mayor Heidi Davison and other state and regional government leaders and agencies; Georgia Department of Agriculture and a coalition of Georgia's agricultural associations and stakeholder groups formed to attract the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF); Georgia Power, Merial and other companies; private/non-profit biomedical and health agencies; local and state economic development foundations and chambers of commerce; Georgia's Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE) and Athens Technical College; the Office of Homeland Security/Georgia Emergency Management Agency; local health officials, including the CEOs of Athens Regional and St. Mary's hospitals. The University of Georgia (UGA) has provided leadership and will have close ties to the NBAF and serve as its local host.
Proposed NBAF Site Location
The proposed site is a 67-acre parcel owned by UGA located southwest of the intersection of South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. It is located behind the UGA Livestock Instructional Arena and is used as horse pasture. The site, currently known as a portion of Tax Map Parcel No. 18-3-010, is surrounded by a large tract of UGA property. There are no adjacent neighborhoods. The title to the property is vested in the USG Board of Regents, which will deed the property to the federal government if the site is selected for construction of the NBAF.
Complementary Research And Workforce
UGA excels in research relevant to the NBAF, with prominent programs in livestock and wildlife health and disease surveillance, global emerging infectious diseases, microbiological food safety and agro-security. UGA has new initiatives in public health, and with the Medical College of Georgia is planning a new Athens' medical campus to open in 2009. It has made major investments in relevant research infrastructure, including the Paul Coverdell Biomedical and Health Sciences Center and the Animal Health Research Center, and has a history of productive interactions with university, federal and industrial partners. Also in Athens, Merial - a world-leading producer of animal health care products - has expertise in vaccine production that would greatly assist the NBAF, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Lab is a principal repository of national expertise in avian influenza. A major pharmaceutical company is considering Athens as one of two sites for construction of a major pandemic vaccine production facility, which would dovetail perfectly with the mission of the NBAF.
The Athens site would locate the NBAF an hour away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the world's health sentinel, which responds to emerging infectious diseases and thus would naturally interact with the NBAF. Also in Atlanta, Emory's School of Medicine and School of Public Health are world class and offer vaccine and infectious disease research programs that are among the nation's best. Additionally, Georgia Tech is increasing its biomedical programs and offers state-of-the-art engineering solutions to diagnostic and therapeutic problems, and Georgia State has a National Resource Center for Viral Immunology. Collectively, these Athens-Atlanta assets offer the NBAF the best potential to respond to natural pandemic or bioterror threats in a robust, well-coordinated fashion.
Other features distinguish the research environment offered by an Athens location. Building on strengths identified by outside consultants, the Georgia Research Alliance recently received the first $10 million installment on a major, multi-year state investment in vaccine and anti-viral research infrastructure. The Georgia life science industry is booming and now ranks 7th in the United States for number of companies. And, Georgia has invested statewide in specialized containment facilities for infectious disease research - from biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facilities at the CDC and Georgia State in Atlanta to the BSL-3-Ag facilities at the USDA, and the near-completed UGA Animal Health Research Center in Athens. Thus, Georgia has ample high-containment design, building and operations expertise, and it also offers relatively low building costs in a national comparison.
Athens provides an attractive location in which to recruit scientific staff, and the state provides a robust and customizable pipeline for workforce recruitment and training. The USG graduates over 7,000 bio-/health science majors per year and Georgia offers state-of-the-art programs for tailored workforce recruitment. DTAE and Athens Technical College, in particular, provide a range of biotechnology workforce training, and DTAE's nationally recognized Quickstart program allow for customization of workforce training to meet specific NBAF needs. This commitment and array of unique programs ensures the availability of a well-trained and sustainable NBAF workforce.
Available Site Infrastructure
Athens-Clarke County (ACC) has ample water and sewer capacity to serve the NBAF. ACC can withdraw 35 million gallons per day (MGD) from Bear Creek reservoir and another 28 MGD from the North and Middle Oconee Rivers. The ACC water treatment facility can treat 28 MGD but will be upgraded and expanded to 32 MGD by 2008. ACC's existing peak-day water demand is 26 MGD. An 8-inch water line is accessible on South Milledge Avenue, but will be upgraded to a 12-inch line to better serve the NBAF. There are no sewer lines close to the proposed site, hence a force main will be installed along South Milledge Avenue and waste pumped via an onsite lift station to the ACC's Middle Oconee Wastewater Treatment Facility (about threee miles away). Currently, the facility has a capacity of 6 MGD with an existing demand of 3.5 MGD. The facility will be upgraded and expanded to 10 MGD by 2012. Georgia Power will provide electrical service from two separate substations through existing electrical distribution infrastructure, mitigating transient power loss.
The site is located 1.5 miles from the Athens Perimeter (Loop 10), a four-lane bypass that quickly connects to Atlanta and Hartsfield Jackson International Airport via Georgia Route 316, or to Interstate 20 or 85 via U.S. Route 441.