In an effort to boost Georgia’s economic development prospects, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development established the Innovation Crescent in 2007. Loosely modeled after North Carolina’s Research Triangle, the effort sought to tie together a number of the Peach State’s existing assets to promote research and development in the life sciences and bio medicine.
With its southern anchor at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and including the research facilities at Georgia Tech, Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control, promoters of the Innovation Crescent envisioned Georgia 316 starting with Gwinnett Technical College and Georgia Gwinnett College along Georgia 316 and extending to the University of Georgia in Athens as a place where companies involved in the biological sciences could locate research and development facilities.
The Great Recession, which began shortly after the initiative was announced, slowed but did not stop the progress of the initiative. In 2012, Georgia scored a major bio science win, with the announcement that Baxter International would build a plant to manufacture plasma based treatements. However, instead of being located on the I-85/316 corridor, the plant will be located near Covington, along I-20.
This spring, however, there are new signs that the Innovation Crescent might be getting ready to flourish.
Last week, Gwinnett County Commissioners heard a pitch to expand the research and development corridor area defined in the county’s development plan east from Dacula to the county line. The Gwinnett Daily Post has the story:
According to [Gwinnett Planning and Development Director Bryan] Lackey, the research corridor, which currently ends west of Dacula would be extended out to the Gwinnett-Barrow county line. The commission would have to rezone undeveloped property along Hwy. 316 that is currently zoned for residential and rural to research and development to extend the research corridor.
“We are prepared to bring this before the board,” he said. “If the board feels this is the right move to make these changes, then I’m happy to do that. All we have to do is advertise for about 45 days and then we can bring it before the board.”
The newly added areas could be used to attract business which do animal and agricultural research to tie into the proximity to the University of Georgia, Lackey told the commission. He also said the area could be used to attract medical device companies or third-party companies which create prototypes for other businesses.
At the Athens end of the corridor, Georgia Quick Start recently broke ground on a training center located near to the Classic City that will help in training the workforce of Baxter in Covington, along with other biotech companies in the Innovation Crescent. The Quick Start program is operated by the state’s Technical College system, and provides customized training programs for employers who need employees with special skills.
A recently signed memorandum of understanding between the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership and Georgia Bio could be another sign that the initiative is ready to expand. According to a press release, with the signing of the MOU, “the ICRP will serve as one of Georgia Bio’s economic development partners and Georgia Bio will support the ICRP in marketing the region to recruit, retain and expand life science companies in Georgia.”
Driving through parts of Georgia outside metro Atlanta, there are plenty of signs labeling an area’s roads at High Tech Corridors. While it’s fair to say that giving a road or area a name doesn’t guarantee its future, there are signs pointing to the Innovation Crescent as beginning to bear fruit.