Originally created 07/23/01

Authority nears deal on biotech



Augusta's future biotechnology industry probably will begin with a question: What do you want?

The Georgia Medical Center Authority is finalizing a contract with the development firm Hammer Siler George Associates of Silver Spring, Md. The authority voted earlier this month to hire the firm to plan a possible research park and company incubator. The company can begin soon after the contract is signed, said authority Director Cathy Slade.

It would be paid about $89,000 to determine what would be feasible, find a suitable site, work with local and state developers to formulate a plan and create a way to implement it.

In its proposal, the firm estimated it would take 16 weeks.

One thing the firm will need to do is understand the goals for the area and fit them within what can reasonably be accomplished, Ms. Slade said. The firm already has created successful biotech ventures and research parks in New Orleans, St. Louis, Oklahoma and Richmond, Va.

The feelings locally about landing a biotech industry already are changing, Ms. Slade said.

"I think everyone involved recognizes this is going to be a major change for the Augusta area," she said.

The authority also is zeroing in on a firm to do marketing and public relations and develop a Web site. A subcommittee has recommended MileMarker Zero LLC based, of Augusta, to handle the promotion and facilitate setting up the Web site. The authority will decide in late August, Ms. Slade said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.