Budget cuts threaten incubator

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The Georgia Medical Center Authority, a small, Augusta agency that helps startup companies use medical discoveries to create jobs, could soon be out of business because of state budget cuts.

The life sciences business incubator works to recruit biomedical companies to Augusta. Three employees, including Dr. Donald A. Colbert, would lose their jobs and the three incubator businesses at the facility might leave the city and transfer jobs out of the state, he said Wednesday.

"If we're not here supplying rental and in-house services, including strategic planning and consulting, they're going to look around elsewhere," Dr. Colbert said.

The Broad Street operation was hoping to expand but could disband if the General Assembly follows Gov. Sonny Perdue's recommendation to eliminate its roughly $500,000 in funding.

"Our funding runs out somewhere, we're not sure, around April or May. And then we close the doors," said Dr. Colbert, the executive director of the agency.

Last week, he and the agency's board chairman, George Snelling, went to Atlanta to testify in front of a Senate subcommittee on economic development, and they're prepared to make the trip again for other legislative panels.

Dr. Colbert said they also spoke with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

Mr. Cagle didn't make any promises, Dr. Colbert said, but conversations with Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, were more positive. Mr. Harbin heads the House Appropriations Committee.

"What we're trying to do right now is get through this year alive," Dr. Colbert said.

Mr. Harbin's committee is in the middle of its review of the budget, which is expected to take several more weeks. Then the Senate and governor will get a chance to have their say on the final appropriations.

With a $2.2 billion projected deficit, most state leaders are warning of deep cuts for all agencies.

Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, said Wednesday a subsidiary bill, House Bill 93, is awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee, which she thought was "a little unusual."

The bill would also allow the agency to be repaid by the startup companies if they become profitable.

The Medical Center Authority was established by the state in 2000, and in 2005, the OneGeorgia Authority made a $500,000 grant to equip the incubators.

"We have done very well," said Pat Blanchard, the treasurer for the Medical Center Authority. "It's bringing in a good return."

Reach LaTina Emerson or Walter Jones at (706) 724-0851

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ColCo
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ColCo 02/05/09 - 07:29 am
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How much of a profit did MCG

How much of a profit did MCG Health make last year? If the incubator is really such a great idea, $500k should be no big deal.

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