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Athens sites make short list for biodefense facility

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two Georgia sites have landed on the short list for a federal defense facility, and Barrow County officials are hopeful that if the Athens-area sites are selected, their county will also benefit from the pick.

According to initial reports, the two Georgia sites submitted to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility have made a short list of 18 sites to receive further analysis. Twenty states submitted 29 applications.

The facility would create an estimated 1,000 construction jobs and 500 full-time jobs.

Doug Garrison, chairman for the Barrow County Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday he hopes an Athens selection would have a spinoff effect and spawn the creation of related businesses into

Barrow County.

"It would definitely become much more of a true bioscience corridor," he said. "I think they'd come to us. With Barrow's taxes being lower, it's favorable to that type of economic growth."

The primary site is University of Georgia-owned property off College Station Road adjacent to 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.

Garrison said he would not expect many businesses to locate in the county for at least four years, but emphasized the need to bring infrastructure to the area.

"There could be startup businesses, support businesses I can't even begin to name for you," Garrison said. "I do think there would be some up our way. ... All of us need to get our sites prepared."