It appears 30 acres of woods and rolling fields along University Parkway are being set aside to contain the nation's next Bio and Agro-Defense labs.

Last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the state was making a bid for the 500,000-square-foot research facility, which would fall under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Georgia joins several other states, including Texas and Maryland, vying for the project. It could take up to six months before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security creates its short list of finalists.

It's unclear if the proposed site would be in Gwinnett, Oconee, Barrow or on the University of Georgia campus. County leaders won't identify potential sites along the Ga. Highway 316 corridor yet for several reasons, including to maintain a competitive advantage over other suitors.

Economic officials see its potential: 1,000 construction jobs, at least 500 federal workers making six-figure salaries, and at least a $3 billion impact on the region's economy.

"It would be a real catch for all of northeast Georgia, particularly those of us interested in bioscience," said E.H. Culpepper, chairman of the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority.

Dust detective

Dr. James Millette shares something in common with the greatest scientists and detectives of the past.

Like Charles Darwin and the mythical Sherlock Holmes, Millette finds clues in the study of dust.

The executive director of Duluth-based MVA Scientific Consultants is one of the pioneers of environmental forensics, an emerging field in the wake of the World Trade Center attack.

Millette has analyzed World Trade Center dust, which he found filled with tiny glass fibers and high-pH levels from the cement and drywall plaster. The dust is believed to have caused respiratory illnesses in World Trade Center emergency workers and cleanup crews.

MVA's technology - which can analyze particles as small as a fraction of the width of human hair - is being used to spot possible asbestos in the dust and muck left behind by Hurricane Katrina.

Millette's analysis could prevent similar respiratory illnesses striking New Orleans workers, since tiny asbestos particles may be released when demolition starts on the ruins of the Ninth Ward.

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.