Clean-room design company breaks ground in Suwanee

SUWANEE - As Gwinnett and Barrow counties look to attract pharmaceutical and bioscience businesses to the Ga. Highway 316 corridor, one company important to those fields quietly broke ground on a permanent facility in Suwanee on Monday.

AES Clean Technology Inc. designs, builds and installs clean rooms for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical businesses must conduct the processing and manufacturing of their products in these Food and Drug Administration-approved clean rooms.

AES setting up its manufacturing operations in Gwinnett should help the county attract some of the bioscience companies it has been interested in, said Linda Jones, spokeswoman for AES.

"For Gwinnett that's the big news is we're investing in Gwinnett County and making that the home of our manufacturing," Jones said.

The company is headquartered in Montgomeryville, Pa., which is just outside of Philadelphia.

The new AES facility in Suwanee will be 80,000 square feet and is twice as large as its current facility in Buford, which the company has rented for the last five years. AES hopes to have twice as many employees at the new facility (currently it has 50 in Suwanee), but Jones could not give a timetable on how quickly the company wants to fill new positions.

"We decided to take the plunge and buy our own land and build our own facility," Jones said.

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's Partnership Gwinnett initiative has been working to bring health care and bioscience companies to the county. The chamber conducted a study about a year ago that discovered health care and bioscience were areas which would fit well into the county's economy.

"There are five target industries where we already have good foundations and we know we have great opportunities to build on those," said Lisa Sherman, external marketing manager for the chamber's economic development team. Other target industries besides health care and bioscience include advanced communications, information technology, distribution and trade, and headquarters, regional offices and professional services industries.

Partnership Gwinnett hopes to create 65,400 new jobs in the county in the next five years.

Sherman said AES had looked at other locations to locate its manufacturing facility, but decided to stay in Gwinnett because of its proximity to an international airport and the port in Jacksonville, Fla. The company does a lot of business in Puerto Rico, Jones said, and wanted to remain close to those travel hubs.

The Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority has also been working to create an environment which will attract bioscience and pharmaceutical companies to the area. The bioscience authority is represented by business and government officials from Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Gwinnett and Oconee counties.