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Retired executive: New reputation can draw workers

WINDER - Georgia needs to change the perception that its work force is poorly trained and educated, Ed Graham, a retired Johnson and Johnson executive, told the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority on Wednesday.

Once it does, the Ga. Highway 316 corridor can market itself as a bioscience research center, he said.

The Georgia Certified Work Ready Program is in place to help the state do just that, said Debra Lyons, director of the Governor's Office of Workplace Development.

The bioscience authority is represented by business and government officials from Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Gwinnett and Oconee counties. It works to bring bioscience industry to the Ga. 316 corridor.

Already planned for Statham is an industrial park holding more than 100,000 square feet of research area, as well as two commercial strips. The project is temporarily called the Georgia Bioscience Research Park, but it will be renamed later, said Stan Coley, Barrow County's Water and Sewerage Authority chairman.

Officials are looking at a 10-year build out schedule. So far, no single-story buildings are planned for the complex, to save greenspace and maximize the area.

"We don't want to do biotechnology manufacturing," Coley said. "We want to do research. There are no constraints on this property. It is zoned, has water and sewer and is inside Statham."

Graham suggested re-terming the project "life sciences," instead of "biotechnology."

"Bioterrorism is in the news everyday," Graham said. "Companies make pharmaceuticals, not drugs."

Certified Work Ready Program in place

Barrow County recently received a $500,000 grant recently to implement the Certified Work Ready Program that matches workers with jobs for which they are skilled.

The program is free to job seekers. The workers take a test at a local technical college that grades their math and reading skills, and ability to locate information.

Curriculum designed and ready, teacher says

Barrow County is a lot further along than it thinks, Mike Garrett, a science teacher at Apalachee High School told the board. He said he wrote a bioscience curriculum for the secondary level that is ready to be implemented.

"We can get teachers up to speed," Garrett said. "Barrow County is the weakest link in this chain. We need to get equipment and training into teachers' hands."