Gwinnett leaders hope to bring business to 'Innovation Crescent'

LAWRENCEVILLE - You've heard of the Research Triangle and Silicon Valley. Now, local and state leaders want to put the Innovation Crescent on the map.

The new brand for a 13-county region stretching from Atlanta to Athens calls attention to the life science industry twice as potent as the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area, said Nick Masino, the vice president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce who is co-chair of the Crescent's partnership.

"Nationally, Gwinnett doesn't have a presence. We don't have a presence and name recognition," he said. "We know we are stronger together as a region."

The coalition, which is one of several regions grouped as part of the governor's Work Ready Initiative, includes Barrow, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties as well as Georgia Bio and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The area is home to 40 percent of the state's population, 12 Fortune 500 company headquarters, 26 Fortune 1000 company headquarters and nearly 84,000 square feet of life science incubator space.

Officials hope to use these resources, as well as the global reach of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the local technical colleges anchored by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University and the University of Georgia, to sustain the 270 life science companies in the region as well as draw new businesses in.

The brand, with a slogan of "where life science grows," was introduced at an international conference in San Diego last week. There, officials said some people were not even aware the Atlanta area is home to the Centers for Disease Control.

"People inside the state don't necessarily know all the good things we have here," said Charles Craig, president of Georgia Bio, a coalition of major biotech, biofuel, pharmaceutical and other bioscience companies. "It benefits everybody. It really is going to make a difference in expanding our industry and bringing more companies to this state."

In addition to the branding, officials are working on work force development, including piloting a bioscience curriculum at four or five high schools in 2009 and using a $2 million grant to retrain workers impacted by the closings of three military bases in the region.

For more information, visit www.georgiainnovationcrescent.com.