Joint development authority working on bioscience corridor

WINDER - If you build it, they will come, Bill Davis, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's business development manager, said of the proposed bioscience corridor along Ga. Highway 316.

"When one company comes, it's like the field of dreams," Davis said. "They will come, but you got to get that first one."

The two-year-old Partnership Gwinnett is actively marketing Gwinnett County as a mecca for life science jobs, among other fields, members of the Gwinnett Chamber told the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority of Barrow, Clarke, Gwinnett and Oconee counties on Wednesday.

Marketing is the key to making national and international companies aware of the elite area, said Lisa Sherman, the Gwinnett Chamber's external marketing manager.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by public and private contributions, was created to promote and grow Gwinnett County industry, specifically targeting Internet technology, advanced communications, health care and life sciences corporate and regional headquarters and manufacturing.

Partnership Gwinnett representatives will market the county at the Bioscience Conference in San Diego, Calif., in June, Sherman said, as well as the Atlanta Bioscience Conference in 2009.

"Chicago, San Diego and Boston all rotate the conference and Atlanta is trying to get on that rotation list," Davis said. "There's lots of international companies looking at coming to the U.S. because they get a good return. We try to get them to think out of the box. You don't have to have a skyscraper in midtown to do business in Atlanta."

A 10-county area that includes Ga. 316 was designated the Innovation Crescent Region by the Atlanta Regional Commission because of its central location between Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia, all research institutions. Those counties are Barrow, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton.

Doug Garrison, chairman of Barrow County's Board of Commissioners, asked if marketing brings businesses to the county in a sluggish economy.

"We expect two major companies to announce within 14 to 21 days their decision to come to Gwinnett," said Alfie Meek, director of the economic analysis division, Gwinnett County Department of Financial Services. "We expect to bring 65,000 new jobs to Gwinnett within the next five years."

Meanwhile, Gwinnett Technical College officials wait for the result of a state funding request that, if granted, would build the school a life sciences building, Davis said. The proposed building would enable the school to educate more health care providers and add to its research capabilities.