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Richmond County, Ga., Considers the Construction of a Tech Center

The Development Authority of Richmond County is considering building...

The Development Authority of Richmond County is considering building a 150,000-square-foot technology center in the county's undeveloped industrial park.

If built, the facility could radically alter the way the county develops its 1,730-acre Augusta Corporate Park, which economic developers have been marketing to manufacturers and other heavy industry.

It could substantially influence what happens in the rest of the park, said Kevin Shea, senior vice president of economic development for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The technology center proposal was brought up in Wednesday's meeting by State Sen. Charles Walker, who wants the development authority to work with the Georgia Medical Center Authority, the statewide biotech-development agency he created last year.

He said he wants the groups to develop a $2.5 million speculative building by 2002. The idea being to attract investment from high-tech companies anxious to tap into research at the Medical College of Georgia, and to a certain extent, Savannah River Site and Fort Gordon.

We're going to build the building, and people will know we're for real, Mr. Walker said. The message is Augusta is going for technology.

The development authority, which generally limits its economic development activities to manufacturing and other so-called Old Economy sectors, was receptive to the concept.

The group's attorney, Jerry Dye, agreed leaders should look for ways to increase its presence in the pharmaceutical industry. Aside from several biotech start-up companies, Augusta is home to several research and manufacturing facilities of Pharmacia Corp.'s Monsanto division.

The community is convinced that (biotechnology) is the wave of the future, Mr. Dye said.

The development authority agreed to start discussing specifics with the Georgia Medical Center Authority sometime during the next month.

Let's get on the ball and let's do it, Mr. Walker said.