by Susan C. Gast
Bioscience is on the "A-list" in Gwinnett County. It”s showing up in our middle schools, high schools and colleges. It”s in our career counseling centers and in area board rooms.
This wide-reaching science that surrounds living things – a science whose purview ranges from blood to biofuels – is the heart of a new regional partnership christened the "Innovation Crescent."
From Atlanta to Athens
Of the nearly 300 bioscience and life sciences companies in Georgia, about 85 percent are in the Innovation Crescent, a 13-county curved path from Atlanta to Athens-Clarke County, says the non-profit GaBio, which advocates for the industry.
Gwinnett – home to leading life science companies such as animal health leader Merial Ltd., in vitro diagnostic company Immucor Inc. and medical device developer Theragenics Corp. – is a key player.
"They”ve really taken the leadership role in launching this branding initiative," Cinda Herndon-King, the director of education programs for the nonprofit GaBio, says about Gwinnett and its chamber of commerce.
Seventh in the nation…for now
Georgia ranks seventh nationally in its number of life science companies, according to an Ernst & Young study, and has seen a 140 percent growth in the industry since 1993. Our state”s private bioscience – aka "life science" – companies employ more than 15,000 people and generate $8 billion in annual product sales, says GaBio. Add the public sector, and the employment is 30,000.
The Innovation Crescent crystallizes efforts to brand a bioscience region – much as North Carolina branded its Research Triangle. The goals are to educate a work force for the field, attract development and nurture what is already in place. The benefits, say leaders, will be more and higher-paying jobs, better schools and health care, and a quality of life that makes us more attractive to other industries.
Another plus is that life science companies – while not immune to economic downturns – often fare better than some industries.