- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

COVINGTON, Ga. (AP) - Georgia’s Quick Start employee training program has helped make the state a force in competitions for new companies. On Monday, state officials broke ground on what they said will be the program’s newest tool to win over site shoppers in the bioscience industry.

Quick Start has developed training programs for decades, including recent work with Kia and Caterpillar. The $14 million Georgia Bioscience Training Center to be built near Covington is the first facility focused on an entire industry rather than one company.

That could make all the difference for companies taking a look at Georgia, where Quick Start already was appealing, said Russell Allen, president and CEO of Georgia Bio, a life sciences industry group. It played a role in Georgia’s latest recruiting coup, when Baxter International announced in 2012 that it would build a $1 billion manufacturing plant about 40 miles east of Atlanta.

The training center site will be next door to that plant, which is scheduled to be fully operational by 2018. Baxter plans to employ 1500 people in the state, many of whom will be trained at the Quick Start center before starting work. But the structure also will have space for employee training programs backing other companies in the industry that move to the state or already are located in Georgia.

“I’ve had companies come to me and ask how they can make contact with leaders of the training center,” Allen said. “People are taking notice.”

None of the speakers at Monday’s groundbreaking mentioned specific targets to qualify this new Quick Start venture a success. But each, including Gov. Nathan Deal, said the center will encourage other companies to locate in Georgia.

“It is a continuation of what we do with industries like this: Put in place specific training mechanisms so that when they open their doors they’ll have a workforce that has been trained and ready to go to work,” Deal said after the event.

The state support for training was a key factor in Baxter’s selection of Georgia for the manufacture of plasma-based therapies, said Brien Johnson, the company’s program executive. The same could be true for other companies looking to expand, he said.

“We’ve been very successful here in recruiting people, bringing people to this program,” Johnson said. “I think others will look at it and say it’s a good place to do business in the life sciences industry.”

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