Also during its meeting Monday, the Forsyth County Development Authority postponed consideration of a $45 million bond plan for the benefit of Improved Living-Towne Club Windermere Assisted Living LLC.
“[Representatives] still have some issues on the title work that has to be rectified before they’re prepared to move forward,” said Bobby Thomas, chairman of the authority.
The development authority will make a recommendation on the matter to the Forsyth County commission. The commission will then weigh in on the plan, before sending the matter to Superior Court, for a final determination.
If approved, the bonds would be used to buy land and build a 178-unit senior living housing community in the Windermere area in south Forsyth.
Plans call for 112 independent living apartments, 40 assisted living apartments and 26 memory care beds.
— Crystal Ledford
Forsyth County economic development representatives secured three leads for potential biomedical companies during a conference last week.
The trip was discussed Monday during a meeting of the Forsyth County Development Authority.
Randall Toussaint, vice president of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, and development authority member Lynn Jackson, administrator at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, attended the Bio International Conference from June 18-21 in Boston.
According to Toussaint, the conference was beneficial as the health care field continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in Forsyth.
“The health care market continues to emerge as being the main staple in our community,” he said. “[At the conference] we had a chance to speak to international businesses who are in the biotechnology and life sciences arena and to really talk to them about opportunities that are here within Forsyth County.”
The conference is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
“Typically, there’s over 15,000 attendees who participate in the event, and that ranges from universities all the way down to companies themselves, third-party manufacturers, even economic development agencies,” Toussaint said.
He noted that Forsyth joined with a delegation of 12 other north Georgia counties to attend conference.
“Often when communities are working on a project, to be honest, we compete, we’re going for the same efforts,” he said. “This was a chance for all of us to be in the same venue and represent Georgia collectively. It was a great bonding experience for everyone.”
Toussaint noted that many biotech firms are shifting from research and development phases into manufacturing.
“They’re moving out of R&D hubs like Boston or California and wanting to go into more manufacturing friendly communities,” he said. “And for Georgia, that’s our niche. For us in particular in Forsyth County, we’ve always had a strong reach with international firms and light manufacturing and small to mid-sized companies.
“Because of that, I think we were actually able to stand out a bit more so than some of the other communities that were there.”
Toussaint added that the county’s strong economic development even during the recent down economy was also a plus. Forsyth is
averaging about four new leads a month.
“This year, we’ve actually closed six projects that are projected to generate about 226 new jobs and $8.5 million in new capital investment,” he said.
“We have a closure rate of 25 percent, which is unheard of for this time period, so we’re in a very positive upswing.”
According to Jackson, some of the “themes” in the current biotechnology fields include products and therapies that can help with gene alterations, regeneration or anti-aging, and “living implants,” such as hearing devices or artificial hearts.
“Those things that mimic living organisms or living parts, to be able to replace those in a method that is not only life saving, but that adds quality to life, we’re seeing a lot of that now,” she said.
Toussaint said the three leads — which if companies receive FDA approval over time might result in the companies moving to Forsyth — included one that focuses on cellular therapy.
He said that would involve testing how drugs or other products impact the entire body.
Another was a company that works in larval therapy, or using live organisms to clean wounds. The last was a university partnership.
While the leads are promising, Toussaint said he would like to make connections with companies that are closer to implementing their products.
“I guess the biggest takeaway, although we’re getting great leads, really is that it’s going to be key for us to start finding a clearinghouse … where there are more companies ready to pull the trigger and move forward,” he said.
He described the biomedical process as a pipeline, in which companies have to take many years in research and development and then many more years in obtaining FDA approval before they can begin manufacturing their products.
“Over the past two years, we met some great folks who are at the beginning or middle of the pipeline,” he said. “Keeping those relationships as they move forward is key. But in order for us to be more effective … it’s also key to have folks that are right at the end of this.”