COVINGTON, GA. — Baxter International, a developer and manufacturer of healthcare products, has broken ground on a $1 billion biotechnology manufacturing facility located in Covington. The first phase of development will encompass more than 1 million square feet.

The facility, which will employ approximately 1,500 people, will be used to manufacture plasma-based therapies that treat chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The integrated campus will include three main manufacturing buildings as well as support components such as a warehouse, utility buildings, administrative facilities and laboratories.

“In a few years, Baxter team members working in facilities located on the ground where we are standing today will produce lifesaving biological treatments for patients around the world,” says Robert Parkinson Jr., chairman and CEO of Baxter International.

The first phase of construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2013, with completion of the first buildings slated for 2015. Additional phases are expected to continue into 2016, and the plant is anticipated to begin commercial production in 2018.

“Georgia supports Baxter’s mission to save lives, and this occasion is one of many milestones we look forward to celebrating with the company as it establishes a presence in Georgia,” says Gov. Nathan Deal. “Baxter’s decision to build a facility here is a watershed event for the state, not only in our goal to establish Georgia as a hub for global health, but in our mission to provide high-quality jobs for our citizens.”

The facility will also include a biotech-training center that will provide a workforce pipeline for Baxter and other members of the state’s bioscience industry. The State of Georgia will own the training center, which will be operated by Georgia Quick Start.

Baxter International creates products for patients with hemophilia, immune disorders, infectious diseases, kidney disease, trauma and other chronic and acute medical conditions. In 2011, the company reported sales of $13.9 billion and comprises approximately 48,500 employees.

— Savannah Duncan

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