The recent appointment of Lauren L. Owenby as an export manager for the medical, biotech and chemical industries by the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism (GDITT) marks a growing commitment by the state to this economic sector.

      Ms. Owenby is the first person to fill this new position, and from her perspective, the timing is ideal.

      During an interview with GlobalFax last week, she pointed to the groundbreaking for a 50,000-square-foot biomedical complex near Alpharetta in Fulton County as an important forward step for the state.

      Before we couldn’t find the developers who would take the risk, but we now have a breakthrough, she said of the North Point complex where building began July 28.  We’ve had a shortage of lab space and it is imperative that developers build out this space so the companies don’t have to.

      The medical office division of Cousins Properties Inc. is undertaking the biomedical facility, which is scheduled to be completed by next spring.  AtheroGenics, an Atlanta-based biotechnology firm will occupy the building, but additional facilities are expected to be developed at the complex.

      As an indication of further growing interest in the healthcare technology sector here, Ms. Owenby pointed to the venture capitalists which are seeking local investments.  These include the homegrown variety, she said, such as Live Oak Equity Partners as well as outsiders such as Battery Ventures of Boston.

      She is particularly impressed by this new interest in Atlanta’s firms because she recalls from her experience as the program manager for the Georgia Biomedical Partnership from 1991-97, the difficulties the partnership’s members had in raising funds locally.  The Partnership was founded in 1989 to promote and develop biomedical companies in Georgia.

      Since assuming her new position in June, Ms. Owenby has rekindled her industry contacts with local companies and with their service providers such as architects, realtors and insurance brokers.  She also participated in catalog shows held in Chile and Argentina.

She currently is preparing to attend Medica ’98, the largest medical equipment show in the world which will be held this year in DŸsseldorf, Germany, in November.  Already she has two companies signed up to attend and she is looking for four more.

      For more information, Ms. Owenby may be reached by calling (404) 656-0503 or send a fax to (404) 651-6505.  Her e-mail address is