Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Ken Stewart talks about Georgia's attributes and efforts to win business from international attendees. Georgia Bio President Charlie Craig says Georgia's life sciences industry is already global.

About a third of up to 16,000 attendees at the upcoming BIO conference in Atlanta will be from outside the U.S., and Georgia is aiming to turn these global visitors into investors, officials said in a briefing on May 7.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual convention will bring professionals and companies from 48 states and 60 countries to the Georgia World Congress Center May 18-21.

Some 70 percent of the attendees will be top-level executives, the kinds of people who make decisions about where to locate offices and facilities, said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“Our goal here of course is to position Georgia as the premier location for bioscience company investment,” he said.

At the business-focused conference, Georgia will have ample chance to present itself as a gateway for overseas companies looking for U.S. partners, said Charles Craig, president of GeorgiaBio, a statewide consortium of about 300 life sciences organizations and companies.

“This really is a meeting where companies do business,” said Mr. Craig, who is working with the international BIO group to organize the conference. “They’re here from all over the world to do deals, and it’s really an opportunity for our Georgia companies to make global connections with the life sciences industry and also to see what their counterparts are doing in the rest of the world.”

Mr. Stewart said there would be about 14,000 business meetings among representatives of the 1,700 companies attending.

Targeting the bioscience sector is vital to the Georgia economy.  It already employs 62,000 people in the state and has an annual economic impact of $16 billion. 

Thanks to strong research universities and a favorable climate for innovation, bioscience is the fastest growing of any economic sector in the state since 2000, Mr. Stewart said, citing a University of Georgia study.

Bioscience is a competitive global industry.  State and local governments do all they can to attract companies in this sector because it’s a clean industry that creates high-paying, high-tech jobs and encourages innovation without huge infrastructure requirements.

The state’s dogged efforts to attract the conference and ensure that it comes back show that Georgia is “putting our money where our mouth is,” in attracting bioscience business, Mr. Stewart said.

“I would think that any state would salivate to have a conference of this stature,” he said. “In fact, any city in the world would, so the fact that we have it shows something about Georgia and about Atlanta.”

The state has reserved a 5,100-square-foot booth that will house 32 exhibitors and is holding a drawing to give away a new Kia to highlight the Korean carmaker’s decision to build a plant here.

Georgia has hosted two tours for international delegates and one for foreign journalists to show them the state’s bioscience advantages.

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As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...