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Georgia officials have offered more than $25 million in incentives to draw a federal research laboratory to Athens.

Georgia’s latest offer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security includes $21 million to $22 million in new incentives, including free infrastructure from the Georgia Power Co. and Athens-Clarke County, according to University of Georgia sources.

The state of Georgia will provide about $15 million, the UGA Research Foundation $5 million and Athens-Clarke County about $1 million in incentives if Homeland Security picks 66 acres off South Milledge Avenue to build the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. That doesn’t include free land valued at about $5.3 million.

David Lee, UGA vice president for research, who heads up the Georgia NBAF consortium, would not confirm the incentive package. Combined with UGA’s other advantages, such as proximity to other research labs, the financial incentives Georgia is offering are competitive with the four other finalists, Lee said.

“The incentives are only a part of the total package,” he said. “(Homeland Security has) to be looking not only at the short-term cost, but the long-term value.”

Maggie Large, a spokesperson for the state Department of Economic Development, declined to comment.

“We consider NBAF to be an economic development project, and releasing that information would tip our hand to the competition,” Large said.

Athens-Clarke County preliminarily has agreed to upgrade an existing water line and extend a sewer line to the UGA-owned site near South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road. Money for the projects would come from a fund earmarked for economic development, and the Athens-Clarke Commission would have to approve spending it, Mayor Heidi Davison said.

The commission unanimously approved a similar package of about $1 million to improve roads at the Orkin tract and develop a program at Athens Technical College in 2006. At the time, a pharmaceutical firm had targeted the Bogart site for a vaccine plant, but the company later backed out. The total incentive package that state, Athens-Clarke and Oconee officials offered to Novartis topped $60 million.

Homeland Security asked the five NBAF finalists – Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas – to submit revised bids in March to help cover the cost of a central utilities plant in the 520,000-square-foot lab. The plant would include sewer, water, gas and power hookups, a boiler, a chiller and a backup power generator, and is not covered by the $451 million budgeted for NBAF.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a bill last month authorizing up to $105 million in bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements at a site in Manhattan, Kan., dwarfing the Georgia consortium’s bid.

North Carolina, on the other hand, did not change its initial offer.

“If that puts us at a competitive disadvantage, then that’s the way things go,” North Carolina State University professor Barrett Slenning, the North Carolina consortium’s NBAF point man, told the Independent Weekly, a North Carolina newspaper.

Officials in Mississippi and Texas did not respond to requests for comment.

Researchers at NBAF will study the highly contagious hoof-and-mouth virus and other incurable animal diseases, as well as some that can spread from animals to humans, to find treatments and vaccines to prevent an outbreak in the United States, but critics worry about the lab’s safety.

The high-tech lab will supplant the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York.

Homeland Security is expected to announce its decision this fall. Construction on the lab is scheduled to begin in 2009 and end in 2013. NBAF will employ about 350 people.

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