The cold weather Friday morning could not chill the warm spirits of those attending the dedication ceremony and official ribbon cutting marking the opening of the new Georgia Poultry Laboratory in Gainesville.
Several years in the making, the new 39,500-square-foot laboratory facility will be able to serve diagnostic as well as educational functions for the state’s poultry industry.
“As you look at this new facility, it is certainly going to be state-of-the-art and be one of the things that will make us all proud,” Gov. Nathan Deal said.
Deal further mentioned the importance of the poultry industry to the economy of the state.
“Agriculture and agribusiness are some of the major sectors of economic activity of the state of Georgia,” Deal said. “The poultry industry alone, when you consider the farms, processors and related businesses, produce $38 billion every year. Roughly 138,000 Georgians work either directly or indirectly in the poultry industry and more than 100 of our counties have poultry farm production valued at more than $1 million in each of these counties.”
The new laboratory is designed to provide many industry services.
“This new laboratory is going to do a lot of things,” Deal added. “It’s going to monitor and test diseases; it’s going to check the quality of poultry flocks in our state; and, it’s going to routinely inspect hatcheries.”
Noting the facility’s economic importance, state Sen. Butch Miller said, “The opening of this new facility is not just a local and regional event, but a global event. When you consider the magnitude that the poultry industry has on our economy, it’s very exciting to see the project’s completion.”
Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, has not only been instrumental in getting the new laboratory to completion, but he is the namesake of the facility’s address: 3235 Abit Massey Way in Gainesville.
“What a historic day,” Massey said. “No temperature can dampen the enthusiasm of this group. With this magnificent laboratory, one of the best in the world, and with the continued support of Gov. Deal, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and the legislators and other state officials, and the participation by all of you (industry representatives in attendance) — it’s clear that Georgia will continue to be the ‘poultry capital of the world.’”
As part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Massey provided the rather large scissors used for the event. The 13-foot, 3-inch scissors were specially made for the opening of the Georgia Poultry Federation’s headquarters building in Gainesville in October 1968.
“And we wanted to use them again, almost half a century later, for this special and historic event,” Massey said.
“We come here today and remember all the dreams and aspirations that go into putting a facility like this together,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Georgia has always been an agrarian state. We were an agrarian colony and step by step it has become the No. 1 economic driver for our state. Agriculture is not just what we used to do. Agriculture is not what we do because we can’t do anything else. Agriculture in this state is what we must do. It’s what we’re called to do.
“In regard to the poultry industry, it’s what we’re positioned to do for the next several generations through the utilization of a wonderful facility like this.”
The purpose of this new laboratory has, by design, always been to be more than just a laboratory, notes Dr. Louise Dufour-Zavala, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network.
An aspect that makes the facility unique is though it was constructed as a working laboratory, it also will display that work to the community. A mezzanine level gives tour visitors a chance to view work being performed.
“We can take school groups, community groups, not just poultry-related people, and show them our work,” Zavala said. “We are going to utilize this aspect for sure.”
The facility was also constructed looking toward future growth and research expansion, with the ability to handle serious poultry disease outbreaks, such as bird flu, if needed.
“High-consequence samples can be handled very securely,” she added.
Looking back on the 18 months of construction for the building, Zavala noted that, “This has been a very good day, and a very special day to see it completed.”