The Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network is close to starting work on a $13.5 million replacement of aging offices on Oakwood Road.
Project bids are set to be opened next week, with construction beginning in August, area poultry officials said.
"That's the current plan, anyway," said Louise Dufour-Zavala, executive director of the network.
The plan is to demolish part of the old building, with employees working out of the rest of the old building until new offices are completed. The new building is expected to be finished in the fall of 2012.
Once relocation is finished, the rest of the old building will be demolished, Dufour-Zavala said.
The state's main poultry lab will have 36,000 square feet of space.
The current 49-year-old building, which is close to the nearly finished four-lane Thurmon Tanner Parkway in Oakwood, has 29,000 square feet but is using only 19,000 square feet. Much of the remaining space, saddled with several structural and other issues, has been condemned.
"We are pleased to have the main lab in Hall County and still very excited about the new building, which will solidify the program and allow the (lab) to strengthen and increase its valuable services to Georgia's gigantic poultry industry," said Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation.
Dufour-Zavala has said the new lab will "open up all kinds of possibilities for us, as far as the types and numbers of tests we can do, and the training and workshops we can do."
Drawings of the new building show a sharp contrast in architectural styles from the current, red-brick building, with the new one featuring plenty of glass and steel.
"We really felt we needed a ‘wow' effect," Dufour-Zavala has said. "We have a lot of international visitors to this lab — I'm talking government delegations from our export countries.
"They come to Georgia for different reasons, but if they have anything to do with poultry, they'll be in this lab."
Georgia's poultry health efforts date to the 1920s, when the commercial industry started to flourish.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture instituted a program of testing for pullorum, a fatal disease of young poultry caused by salmonella.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture later created the National Poultry Improvement Plan as a way to eradicate pullorum. States didn't have to belong, but Georgia jumped on the bandwagon creating the Poultry Breed Supervisory Board, which later became the Georgia Poultry Improvement Association.
The association built its Gainesville lab in 1946, moving to the Oakwood building in 1962. The poultry network has five branch labs throughout Georgia.
The Oakwood lab has several departments, with most of the testing related to isolation of bacteria and fungi, especially salmonella, and serology, or tests performed for diagnostic purposes using blood serum.
The lab network receives most of its funding from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. It has gotten money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an avian influenza program.