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New poultry labs operations smooth so far
Georgia Poultry Lab technician Bobbie Pass transfers serum from tube to plates Thursday afternoon at the newly completed main offices.

The Georgia Poultry Laboratory is up and running in North Hall County, with ties mostly cut to its 50-year-old building in Oakwood.

“There have been no delays, no major hurdles, and everybody has a smile on their face,” Executive Director Louise Dufour-Zavala said. “I’m just proud of making this transition just so smooth, from industry to my employees.”

The lab had operated since the early 1960s out of a red-brick, single-story structure off Oakwood Road. The building began wearing out, with part of it condemned, prompting officials to begin replacement efforts.

The process was kick-started five years ago when former Gov. Sonny Perdue included the $13 million project in a state budget.

The first day of operation was Dec. 8 at the new 38,000-square-foot building, which is in Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 and north of White Sulphur Road.

And with highly technical equipment, including robotics, that needed to be in place and working with little lag time, this wasn’t a move that consisted just of packing up boxes and heading across the county.

“In one of (the) departments, it was like a phased move, where there was no delay at all in testing, and it went flawlessly,” Dufour-Zavala said. “We moved the large robots with no issues, and industries have found the lab.

“It’s like working in Oakwood, but we’re here.”

The lab works to keep Georgia’s poultry industry healthy, providing a range of services, including disease monitoring and testing, chick quality assurance and hatchery inspections.

One of the new building’s key features is the mezzanine, where people — from industries to church and school groups — can tour the facility without entering infected areas.

An expected main attraction will be the serology lab, where the robots are used.

The lab has held a “friends and family” night for employees to show off their new workplace.

“That (was) the first major influx of a lot people here at one time,” Dufour-Zavala said.

Otherwise, no tours have been scheduled yet.

“I have to contact the international groups to make sure they know that we’re ready to go whenever they have delegations,” Dufour-Zavala said.

The annual International Production and Processing Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center is set for Jan. 27-29.

“There’s always people coming in (the lab) at that time,” Dufour-Zavala said. “I anticipate the first big tours from international delegations to be about that time.”

A Jan. 9 lab dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, featuring Gov. Nathan Deal, has been set.

Mike Giles, president of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation, lauded the move.

“It’s great that the vision for the lab has moved through the design and construction processes and is now becoming a reality,” he said. “We’re very excited about the capabilities and the resources it brings to the poultry industry to protect the health of the poultry flock in Georgia.

“We believe this lab will put us in great position to deliver services to the poultry industry for decades to come.”

Meanwhile, the Oakwood lab isn’t totally part of the past.

Dufour-Zavala has said, “We’re still going to go back and forth a little bit (after the move) because we don’t have a storage building here yet.”

That work may wrap up by February.

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