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Raising high school standards to meet needs
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Last Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, reeling from a 39 percent state budget cut, announced a series of “heart-wrenching” moves designed to deal with the spending cuts and a 24 percent drop in revenue. 


Statewide, access and services at five state parks will be reduced, operational days will drop at 12 historic sites, and fees for lodging, recreation and parking will increase as well.  Locally, hours of operation at the Dahlonega Gold Museum will be reduced, although specifics were not immediately available. The new rules, when clarified, will take effect July 1.


I received this information by a personal phone call from DNR before it was released to the Atlanta press on Wednesday afternoon. I immediately called the Mayor of Dahlonega to give him a heads up and then met with our local media. 


The Mayor set up a meeting for Friday morning, May 29 to include the Chamber of Commerce and their tourism folks, city and county officials, myself and other key players. He then called DNR in Atlanta to get an update on what they will be able to do and how we can help. Working together we can develop a plan to manage this situation the same successful way we did when the Mohawk Plant closed earlier this year. I’ll keep you informed as this latest state budget challenge plays out.


On a more encouraging note, the Bio 2009 International Convention came to Atlanta, May 18-21. Biotechnology is technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science and medicine.  BIO (caps) stands for Biotechnology Industry Organization, the companies which participated and paid for most of the convention.   


This was the first time that a Bio International Convention has been held in the Southeast.  It is recognition that Georgia has some great research universities, technical organizations and start-up companies.   


Atlanta’s World Congress Center displayed exhibits of 1,800 companies from 28 states and more than a dozen foreign countries. This was not a low-level convention. Over 1,000 CEOs and CFOs, plus a number of Governors, attended some portion of the Bio 2009 International Convention.


Despite the economy, the event was an overwhelming success. We were hoping for 15,000 participants, but more than 17,000 actually showed up for the four days of events. Thirty percent of the visitors were from outside the U.S.  


A major reason for so many high-ranking officials to be present was the networking opportunities available. Gov. Perdue and Georgia Bio were hoping to entice some of these companies to establish businesses in the Technology Arc, that portion of GA 316 between Atlanta and Athens. Georgia Bio is the state organization for biotechnology companies.


During the convention, Governor Perdue announced that the Emory Vaccine Center will collaborate with the Australian Centre for Vaccine Development  to establish an international research program leading to the development of new human vaccines for infectious diseases and cancers.


Gov. Perdue also announced that Emory University will establish a new Emory Institute for Drug Discovery focusing on commercially neglected diseases, global health partnerships and mentored research.


The center will be led by internationally recognized scientist and entrepreneur, Dennis Liotta, PhD, who co-invented drugs taken by more than 94 percent of HIV/AIDS patients in the U.S.


“These two groundbreaking initiatives by one of Georgia’s top-ranked universities reflect the exciting biomedical advances that thrive in our state,” said Gov. Perdue. “Our business environment invites the kind of entrepreneurial innovation and global partnerships that will lead to the medical breakthroughs of the future.”

One of my favorite sessions at the convention was entitled: “Taking the Pulse of Bioscience Education in America: A State by State Analysis.”


The speakers expressed deep concern that the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength. In particular, students’ interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and careers seems to be diminishing. This trend poses particular challenges to the bioscience industry, which must maintain an edge against global competitors.


Let me know your ideas for keeping the Dahlonega Gold Museum open on its regular seven day a week schedule.


Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail  Or call Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.