Media Coverage

Gwinnett’s Rowen Development on Shortlist for Seven Companies

By Rebecca Grapevine – Staff Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle

August 2023 — Gwinnett County’s ambitious, 2,000-acre life sciences campus has seven companies interested, said Mason Ailstock, president of the Rowen Foundation.

His foundation is starting to build the Rowen project, which aims to provide a home for research and business development in agriculture, medicine, and environment. The project is located about halfway between Athens and Atlanta and will include lab and office space as well as residential real estate and community amenities.

The foundation is starting to build the infrastructure needed to support tenants, which is expected to be done in early 2024. After that, building development can begin.

Rowen is the only location in Georgia being considered by some of those companies, Ailstock said. He declined to name which companies are considering the site.

If they choose Rowen, the seven companies would bring in around $3 billion in investment to the project and region, Ailstock said during a recent visit to the site by the group Women in Economic Development. It was the first visit by members of the public since last December’s ground-breaking.

The hope is that Rowen will bring over 100,000 jobs and over $11 billion in investment to the metro Atlanta area.

Research Triangle Park in North Carolina is a model for Rowen, and Ailstock was formerly the chief operating officer there.

He emphasized that Rowen is taking a “curated” approach to its future tenants.

“We’re looking for research innovation headquarters, technology space, lab space, that are doing all different types of work but are also wanting to partner with our higher education institutions and do different research projects, collaborate in new ways,” Ailstock said.

Companies of all sizes will be welcome at the site as long as they fall within its focus areas, Ailstock said. The aim is to provide custom-build facilities for organizations ranging from startups to larger operations needing headquarters. Low-density and medium-density real estate sites will be available.

Right now, a 2-mile road that will serve as the main artery of the site is under construction. That road will be SITES-certified for its sustainable building practices, akin to LEED certification for buildings. Once the road and other infrastructure are completed, that will open up the first 800 acres of the planned development for use, Ailstock said. The Rowen Foundation is actively looking for future tenants.

Gwinnett County is funding Rowen through a special tax district and some special purpose local option sale tax funds, county chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson previously told Atlanta Business Chronicle. Those funds will be paid back to the county at full build out.

As of March, Gwinnett has invested more than $86 million into Rowen. The county estimates building costs will reach $3.4 billion at 50% build-out and $6.9 billion at completion.

The project aims to leverage the highly educated population in the Atlanta-Athens corridor. Promotional materials cite the over 75,000 graduates in the metro region as a source of strength for companies wishing to locate at Rowen.

The Rowen Foundation’s board features representatives from Emory University, Spelman College, University of Georgia, Georgia Gwinnett College and Georgia Tech.

The diversity of Atlanta and Gwinnett County in particular are also an asset, Ailstock said. Rowen is aiming for 30% participation by small, minority- or women-owned businesses.

“To have a diverse workforce means that we may not have thought of … a certain way that a culture was doing it, but now we can have the input,” said Marlene Fosque, the head of Partnership Gwinnett initiative, which is aimed at bringing jobs and investment to the county.

Fosque has been one moving force behind the Rowen development. She cites her upbringing in North Carolina and familiarity with Research Triangle Park as having helped drive her vision for Rowen in Gwinnett.