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Monday, December 26, 2011 - 7:15am

Research Center Seeks $1.3 Million

Savannah-area business leaders are asking lawmakers for $1.3 million for a little-known state agency.

With the big exception of port dollars, it's the area's only specific funding request for the legislative session.

The request is for a state operation called Herty Advanced Materials Development Center, based in Savannah.

The facility is a research outfit that helps companies in materials manufacturing innovate new products -- like paper, carpet, insulation and even airbags.

Its director Bill Brundage says, Herty creates jobs by taking some private risk out of research.

"It can give the state the competitive edge for manufacturing to recruit those that are dependant on materials innovation, new product innovation and helping firms in the state," Brundage says. "Less than 10% of our manufacturers in Georgia innovate. So that's a real opportunity. If we could get that up to 25% or 35%, then we recruit more materials-dependant people to the state and we could create a lot of jobs."

Brundage says, the center's self-supporting operations need new state investment in electrical, water and sewer systems.

He describes the systems as old, in some cases dating to the 1960's.

Herty takes in about $8 million in revenues annually, mostly from its clients in the materials manufacturing sector.

Like all funding requests, including $46 million for Savannah habor expansion, it'll face stiff competition with education, health care and the rest of the state's tight budget.