The state Board of Regents is scheduled Tuesday to consider a $63 million proposal by Georgia Tech to buy land to expand its research space in Cobb County and give it flexibility for future development.
Tech wants a lease revenue bond package to acquire and renovate 32 acres in Marietta owned by Lockheed Martin, according to the board’s agenda. The buildings that Tech plans to purchase are on the aerospace giant’s south campus along Atlanta Road.
“This ownership structure will allow flexibility for future development, such as opportunities for industry partnerships and investment. Over the long term, development of the entire 52-acre campus is expected to accelerate (Georgia Tech’s) research growth in national security, homeland defense, and commercial advanced technology initiatives,” an explanation on the board’s agenda read.
Renovations would include 755,000 square feet of office and warehouse space in four buildings, which previously housed operations for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet program.
Tech’s plan to purchase the land was announced in June 2016 but no building or financing plans have been publicly disclosed. The Lockheed campus also has 20 acres of undeveloped land that Georgia Tech plans to acquire under a separate deal, the agenda item said.
The expansion by Tech could involve the relocation or placement of 500 research-related jobs to the site, a 2016 news release said.
Research funding has increased for Tech in recent years, with about half of its $1.4 billion budget dedicated to it, according to Tech president Bud Peterson. Tech officials are worried that proposed Trump administration budget cuts to federal research will significantly reduce their share.
“We’re watching very carefully what happens with federal research,” Peterson said in an interview Friday.
“It would be substantial,” he added in reference to cuts if approved at proposed levels.
Karmyn Norwood, Lockheed Martin vice president for line of business integration, previously called the agreement with Georgia Tech a “win-win situation as we evolve our business and assist Georgia Tech in expanding their capabilities.”
Lockheed’s roots in Marietta go back more than half a century.
At peak production of the F-22 in 2005, about 5,600 employees worked in the program, including 944 in Marietta. When the last and 195th jet rolled off the line in Marietta on Dec. 13, 2011, that number was 1,650 throughout the company, with 930 in Marietta.
All production of F-22 fighter jets ceased in 2013.
Getting the contract in 1991 to build the F-22, a replacement to the Air Force’s jewel fighter the F-15, was a point of pride for Lockheed, known for its cargo planes.
But the F-22 had problems early on, including critics who weren’t sure why it was needed in a post-Cold War era. And then there was the cost. The Air Force estimated it cost $143 million per plane, but estimates ranged to more than double that including development costs.