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Surgical Robot Maker to Become City’s Biggest Employer with $540M Campus Expansion

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A top manufacturer of surgical robots is planning a $540 million expansion of its local campus into a national hub that will make it the largest employer in the city by far and one of the biggest in Gwinnett.

Intuitive Surgical’s expansion on its Data Drive campus aims to bring 1,200 net new jobs at an average wage of around $130,000 a year. State and local governments are helping with an estimated total of roughly $67.8 million in grants, tax breaks, fee waivers and other assistance.
The multibillion-dollar California company’s local growth is good news, according to local officials and a surgeon who uses its robots.

“We are thrilled that Intuitive recognized the benefits of being located in Peachtree Corners, and we are grateful to have their growing campus in our city,” said Mayor Mike Mason in an August press release announcing the deal. “Peachtree Corners is a major regional technology hub with great homes, great schools and great community amenities, so we are confident that Intuitive will be very pleased with their decision to expand their presence here.”

Dr. Manu Sancheti, the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Sandy Springs, uses Intuitive’s robots daily. He trains other surgeons in the robotic techniques at the Peachtree Corners campus, and his kids attend Wesleyan School nearby.

“I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity for the community,” Sancheti said in a recent interview. “I think it’s going to be a really exciting place for robotic surgical education.”
“We were thrilled to learn Intuitive has chosen to expand their presence in Gwinnett County,” Governor Brian Kemp said in the press release. “With our advanced medical environment, dynamic workforce, pro-business policies and thriving economy, Intuitive made the right decision in choosing Georgia.”

Set to become a top local employer

The Peach State continues to attract world-renowned companies like Intuitive, and this huge investment coming to the new Peachtree Corners campus will benefit hundreds of hard-working Georgians across metro Atlanta.

The company’s massive boost in local presence from nearly 200 jobs to 1,200-plus is expected to happen sometime between 2024 and 2031, according to press statements and state documents. That would take it to the top of local employer lists. According to the City, the biggest private employer in town today is CarMax with 600 workers, followed by Soliant, which last year announced 598 jobs in a headquarters move.

Based on data on the website of the economic development agency Partnership Gwinnett, Intuitive would become the county’s sixth-largest employer overall and fourth largest in the private sector. Today’s top public employer is Gwinnett County Public Schools at 23,300 and the biggest private employer is Northside Hospital at 4,650.

Founded in 1995, Intuitive is now headquartered in Sunnyvale in California’s Silicon Valley. The company is a pioneer of robotic surgery with its Da Vinci line of spider-like, multi-armed robots. It also recently introduced the Ion, another robotic device to explore and biopsy the lungs.

Robotic surgery offers superior healthcare

Sancheti, who is also Emory Healthcare’s Head of Robotic Thoracic Surgery, uses both types of robots. He says the highly dexterous arms hold a camera, a light and various surgical devices like scalpels and staplers, which he remotely manipulates inside the patient’s body while viewing an enlarged 3D version on a screen, much like playing a very serious video game.

The big advantage of the robots, Sancheti says, are much smaller incisions, since only small robot arms rather than human hands enter the body. “It allows me to do the surgery almost as if my hands were within that body cavity without making a big incision,” he said.

Robotic surgery on the heart or lungs is done through incisions around 8 to 12 millimeters long — less than a half-inch. Compare that with 8- to 12-inch cuts for traditional surgery, which often also requires spreading or breaking some ribs. The robotic version, Sancheti says, means much less pain, faster recovery and less use of potentially addictive narcotic painkillers.

Those advantages have made for a booming business that put Intuitive into an expansion mode. The company is planning a similar campus expansion at its headquarters, which began moving through Sunnyvale’s local approval processes at the same time Peachtree Corner’s deal was announced. Jennifer Garnett, a spokesperson for the City of Sunnyvale, said the company’s growth is welcome there, too.

“Since their start here in 2002, Intuitive Surgical has grown to become Sunnyvale’s seventh-largest employer and is among our 25 largest sales tax producers,” she said. “Their long-standing support of the Sunnyvale community through their employees’ volunteerism and the Intuitive Foundation has been equally important. For example, the foundation donated $200,000 in 2020 to the City’s nearly $3 million Sunnyvale Cares program to support nonprofits and small businesses during the height of the pandemic.”

Peachtree Corners nurtures company growth

According to a company spokesperson, Intuitive came to Peachtree Corners in 2013 with 15 employees and has grown to nearly 200 workers. The local campus “serves as our primary training site for surgeons and care teams, and the area’s amenities, quality of life and universities provide us access to a strong and diverse talent pool,” the company said in a written statement.

The current local headquarters is 5655 Spalding Drive, at the intersection with Data Drive. But Intuitive owns six buildings on roughly 39 acres of land along Data Drive between Spalding and Triangle Parkway, with a lake in the middle. That’s the expansion area.

“The expansion provides office workspace, training for our clients and our internal staff, engineering supporting manufacturing, manufacturing space and all of the campus amenities found at a major Intuitive hub, like Sunnyvale,” the company’s statement said. “The initial Phase 2 expansion will provide approximately 700,000 gross square feet of facilities. The ultimate campus build-out will likely be much larger, but is still in planning.”

The company had no illustrations of the campus concepts to offer, but gave a brief description: “The campus will be a series of interconnected buildings, gardens, terraces, a lake and wooded, natural spaces, like those seen on many academic and corporate campuses. The design will promote a healthy lifestyle with broad accessibility for all staff and guests.”

The exact timing remains to be seen. The announcement in August spoke of completion in 2024, while the formal incentives deal in state documents estimated completion by Dec. 31, 2026, and gives the company seven years starting in June 2024 to fulfill the jobs promise. Under the terms of the deal, the company must maintain 183 existing, full-time jobs and maintain operations on the campus for at least 10 years.

In exchange, Intuitive is being offered “cost savings and cost avoidances” estimated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development to be worth $67,745,530. The company could get a little more if it exceeds the promises and less or nothing if it doesn’t.

Among the assistance is a $2 million state Regional Economic Business Assistance grant to offset costs of property, machinery and equipment; $29.781 million in jobs tax credits; and a $12 million property tax abatement. The City agreed to waive a total of $3.11 million in regulatory, occupational and stormwater fees, while the county will pay $30,000 to install a pedestrian beacon crossing. The deal even includes the government footing a $2,500 bill for a press release and ribbon cutting.

John Ruch is a journalist with SaportaReport and Buckhead.com in metro Atlanta. His freelance work has appeared in such publications as the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. In his spare time, he writes fantasy novels.

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Deflecting debilitating blows one Guardian Cap at a time

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A Guardian Cap in use courtesy of Guardian Sports

With football season in the rearview for most players, the effects of injuries–especially those blows to the head–can alter careers and live well after the final play.

A relatively new piece of equipment manufactured in Peachtree Corners helps alleviate much of the impact from those hits that a helmet alone can’t deflect.

Husband and wife team Lee and Erin Hanson started Guardian Sports in 2011 with one goal: innovating equipment to better serve athletes. But one must go back even further to understand the science behind their technology.

“[Our initial company] really had nothing to do with sports,” said Erin.

She and her husband started the Hanson Group, a material science company, about 30 years ago.

“The Hanson Group solves problems for other companies–material science problems,” she said.

“Lee is a chemical engineer from Georgia Tech. … [He created] things for the military and all kinds of applications for all kinds of Fortune 500 companies. If they need something done quickly, they come to the Hanson Group and we try to solve their material science problems,” she explained.

By chance, someone from the helmet industry came to them looking to make a more flexible helmet.

“We saw the data behind what it could do to flex the exterior of a helmet,” she said. “And even though that company didn’t make it, we decided that if we could retrofit any football helmet inexpensively, we could cut down on the impact that all players were feeling.”

Making football fun and safe for all

When the idea for Guardian Caps came together, the Hansons weren’t considering adding another division to the company.

The drive to make the helmet accessory grew from the passion to help the game.

“Quite honestly, Lee and I were pretty far along in our lives. We had raised five children, and he had been at the Hanson Group for at least 20 years by then,” said Erin.

The couple questioned whether they wanted to launch something new and revolutionary. There was nothing like it on the market.

“We felt like if we’re going to go direct to consumer, we’re going to branch off to a whole new company and just go for it and see if we can make a difference,” said Erin.

Through trial and error, Lee and his team analyzed data that showed what a softer helmet exterior could do to reduce impact, which would translate into reducing injury rates.

“And how can we do it in a way that’s affordable and could be available for mass adoption?” Lee said during an interview with the city of Peachtree Corners.

“How can I make it affordable to that mom who’s already buying all that equipment for her child to play youth football? How can we create a one-size-fits-all?” he recalled.

He said they worked with a cut-and-sew facility and seamstress and made up the first prototypes before testing them in a laboratory.

Their son and his teammates at Wesleyan became the first to practice with the new equipment.

In 2012, The University of South Carolina and Clemson were the first college adopters, and the company experienced solid grassroots growth after that.

Joining the Peachtree Corners business community

By 2014, the Hansons moved their company to Peachtree Corners to benefit from the pro-business, family-friendly community and strong Georgia Tech connections.

The Guardian Cap is now used by over 300,000 youth high school and college athletes nationwide and mandated by the NFL for all 32 teams.

The cap dramatically reduces the force of impact upon collision, as experienced by football and lacrosse players. This topic has come to national attention due to CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and its relation to concussions.

According to company literature, in 2017, Guardian won the first NFL HeadHealth TECH challenge to “develop new and improved helmet and protective equipment.”

While the football helmet itself has undergone many changes since the early days of the small leather hats that only covered the tops of the head and the ears (no face mask and nothing to absorb blows from tackles and other hits), Guardian Caps are an accessory that builds upon modern technology.

Some college and professional players wear helmets made so that the interior conforms to their heads. Guardian Caps adds a layer of protection on the outside, absorbing shock before the impact even reaches the helmet.

“Now, obviously, safety is a concern amongst athletes. So, Guardian Cap has come up with this soft-shell layer that goes on top of the hard shell of the helmet,” said Lee.

In 2018, testing done by NFL and NFLPA-appointed engineers revealed that Guardian Caps made a statistically significant improvement over hard-shell helmets alone, company literature said.

By August 2020, the NFL allowed its teams to wear Guardian Caps during practice. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to do so. In July 2022, Guardian Caps were featured at NFL training camps for all 32 teams.

This year, the NFL mandated that Guardian Caps be used for the 2023 season in all pre-season, regular season, and post-season practices. Players in position groups with the most head contact will be required to wear Guardian Caps in addition to running backs and fullbacks, as well as linemen and linebackers.

No one-hit-wonder

Genius doesn’t take a timeout, and Guardian Sports isn’t resting on the Caps’ success alone.

“We’re constantly evolving, and although Guardian Caps is our flagship product, we’ve got others,” said Erin.

Their son Jake was a lacrosse goalie at Georgia Tech, dodging rock-hard projectiles flying at him at 93 miles an hour.

“So, we said, ‘You know, why don’t we make lacrosse balls out of rubber?’” Erin said.

Thus, Lee created a urethane ball. Called the “Pearl,” it is now the official ball of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.

The Hansons have also developed infill for artificial turf fields that isn’t made of used car tires.

Without the chemicals and carcinogens of rubber tires, the smoother pellets are puffed with air, cause fewer abrasions and lower the temperature of the field by as much as 30 degrees.

“As we see things, it’s really difficult not to want to solve things when you see our children being affected by it,” said Erin.

Investors initially wanted to sell Guardian Caps at $1,000 each, but the Hansons knew that families couldn’t afford that price tag for youth sports. At the end of the day, they are a dad and a mom who are looking out for the safety of kids.

“The NFL is really cool, and they’ve helped us with exposure, but, you know, we’ve got a real passion for helping those young developing players, for sure,” she said.

Guardian Sports
3044 Adriatic Ct NW
Peachtree Corners, GA 30071
guardiansports.com
770-667-6004

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Axon Accelerates Real-Time Operations Solution with Strategic Acquisition of Fusus

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Real-time crime center

Axon, a leader in connected public safety technologies, announced it has acquired Fusus, a pioneer in real-time crime center (RTCC) technology.

This news builds upon a successful strategic partnership launched in May 2022, marking a decisive leap forward in Axon’s mission to Protect Life.

This acquisition also further catalyzes Axon’s growing presence in retail, healthcare, private security and the federal space.

Fusus excels in aggregating live video, data and sensor feeds from virtually any source, enhancing situational awareness and investigative capabilities for public safety, education and commercial customers.

This acquisition provides Axon with technology not currently in its existing network, and facilitates seamless connections to critical data sources such as camera locations and video feeds from both fixed and body worn cameras during incidents.

Fusus’ technology propels Axon’s real-time operations product roadmap, addressing critical challenges faced in public safety.

It empowers law enforcement professionals with location mapping, escalation alerts, livestreaming, real-time and post-incident visibility, allowing swift decision-making, and responsive actions.

“Throughout our long-standing partnership and investment with Fusus, we’ve witnessed the impact of collaboration in achieving remarkable results for law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve,” said Ran Mokady, Axon’s Senior Vice President of Real-Time Operations.

“This acquisition is a significant milestone in our mission to protect life as it further enables law enforcement and emergency teams to better deter and respond to escalating situations,” he added.

“Our collaboration with Axon has helped Fusus raise the bar on how first responders can affect positive outcomes through open and interoperable systems,” said Chris Lindenau, CEO of Fusus.

“As one team with a shared purpose to protect life, we are poised to rapidly expand this vision into the way law enforcement agencies, governments, businesses and schools work together in support of community safety,” he explained.

Real-time crime centers provide public safety with a centralized facility equipped with advanced technology and data analysis tools that enable law enforcement agencies to monitor and respond to incidents in real time.

These centers can integrate various data sources, such as cameras, sensors, social media feeds and other information systems, to provide a comprehensive and immediate view of ongoing criminal activities or emergencies.

Ultimately, by aggregating all of this information into a single pane of glass for public safety, real-time crime centers enhance situational awareness, improve response times and support proactive crime prevention efforts by leveraging up-to-the-minute information and analytics.

To learn more about how real-time crime centers can increase safety in any environment, see Axon’s latest blog post.

“Real-time crime centers serve as indispensable assets for agencies, offering unparalleled insight and actionable intelligence in one open and unified platform,” said Marshall Freeman, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the Atlanta Police Department.

Just like Axon, Fusus and its products are built from the ground up with an explicit focus on ethical and equitable design.

As a joint organization and in partnership with Axon’s Ethics and Equity Advisory Council (EEAC), they will continue their relentless commitment to build solutions that make the right things easier and the wrong things harder, every day.

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Axon was advised by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Fusus was advised by Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in connection with the transaction.

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PCBA Donates $500 to Norcross High School Foundation of Excellence

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PCBA
Pictured left to right: Toby Anderson (PCBA Board), Allison Reinert (PCBA Board), Lisa Proctor, (PCBA Board), Erin Griffin (NHS Foundation of Excellence),Suzanna Martinez (PCBA Board) and Donna Linden (PCBA Board)

Photos by Tracey Rice, Courtesy of PCBA

The Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) has awarded a check for $500 to The NHS Foundation of Excellence (NHSFE) at the January 2024 Business After Hours Speaker Series Event.

The mission of the NHS Foundation of Excellence includes raising funds to help generate resources necessary to provide the level of excellence and education all students deserve.

NHS is a Title I school and offers the International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme curriculum.

The school’s population is diverse. Approximately 52% of students are Hispanic, over 28% are African American, 13% are White, nearly 4% are Asian and 3% identify as Other. Two-thirds of these students qualify for free and reduced lunch. It is estimated that over 35 different languages are spoken at home.

“The PCBA is proud to donate a check for $500 to NHSFE in support of their belief that all students are capable of being successful. Our Outreach Committee and Board are impressed with NHSFE programs of excellence in academics, arts and athletics,” said PCBA President Lisa Proctor.   

“With PCBA’s continuous commitment to supporting our community in a meaningful way, we are excited to be a part of the success of their students,” she added.

Funds for the PCBA Community Outreach program are raised throughout the year from PCBA membership, sponsorship and annual charity events. 

Donations and scholarships are awarded at monthly events so members can learn more about these organizations.

For more information, call 678-969-3385, email membership@peachtreecornersba.com, or visit www.peachtreecornersba.com.

For more business news in and around Peachtree Corners, click here.

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