The Athens-Clarke County Commission approved an agreement Tuesday night with the Australian city of Geelong that could bring down-under biotech companies to Athens.
Geelong, located in southeastern Australia, is similar in size to Athens and also has a university, manufacturing plants and a growing life sciences industry.
"They are trying to reinvent themselves as a life sciences/biotech community," Commissioner Andy Herod said.
Deakin University already works with with the University of Georgia, and Herod (a UGA geography professor who recently visited Australia for work) said the city council wants to partner with ACC.
The memorandum of understanding will open the door for Australia-based biotech companies to expand to the U.S., Herod said.
"I feel like if we have a relationship with Geelong, they might choose Athens to get their feet wet," he said.
The commission also eased restrictions on community gardens and passed laws requiring ACC to notify neighbors when a historic building is demolished and hold a public hearing when a new historic district is requested.
In addition, Commissioner Kelly Girtz asked ACC staff to develop proposals for a municipal electric utility that would generate power from sustainable sources like solar and landfill gas, as well as a municipal broadband utility, since private broadband providers are unwilling to provide higher-speed Internet access downtown.
"Private industry isn't interested in that locally," Girtz said. "Maybe it's time for us to step forward."