Merial, the world's largest animal health company, has announced it will relocate operations based in Iselin, N.J., North Brunswick, N.J., and St. Louis to the state of Georgia.

Through this move, which will take place in stages, Merial will locate its North American headquarters in Atlanta, and expand its research activities at its existing manufacturing and research facility in Athens, Ga.

"This move will consolidate Merial's five major U.S. animal health facilities that are now located in three different states, into one area within 50 miles of one another," says Alan Reade, executive chairman of Merial. "We intend to build on the critical mass of talented employees and extensive facilities that Merial has in Athens and Gainesville, Ga., while relocating our North American headquarters in Atlanta to leverage the benefits offered by this major metropolitan area. This is a major, long-term strategic investment that will help us maximize our effectiveness to maintain Merial's position as the world's leading animal-health company."

Once the relocation is complete, Merial's new office location in an Atlanta suburb will house the company's North American headquarters which is expected to employ approximately 400 people, including a new customer service center.

The decision regarding the location of this office site will be finalized soon.

Merial's site in Gainesville will continue to be the company's center for the U.S. avian business, while Merial's Athens facility will house expanded research laboratories, manufacturing facilities and related office support.

In relation to the investment in research facilities in Athens, the existing close relationship with the University of Georgia will become even closer. The university is expanding its research center, and Merial will be supporting that investment with long-term cooperation in research and development activities.

"The decision to relocate our U.S. activities is a tangible sign of Merial's significant commitment to animal health," Reade says. "It demonstrates that Merial intends to remain the industry leader.

"The commitment to build research labs in Athens and to move our business operations is a major investment in our future - one that will help us continue developing animal-health solutions that benefit veterinarians, pet owners and livestock producers."