Local development leaders promote teamwork



Working together as a region is the key to bringing new business to the Augusta-Aiken area.

That was the assessment of economic development leaders from Richmond and Columbia counties and North Augusta speaking Tuesday at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's Women in Business luncheon.

One of the most important tasks of an economic development authority is to work with its neighbors, said Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County.

"While there's a competition, everybody benefits from the final result," said Skip Grkovic, North Augusta's director of planning and economic development.

If one city or county lands a new business, the entire region reaps the benefits, Grkovic said.

"How well the region does is how well Columbia County is going to do," said Troy Post, the executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County. "It is certainly our motivation to try to help Augusta, North Augusta and all of the communities in the CSRA."

Local economic development officials have joined forces through the CSRA Unified Development Authority on a regional "mega" business park in eastern Georgia. There's also a regional "energy park" for businesses through the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, Post said.

In terms of economic development for each county, Richmond County is focused on bringing aviation-related, customer service, military-related and life sciences businesses, Sprouse said.

Columbia County is working on the Evans Town Center project, an 80-acre tract of land on Belair Road that will have medical offices and retail businesses.

It is also working on the Marshall Square project in Evans. Officials are still determining how to best develop the property. Additionally, there is land available for development at Gateway Park near Grovetown at Exit 190 off Interstate 20, Post said.

"There's a lot of acreage at that interchange and a lot of property owners that are very willing to work with the county and development authority to develop that property to the highest and best use," he said.

Columbia County has revitalization plans for some areas, including Grovetown, Harlem and Martinez, to ensure they remain strong, he said.

North Augusta is moving forward with the next phase of its Hammond's Ferry project, a 200-acre residential development. This new phase will include commercial businesses on the river.

Grkovic cited the completion of the Palmetto Parkway, which he said "will open up quite a bit of new area in Aiken County for development."

Air quality is one of the most pressing issues for the area. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing new quality standards for ozone levels, which could result in permits for transportation and industrial development projects being postponed, Grkovic said.