Scuttlebiz: Military World Softball Tournament in south Augusta to draw 5,500 players

If you thought TechNet Augusta 2016 was a major tourism event – and it was, with nearly 3,000 service members and military contractors milling about downtown last week – wait till 5,500 softball players hit town starting Thursday.

 

For the first time in its 15-year history, the 2016 Military World Softball Tournament is coming to Diamond Lakes Regional Park in south Augusta.

Tourism officials estimate the United States Specialty Sports Association-sanctioned tournament will have a $3.5 million impact on the local economy, making it by far the biggest event in August.

And that’s quite a feat for a month that also boasts the Georgia United States Tennis Association’s 2016 Mixed Doubles Championships, the Georgia-South Carolina Bulls Soccer Club’s 2016 Aiken Soccer Cup and the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs 2016 Georgia Fire Service Conference.

In total, the 12 major events the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Augusta Sports Council worked with during the month are expected to pump more than $8.3 million into the local economy.

Last year’s USSSA softball tournament was in Columbus, Ga., and included 114 teams from 23 states and Germany.

Kudos to the folks at the visitors bureau and sports council for bringing the tournament here. If the softballers have a good time, maybe they’ll come back next year for more gas, food, lodging and slow-pitch fun.

 

BOTTOMS UP: What better way to unwind after a hard-played victory – or to drown the sorrows of a loss – than with an all-local cocktail at a local hangout?

The hometown-inspired Fruitland Augusta vodka distillery has come out with a host of new drinks in honor of August being National Peach Month.

There’s the Fuzzy Gimlet, a Craft & Vine specialty made with Fruitland Augusta Georgia Peach Vodka, fresh squeezed lime juice and Titan Farms’ Peach Nectar. The Broad Street restaurant also offers The Happy Broad, which features the peach vodka, a house-made blackberry puree and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Both Farmhaus restaurants (downtown and Evans) will feature the Arnold Farmer, its version of an Arnold Palmer with peach tea vodka, lemon juice and sweet tea. French Market Grille at Surrey Center has two original cocktails on the menu – Beachside Peach and Island Peach Tea – and the Partridge Inn is launching a new cocktail menu with two Fruitland Augusta drinks: the Augusta Lemonade and the Southern Belle.

 

NOT ON THE LIST (MAYBE THAT’S A GOOD THING): Those prolific list generators at WalletHub recently put out a list of “Best-Run Cities in America.” Augusta wasn’t on it. But more on that later.

At the top of the 150-city list were cities that WalletHub data analysts considered well-managed (Boise and Nampa, Idaho; Provo, Utah; and Missoula, Mont.), and at the bottom were those it considers poorly managed (San Francisco; Gulfport, Miss.; New York; Detroit and Washington, D.C.).

Columbus, Ga., was on the list (No. 45) and so was Atlanta (No. 141). But Georgia’s third-largest city and second-largest metro area was a no-show, although Augusta-Richmond County’s city population of about 197,000 puts it well within America’s 150 largest municipalities (No. 117 to be exact, right behind Columbus but ahead of Little Rock, Ark.)

I can’t see a logical reason for the omission, and neither can Augusta University’s Dr. William Hatcher, the director of the school’s master of public administration program, who was even interviewed by WalletHub for the report!

If you want to see his commentary or peruse the list, go to wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#william-hatcher.

If Augusta-Richmond County had made the list, where do you think it would have landed?

 

PLODDING DOWN THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY: Did you know one in 93 Augusta households still use dial-up internet? Though that’s only 1.07 percent of the market, it’s enough to land it at No. 12 on the list of cities with dial-up, according to lawn care startup company LawnStarter.

The Austin, Texas-based concierge service blogged about the 100 largest metro areas with dial-up penetration based on 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Though New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia have the largest total number of dial-up users, as a percentage basis, the top markets for snail-speed internet are Stockton, Calif.; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Spokane, Wash.; and Buffalo, N.Y.

See the details at lawnstarter.com/blog/city-rankings/dial-up-internet/.

Quoting Dr. Larry Chiagouris, a Pace University professor and expert on consumer behavior, LawnStarter said the people most reluctant to give up dial-up are those who rarely use the internet and the elderly. Chiagouris said the service’s days are numbered.

“In about two or three years, almost all dial-up will be eliminated due to economic and technological changes,” he said.

 

6,000 AND COUNTING: It’s pretty clear that Georgia Power owner Southern Co. doesn’t want any more delays at its Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 construction site.

It’s already told state regulators there will be no further deviation from the plan to get the new reactors online by the revised June 2019 and June 2020 deadlines, and its contractors have been on a hiring binge to ensure that if the projects do somehow lag behind, it won’t be from lack of manpower.

More than 6,000 workers are now at the Burke County site, which for years had been expected to top out at about 5,000.

If you want an insider’s guide to the massive construction project – one of the largest in North America right now – the easiest thing to do is attend the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Luncheon Series event Aug. 31 at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. That’s where construction head honcho Mark Rauckhorst, the executive vice president of units 3 and 4, will be the featured speaker. Call the chamber to reserve your seat.

 

LEANER OPERATIONS?: Southern Co. has said completion of the new reactors will create about 800 permanent jobs at the site, which is about the number of people working at the two existing reactors.

But it’s probably safe to say it won’t be “business as usual” on the new side once the plant goes operational. Like all utility companies, Southern has been eyeing strategies to lower its operating costs and it is homing in on personnel.

Steve Kuczynski, the president and CEO of Southern subsidiary Southern Nuclear Operating Co., has said that only a third of company employees actually do physical work on the reactors or oversee those who do.

“That’s a lot of overhead, and that’s built over time,” Kuczynski recently said in Environment & Energy Publishing. “My experience is, we’re just going to have to, as leaders, get over the cultural hurdle of saying ... ‘we don’t need to do many of the things that have been added on in our industry that we’ve accepted.’”

Meanwhile, Fluor Corp., the company managing construction of the new Westinghouse reactors at Vogtle, announced that Southern Co. awarded it a five-year maintenance contract at six fossil-fuel stations in Georgia and Alabama.

The maintenance department, by the way, is the largest department at Vogtle units 1 and 2 in personnel. And it’s a union shop. If I were those folks, I’d make sure I stayed productive.

 

RETURN TO REFRIGERATORS: Some of you might be old enough to remember when electric companies sold appliances. That was back when electricity (sort of like dial-up) was a novelty in rural areas and the power companies pushed customers to adopt as many modern conveniences as possible.

Obviously, utilities have gotten out of the appliance business. But JCPenney has gotten back in.

After a three-decade hiatus, the department store last week re-entered the major appliance business at Augusta Mall and 500 other stores nationwide. The Plano, Texas-based retailer has set aside 2,000 square feet on the second floor of its mall store for its new appliance showroom.

JCPenney said the showroom will have between 100 and 200 refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers, washers and dryers on display, featuring brands such as Samsung, LG, General Electric and Hotpoint. The store hired four additional employees to run the department.

At the risk of sounding like a JCPenney shill, I feel its my duty to inform consumers they can get no-interest financing, free delivery, a price match guarantee and the ability to earn JCPenney Rewards on appliance purchases.

And if you don’t like what you see, you can always spend about a half-hour browsing in Dick’s Sporting Goods while waiting for your wife to get out of Sephora.

 

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