The city of Augusta has become a regular target of the personal finance website WalletHub in recent months. In March, the site told us that, of the 150 cities in the United States that were ranked, we are the 19th-“fattest” and third-“saddest” city.
Based on my limited experience of living here for just over five months, I have not seen confirmation of these assessments, but I lack the expertise in the areas of obesity and mental states to fully refute these results. However, a more recent ranking struck a nerve that is more in my wheelhouse.
In May, WalletHub identified Augusta as the third-worst city to start a career, behind only Newark, N.J., and Cleveland. Based on my time here, my interactions with the local business community, and my review of the Hull College of Business’ recent placement data and prospects, I have significant doubts about Augusta’s current ranking.
In addition, when considering the future, I expect Augusta to rapidly rise in these rankings in the future.
Let’s first show why the present is brighter than indicated by WalletHub and then we can demonstrate the potential for Augusta to jump toward the top of the rankings.
One of my biggest concerns is that WalletHub only weighs “income and employment” as 25 percent toward its rankings and, within that 25 percent, it does not consider available jobs and career field opportunities.
A second concern is that a full 50 percent of the ranking is based upon “emotional and physical well-being,” which is affected by, among other things, obesity and happiness measures — which WalletHub has already told us will put us at the bottom of most lists.
Finally, “community and environment” comprises the remaining 25 percent of the ranking, which, while being very important to quality of life, has some suspect sub-measures relative to affecting the start of a career (e.g., divorce rate, leisure time spent per day).
My sense is that when ranking cities in terms of being the best place to start a career, more emphasis should be placed on career opportunities than WalletHub does in its ranking. As we look around us in Augusta and the region, career opportunities are everywhere.
First and foremost, we can look at the medical district with its myriad career opportunities in health care provision and management. There are opportunities for doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators in a career field that is recession-proof. In addition to our medical infrastructure, we have a strong federal government sector with opportunities in numerous federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and National Security Agency.
Beyond the medical and public sectors, we have great companies, large and small, who are great employers in the area, including ADP, John Deere and Textron. In the Hull College of Business in recent years, our accounting and technology graduates often have 100 percent placement rates, and our other majors are above national placement trends. Our students are getting great jobs in great companies and organizations – great ways to start careers.
Clearly, WalletHub is not capturing these opportunities in their rankings.
While the present is much brighter than portrayed by WalletHub, you have seen nothing yet. Augusta is on the brink of an economic, employment and career boom. The investment by the federal and state governments in cybersecurity will be a significant engine of job creation, stimulating more firms to move to the area. A burgeoning start-up ecosystem can be seen in the development and growth of entities such as The Clubhou.se, the Augusta Innovation Zone, and the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, which will lead to the growth of new companies in town.
We at the Hull College of Business are doing our part by involving the business community in the development of our new curriculum to ensure we provide the workforce for the city to flourish. Part of that curriculum includes required internships that will both strengthen the firms and better prepare our graduates to contribute to their companies more quickly.
While WalletHub has not had much good to say about Augusta recently, I think you will see some new headlines in the not too distant future.
The writer is dean of Augusta University’s James M. Hull College of Business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.