On Feb. 1, 2017, I started in my position as dean of the James M. Hull College of Business at Augusta University. It has been a busy 100-plus days since my arrival.
I spent most of the first two months meeting with my faculty and staff, learning more about AU and its campuses, interacting with our great students, and meeting with local business and community leaders to get a pulse of how the Hull College is integrated into the community.
I have been most encouraged by the business community’s outreach since my arrival, giving me opportunities to meet with a number of accounting firms, small- to mid-sized enterprises and some of our larger employers, such as ADP. I also have been welcomed at numerous chamber of commerce and Rotary events.
Of particular interest to me is the relationships AU has developed with many of our local employers. I am encouraged by the internships and full-time employment opportunities they make available to our students and graduates, and we plan to work more closely with businesses to ensure we provide them the talent they need.
While the current business climate in Augusta is good, it is the future that has me excited. I was able to attend my first Masters as an Augusta resident in April and was able to see to firsthand why the world identifies the tournament as one of the greatest events on the sports calendar. Clearly, the Masters will continue to keep Augusta in the spotlight.
But, while Augusta will remain synonymous with golf, I see a number of signs the city is on the brink of much more economic growth.
First and foremost, Augusta is becoming a force in cybersecurity. In April, Fortune magazine identified Augusta as one of seven cities that could become the world’s “cybersecurity capital” for good reason. The federal government has invested significantly to make Fort Gordon the headquarters for Army cyber operations by combining the Army Cyber Command and Cyber Center of Excellence at the post.
The Army broke ground in November and the first phase is planned for completion a year from now. This was followed up by a $50 million investment by the state of Georgia to build the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center scheduled to open next summer in downtown Augusta. With AU’s Cyber Institute playing a large role in talent development, cybersecurity should stimulate significant economic growth in the area.
While cybersecurity plays a large role in the rise of Augusta, there are other great signs that I have noticed in my short time here. The new Riverside Village at Hammond Ferry which just broke ground this week will not only include the North Augusta Ballpark, the new home of the GreenJackets, but a mixed use development of housing, retail, and entertainment for the local community.
With comparisons being drawn to metro Atlanta’s SunTrust Park/The Battery Atlanta, it would appear metro Augusta has an enviable site for a city of its size.
Finally, Augusta appears to be on the brink of being a player in terms of growing innovation-based businesses. Three entities — The Clubhou.se, the Augusta Innovation Zone, and the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center’s incubator — will have Augusta poised to power new startups.
All of this great news has me incredibly upbeat about Augusta’s economic future.
Unfortunately, WalletHub has not seen the same signs. A little over a week ago, the online personal finance site ranked Augusta as one of the “worst places to start a career,” placing us barely above Cleveland and Newark, N.J. Please follow this space in the coming weeks and I will explain why WalletHub has it wrong.
I’ll also provide more details on innovation and entrepreneurship, the new ballpark, cybersecurity and other great things happening in metro Augusta.
Dr. Richard Franza is dean of Augusta University’s James M. Hull College of Business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.