Our love affair with Savannah River Site is on the rocks.
Area officials and business leaders have long grumbled to the Department of Energy about the lack of future economic development opportunities at the installation, as they did about two weeks ago with Energy Department officials in Washington, D.C.
Sources say there also was grousing over recently announced DOE plans to outsource many SRS jobs to Chickasaw Nation Industries, a company owned by the Chickasaw Indians, without a competitive bidding process.
To describe local sentiment in the form of Beatles lyrics: "You never give me your money, you only give me your funny paper."
Some of those attending the Washington meeting, which was part of the annual CSRA Leadership trip, describe the dialogue between local chamber of commerce boosters and bureaucrats as curt.
Others say they were disheartened by the Energy Department’s cavalier attitude toward concerns that SRS, which once was poised to take on new (i.e., job-creating) missions, has in recent years become little more than a repository for nuclear waste.
With SRS being one of the four legs of the table that is the region’s economy (Fort Gordon, the medical community and the area’s diverse manufacturing base as the other three), the fear is that ongoing cuts to the site’s high-paid work force will cause the region’s economy to slow, just as it did during the 1990s when post-Cold War job cuts sent the Augusta area into a recession while the rest of the nation was booming during the feel-good Clinton years.
Locals could maybe, just possibly be content with SRS’ being a 310-square-mile high-tech dump, but not with continually shrinking budgets and payrolls.
The feeling is that it’s high time the feds started to show a little love to a region whose people (with the exception, I suppose, of the people whom the feds forced off their land) have embraced SRS with open arms for the past five decades, radioactive warts and all.
What’s next? You can expect local leaders to put the pressure on the region’s congressional representatives. This is good old- fashioned politics in action: If the Energy Department chokes funds to SRS, then we’ll see that Congress chokes funds to the Energy Department.
Checks and balances – I love this country.
IT’S A PETTY THING
By mid-July, concern over the future of SRS and its $1 billion annual budget will fade from public awareness because something more important will be going on: Kyle Petty will come to town.
That’s right, the NASCAR star and his entourage roll into Augusta on July 18 as part of the 13th annual Chick- fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride. The event, which raises money for children’s charities, including Mr. Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp for children with chronic illnesses, will stop in the Garden City for the first time as part of a 2,800-mile ride from Woodstock, Vt., to Hollywood, Fla.
This year marks the first time the ride has followed a north-to-south route; previous rides have been east to west. A spokeswoman for the ride said that Augusta is one of only seven overnight stops on the trip and that there will be events and activities planned that are sure to include NASCAR celebrities.
SOUTHSIDE SONIC: If Mr. Petty’s road warriors drove through a little later in the year, they could grab a bite to eat at the Sonic Drive-In planned for south Augusta at the corner of Mike Padgett Highway and Tobacco Road. The burger chain’s local franchisee, which already operates 11 Sonics throughout the area, filed plans with county officials to build the next one at 3710 Mike Padgett Highway, also known as Georgia Highway 56, in front of the Food Lion-anchored shopping center.
YOU'RE STEEL THE ONE
Last week’s Scuttlebiz mentioned the new commercial office furniture company McWaters, coming to town as the new distributor of Steelcase furniture. Columbia-based McWaters, which is building a showroom and warehouse in west Augusta, is picking up the Steelcase line from Ivan Allen, which dropped the well-known brand in December.
Lest you think that Ivan Allen went out of business, the company’s local point man, Frank Mulherin, asked me to mention that Ivan Allen is alive and well and selling the Allsteel brand.
Call me a newbie, but is it a requirement that office furniture manufacturers have to have the word "steel" in their name?