Posted August 5, 2007 05:58 pm

Augusta has many corporations to be proud of

Locals often lament the exodus of corporate headquarters from the area during the corporate consolidation waves of the 1980s and 1990s.


Many look back on the 1960s and 1970s as the golden era of Augusta business because of the clout wielded by locally based companies such as Georgia Railroad Bank, The Graniteville Co., Lily-Tulip Inc., Greenfield Industries and Bankers First Corp. The list goes on and on.


Such corporate offices, particularly headquarters, are good for communities. Corporations are often identified with the cities in which they reside, so they have an incentive to keep the yard looking nice. That’s why the most philanthropic and civically active businesses tend to be those run by local decision-makers.


Although Augusta might never again see the corporate presence it had in years past, things right now are looking pretty good.


All you have to do is take a trip to 1030 Stevens Creek Road, as I did last week to see a product showcase that was put on by the tenant of that address: Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products.


The office, though not the corporate headquarters (that’s in Sweden), is responsible for overseeing the lawn mower and chain saw manufacturer’s multibillion-dollar North American operations.


Such a facility signals to other corporations that Augusta is a great place to run a business. Husqvarna is not the only corporate citizen worth showing off, though.
Just behind Husqvarna’s campus is Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s shiny new operations center. The office tells the world that Augusta has the skills to deliver office support services to the New York-based company’s Fortune 500 clients.


Over on Wheeler Road, just across from the recently completed offices for Hull Storey Retail Group, an Augusta-based company that is one of the nation’s largest shopping centers, is the future customer service center for wireless giant T-Mobile.


Over in Columbia County is Club Car Inc., one of the area’s best-known corporate nameplates, which is expanding its office space.
If this trend persists, people might start considering these the golden days.

THEY LIKE US, THEY REALLY LIKE US! One corporation taking notice in the Augusta area is Cincinnati-based retailer Phillips Edison & Co., which recently purchased the small strip center in the Augusta Exchange area that houses Panera Bread, Verizon Wireless and others.


This comes after recently acquiring and upgrading the ailing Bi-Lo-anchored shopping center in North Augusta, where the former Wal-Mart store is now home to the Steve & Barry’s discount clothing store.


“We like the Augusta area,” said John Bessey, Phillips Edison’s vice president of acquisitions.


The company specializes in buying and renovating “distressed” retail properties, which are plentiful in the Augusta area. Any of you real estate folks sitting on vacant property might want to give Mr. Bessey a call.

NUMBER OF THE BEAST: Your Social Security number, along with your name and birthdate, are the only three things a crook needs to perpetrate a fraud in your name.
That’s why I absolutely hate giving out that nine-digit number for anything other anything than taxes and my Social Security account (the latter of which, I’m pretty sure, will not exist by the time I need it).


I’m sure you, too, cringe whenever you’re asked to give out the number willy-nilly every time you see a doctor, buy an insurance policy or write a check at the liquor store.* That’s why I think you’ll be interested in the recent announcement by the Federal Trade Commission to seek public comment on the private-sector use of Social Security numbers. The FTC, concerned about the proliferation of identity theft, wants to know it’s really necessary for such widespread collection and use of the number.


Here’s your chance to tell the guv’ment what you think, especially if you’ve been the victim of identity theft: First thing, get the skinny on what the FTC wants at www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/07/ssn.shtm.


Second , if you want to send in a comment the online way, you need to go to www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/07/ssncomments.shtm to see how to organize your statements. Then, once you’ve done that, go to secure.commentworks.com/ftc-SSNPrivateSector and sound off.


If you want to send in your comment through the mail, address it to: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex K), 600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20580.


Don’t be afraid to go in depth here, because the FTC wants your comments “as specific as possible, and include, where possible, studies, surveys, research and cost estimates.” Just make sure you send in everything before the Sept. 5 deadline.

IF you’re REALLY IN A PUBLIC COMMENT MOOD: You still have two weeks to give your 2 cents on a pending agreement between various companies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated soils, sediments and groundwater around the Dixie-Narco vending machine plant in Williston, S.C.


The estimated $5.4 million clean up of the property, officially known as the Admiral Home Appliances Superfund, is being paid by Dixie-Narco and others who had a hand in operating the property, including former owner Maytag Corp. and Rheem Manufacturing Co. According to the EPA’s consent decree, more than 3,500 cubic yards of soil and sediments along County Road 65 were contaminated by chromium, mercury and a bunch of unpronounceable chemical compounds from 1966 (when Chill Chest Inc. began operating a freezer manufacturing plant at the site) through 1982.


Dixie-Narco’s current owner, Connecticut-based Crane Co., is not named in the clean up agreement.


You can obtain a copy of the consent decree on the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html or, if you happen to be in Atlanta, at the EPA’s regional office there. Or you can call me and I’ll send you a copy via e-mail. But you have to ask pretty-please.

* They do that to you, too, right?