Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Augusta philanthropist and real estate developer James Hull to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents last month. Hull, a member manager of Hull Storey Gibson Companies LLC, became the first Augusta appointee to the 19-member board since 2007. Hull addressed his appointment in a question and answer session with The Augusta Chronicle.
Q: Over the last few years, Gov. Nathan Deal has stressed the Complete College Georgia program and the need for a more qualified and educated workforce by 2020. How do you think we can achieve that goal?
A: …Complete College Georgia is the University System of Georgia’s top priority. There is a Campus Complete College Plan for each campus issued in September 2012 and updated in September 2013. I read about half of these plans and I am continuing to read the remainder of them over the holidays. Every campus has a detailed plan and strategy to measure their progress and to reach their respective goals. Although the Campus Complete College Plan goals stated in the various plans are ambitious, I already see where the University System of Georgia has the creative talent and dedication to make these plans succeed.
Q: You served on the University System’s consolidation work committee. What are your thoughts on the rollout of the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences Universities? What have been the biggest successes so far?
Q: The overarching success of the Consolidation Work Committee is the creation of a new university. We have a new university that possesses all of the needed parts to become a true R1 research university that in years ahead will become a major force for good on the national stage. Consolidation created the foundation that will make this future possible. As a result, GRU will be an economic engine for our community, region and state. I have been amazed at the health benefits to our community, region and state that would be derived from the proposed NCI designated Cancer Center or from the work GRU can accomplish on physician retention and preventive health care. For our community to be blessed with one of the only 100 or so Academic Health Centers in the entire country is powerful. I am off-the-charts excited about what GRU can mean to our community, region and state in both terms of economic and quality of life improvement.
Q: Why do you think the naming process struck such a nerve in the community? Do you think the naming process should have been handled differently?
A: People care deeply about their community and that is why we saw the reaction we did. That passion is important and will be valuable as we build a new university here. To my friends who cannot abide by the name, I have looked them in the eyes and consistently said with respect that I am passionate about spending my time and effort on the future and on the work required to build a great university. I foresee GRU being a comprehensive university serving our region and state and one that has a national and global reputation in medicine and other key disciplines like robust preventive health education and programs. I am excited for the appropriation from Gov. Deal of $45 million to fund a new cancer research facility at GRU because this facility will advance the level of quality cancer care available to our region and state. Furthermore, the proposed cancer research facility funding will be leveraged many times over and accrue significant economic benefits to our community for generations.
Q: The Augusta community knows you as a successful businessman and entrepreneur. What advice would you give young people today who want to make a career in real estate or business?
A: If they want to be involved in real estate, I recommend learning all you can about valuation. Start by mastering basic appraisal methodology and theory. The ability to accurately value real property is both an art and a science, but learning all of the principles of valuation handles the science part. As Mr. Aaron Kaplan told me when I started my career, “the real estate business in 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration.” That holds to be good advice today.
Q: How do you see the business community’s relationship with the university system – in Augusta and across the state? How could the business community strengthen its connection with education?
A: We should be partners. The business community in Augusta and statewide have a huge interest in the success of the University System of Georgia. The jobs of the future require our population have more education beyond high school. That is why Complete College Georgia is so important and why it must succeed. For Georgia to advance, the business community needs the University System of Georgia to succeed and, conversely, the University System of Georgia needs the business community to succeed. This is a “virtuous circle” benefiting everyone in our community, region and state.