The focus of the Columbia County’s annual State of the Community address took a slight shift from growth to highlighting the success of that growth.
“My predecessor Col. Sam Anderson spent the last few years telling everyone that the growth is coming,” said Col. Todd Turner, Fort Gordon garrison commander. “I suspect I will spend the next couple years telling people that growth has already arrived. As seen by the orange cones, the modular trailers and the increased traffic, all across the installation.”
Turner was joined by Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen, Board of Education chairman Regina Buccafusco, Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper, Grovetown Mayor Gary Jones and Georgia Department of Transportation District 12 board member Don Grantham.
Turner explained that Fort Gordon’s mission has changed from a training base, to an active base.
“Ten or 15 years ago, 25 percent of everything we did on post was focused on training signal soldiers to do their job. Today over half of our assigned units are intel or cyber related conducting 24/7 operations around the world providing safety and security through the safety and security apparatus,” Turner said. “These capabilities in the associated workforce are vital to our nation’s national interest and they have served as a catalyst for growth across the installation and across this region.”
Fort Gordon has more than 60 projects totaling more than $200 million underway and more construction is expected to expand the post’s cyber campus.
The personnel to fill these buildings are continuing to arrive, Turner said. Over the past four years, Turner said 3,900 new service members and government civilians have arrived.
“Between now and the U.S. Army Cyber Command’s arrival in fiscal year 2019 and 2020, we anticipate an additional three percent growth, which equates to 750 additional personnel, 1,000 family members and an additional 300 school-aged children,” Turner said.
The county’s school district is also continuing to see success in growth according to Buccafusco who shared that the current student enrollment in Columbia County’s school district this year surpassed the projected number of 500. And only 20 days into the new school year, Buccafusco said more than 700 new students were enrolled along with more than 200 new teachers to fill the classrooms.
Grantham highlighted the success of the Transportation Investment Act to fund needed roadwork across the state in addition to the transportation special purpose local option sales tax and House Bill 170, which help address thousands of structurally unsound bridges across the state.
“With all those orange barrels out there, with all the barricades and all the ditches and when you have to slow down going to work or coming home from work, and you get irritated and you fuss and cuss that DOT man, then you know it’s a matter of pride, it’s a matter of success, and a matter of progress for this area where we live and try to do business,” Grantham