Mayor Deke Copenhaver on Thursday touched on his plans for the $100,000 economic development line item he has been budgeted by the Augusta Commission.
Giving an annual State of the City address to the Augusta Exchange Club, Copenhaver said the $100,000 was matched in full by the private sector the day it was approved.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the project, Copenhaver said he’ll use the $200,000 to establish a “collaboration center” that will grow Augusta’s technology sector.
The mayor said he has met with officials from Savannah River Site, Rural Sourcing Inc. and Georgia Health Sciences University about the initiative and is considering locating it in the former Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce building. The I.M. Pei-designed building on Broad Street has been vacant for two years.
The center will capitalize on the information technology, medical and energy resources already in the area, Copenhaver said.
“We have an opportunity to really have a knowledge-based economy if we get all those entities working together and focus on creating a buzz around Augusta,” he said. “We have all the resources here to do it.”
Copenhaver continues to heed the advice of Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joe Riley, citing the longtime mayor’s recommendation that cities should focus on building things.
Copenhaver noted the year’s completions of the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, Costco and the $112 million GHSU College of Dental Medicine building, which he said was “the largest investment by the state in any one single facility.”
He also mentioned the redevelopment efforts under way in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities, where eight houses have sold.
Unlike most U.S. cities, Augusta has a “strong manufacturing base” that recently saw Rockwood Pigments announce it was locating 80 to 100 jobs at a new plant, Copenhaver said.