In his annual State of the City address, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he’s excited about the future he sees for Augusta.
“Our city is moving forward,” he said during his speech Thursday to the Augusta Exchange Club at First Baptist Church of Augusta.
Last year Augusta experienced major economic development, he said.
Augusta’s international renown as home of the Masters Tournament, James Brown and Jessye Norman, and a strong arts and cultural community tipped the scales for Starbucks to build its $172 million production facility here, Copenhaver said. The plant is expected to create 140 new jobs.
The mayor also said Augusta is becoming a hub for bringing jobs back to America from overseas and is an example for other metropolitan areas. He named Rural Sourcing Inc., and Automatic Data Processing as other major companies that have moved jobs back to Augusta from overseas in the past few years.
“That is not going unnoticed at a national level,” he said.
Copenhaver plans to speak in Phoenix next week about bringing jobs back.
“What we have going on in the local economy is amazing,” he said.
The expansion of Plant Vogtle, the new National Security Agency presence at Fort Gordon and the merger of Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities were part of what drew an international company like Starbucks to the area, he said.
The city was named second in the nation for road and technology jobs in the past five years, and Digital Journal named it the fourth-best city to live in based on quality of life and cost of living, Copenhaver said. That’s in addition to Augusta recently being awarded the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award for efforts in the Laney Walker/Bethlehem district, he said.
But he also said the city has issues.
“We’ve got a 22 percent poverty rate that I want to see us do something about,” Copenhaver said, adding that he hopes the new Georgia Regents University will be able to offer more medical outreach in disadvantaged areas.
In his speech, Copenhaver noted that Sheriff Richard Roundtree is doing new things to address crime, but that he has big shoes to fill, following longtime sheriff Ronnie Strength.
He also said he would like to use the North Augusta City Council’s approval of Project Jackson as an example for the Augusta Commission to stop waiting so long to act. He expressed support for the project, which includes a baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets that team owners had wanted in Augusta for years. Copenhaver said the stadium, despite being across the river, will benefit downtown Augusta and will play well off of a performing arts venue that is currently being discussed.
“Even with the difficulties we’ve got, anytime I go anywhere in the state of Georgia, people are talking about Augusta,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned I serve a great city.”