The nonprofit group founded in 2003 to help save Fort Gordon from closure has a new mission – to market the Augusta area to cyber professionals as the place they need to be.
The CSRA Alliance officially unveiled the Fort Gordon Cyber District at the TechNet cybersecurity trade show this week in Augusta. The alliance first announced the district’s creation Aug. 3.
The Cyber District encompasses Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties in Georgia, and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.
Panelists discussed the district during a TechNet event Thursday titled “Fort Gordon Cyber District: The Future of Cybersecurity is Here.”
Fort Gordon is the region’s largest employer with its vast communications and cybersecurity training centers. When the U.S. Army Cyber Command officially moves to Fort Gordon by 2020, local leaders expect thousands of new area residents to spur a cyber-fueled economic boom.
In anticipation of that, the Cyber District is the Alliance’s branded identity of the Augusta area, which the Alliance has called “a unique, welcoming culture combined with advanced technological opportunities to create the ideal environment for technology professionals to live, work and play.”
“Like a lot of communities, you may lose control of your brand, your image,” said G.B. Cazes, senior adviser for the CSRA Alliance. “We are driving the message of who we are, what we are and what opportunities exist here.”
The Alliance wants to replicate the success of such companies as Unisys, the global information technology company that moved its call center to downtown Augusta.
“We made a choice of where we were going to expand,” said Tom Patterson, Unisys’ chief trust officer. “We looked at a lot of places, and we settled on Augusta, Ga. – not for what Augusta was today but what we saw it was going to be. We wanted to be part of that change. We wanted to be right in the downtown, right in the center of it all.”
The company saw the growth coming to Fort Gordon, and how the increased need for local cybersecurity training was transforming Augusta University.
“This is a city and a region and a district that’s going to be transformed completely by cyber, and it’s really exciting for Unisys,” Patterson said.
The deputy commander of Fort Gordon’s Army Cyber School said he liked the enthusiasm of the leaders pushing the Cyber District.
“The word ‘virus’ has had a negative connotation for a long time, but today we get excited when something goes viral,” said retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Boudreau. “But just as less desirable conditions in one neighborhood can infect another neighborhood and bring it down, good conditions in a neighborhood can be used to bring up other neighborhoods. But you need a carrier.
“What I see represented here is a lot of carriers, willing to go outside of their offices, their homes, and be that change.”
Cazes said that the growing cyber boom presents a unique opportunity for the Augusta area that must not be squandered.
“What’s going on at Fort Gordon, the community’s going to go and be successful no matter what,” he said. “But the opportunity here is that this can be a transformative event, not just for you and your kids and your kid’s kids. This will change the region forever.”
Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.