Augusta Costco grand opening today

 Walter Sprouse summed up the expectations of many in the economic development community with today’s grand opening of the Augusta Costco.

“Sales tax, sales tax, sales tax,” the Development Authority of Richmond County’s executive director said at a preview party Tuesday evening. “That’s the biggie.”

The store, which opens today, is expected to generate more than $135 million a year, providing a new sales-tax stream.

Bringing a Costco to Augusta has been in talks since 2007, but construction finally began in June. The Augusta Commission spent about $1 million in sales-tax money to build an entrance and road into the property. The commission also committed to give Costco a majority of sales-tax dollars generated by the wholesale store’s sales to help pay back a $10 million loan the developers obtained to finance site preparation costs.

The 100-acre Village at Riverwatch is being developed by the MGHerring Group, and Costco is the first retailer there.

The store brought nearly 200 jobs to the area. Kelly Frasure, the Southeast regional marketing manager, said Costco emphasized hiring local residents.

“We hired a little more local than usual,” she said.

John Olinzock, who was among the 750 people at the invitation-only preview party, said he’s interested in how the store’s presence will affect other stores.

“I think competition is good,” he said.

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