Nuclear technology, military continue to drive regional economy, municipal leaders say

NORTH AUGUSTA — Eco­nomic strongholds in military intelligence and nuclear technology will lead the Augusta area into a bright future, capitalizing on existing business and attracting future growth, community leaders said Thursday night.

Several municipalities focused on the area’s main economic engines, including Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle, at the State of the Region forum in North Augusta, sponsored by chambers of commerce of Augusta, North Augusta, Aiken and Columbia County.

Fred Dohse, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said SRS is positioned to develop nuclear technologies that aid national security. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 forced considerable change that helped reduce nuclear materials and radioactive waste, said Dohse, the event’s keynote speaker.

“We have the capabilities to solve some of our nation’s unresolved issues,” he said. “Our ability to innovate and create lasting nuclear technology solutions is a true testament to the workforce at the site and a legacy to the site veterans and those who work out there today.”

In 2011, the economic impact of SRS to the Augusta area was $1.42 billion. Stimulus money supported thousands of jobs that allowed 10 years of work to be completed in 30 months, Dohse said.

The region needs to stand behind its economic engines and attract more investment, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

“I think we’re all getting the message that when we work together things improve quickly,” Copenhaver said.

Other leaders emphasized their municipalities’ contributions to the regional economy.

North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said new restaurants and stores are stimulating the city’s economy. Over the next seven years, a capital project sales tax will be used for new public safety buildings, parks and road improvements, Jones said.

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