Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver unveiled his business plan Monday for the $100,000 economic development line item Augusta commissioners approved sight-unseen in November.
His release of plans for the new Augusta Regional Collaboration, or ARC, Project, comes ahead of Wednesday’s inaugural Technological Association of Georgia Augusta Chapter meeting, Copenhaver said.
Citing “a pressing need” for the Augusta area to move toward a knowledge-based economy because of its heavy reliance on federal investment such as Fort Gordon and Savannah River Site that is unsustainable at current levels, the center will provide a permanent presence for the area’s information technology, including military, medical and energy sectors in a single location.
The former Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce Building on Broad Street would house the center, letting the sectors incubate new partnerships and business models to foster “a more entrepreneurial environment.”
“It’s still a work in progress,” Copenhaver said. “But moving into the future, really successful cities understand that becoming a knowledge-based economy is the driving force to recruiting and retaining the best and brightest young minds.”
Copenhaver said the plan is his creation and is based on the “big picture” knowledge he’s gained from touring resources such as Plant Vogtle, Savannah River Site, Fort Gordon, Georgia Health Sciences University, ESi and RSI.
Specialists at Fort Gordon, for instance, are authoring military computer applications daily, and “that’s a great labor force for the technology sector to take advantage of,” he said.
Copenhaver cited the Cyber Innovation Center just outside Shreveport and Barksdale Air Force Base in northwest Louisiana, as an example of an area leveraging its resources for the future.
Augusta’s $100,000 investment is seed money, and Copenhaver said he expects the center eventually to be funded wholly by grants and the private sector.
Headed by a director obtained through a national search process, the center won’t duplicate existing efforts by the chamber, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Development Authority or Development Authority of Richmond County, although it might eventually be housed with those entities in a proposed new building on Reynolds Street, he said.
Copenhaver unveiled the plan as Augusta’s chapter of the Technology Association of Georgia has its first meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Augusta State University’s Hall Auditorium, where he will welcome TAG to the region.