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Big growth expected with Cyber Command

Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 7:57 PM
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 2:07 AM
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The Army Cyber Com­mand coming to Fort Gordon is considered by many community leaders to be the best news for the area economy since Savannah River Site in the 1950s.

But some of those same people question whether the area is prepared to handle the growth that will come with it.

“The challenge that we have right now is people really don’t get how big this is … and this is a fast-moving train,” said Thom Tuckey, the executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon.

The Army’s Dec. 19 announcement that it will consolidate and grow the Cy­ber Command on the base brought a promise of thousands of new military, government civilian and contractor jobs and a real estate boom.

Like SRS’ rapid injection of 25,000 jobs into the region 60 years ago, the Cyber Command will have a significant impact on the area economy over a short period. But unlike the SRS jobs, Cyber Command is poised to stay indefinitely, as the Department of Defense bases
one of its highest national security priorities – cyber warfare – in Augusta, Tuckey said.

Created in Augusta over the next five years will be a highly skilled, high-earning workforce of noncommissioned officers earning $50,000 or more, government civilian employees earning $70,000 and up and upper-level commissioned officers taking home $100,000 and beyond – and no new housing is being constructed for them on post, Tuckey said.

Army estimates show 202 jobs created next year in construction and operations of a new, 179,056-square-foot facility on Fort Gordon to house the new command, and an associated 83 jobs that will arise because of the development, with a $13 million labor income impact.

By 2017, the numbers grow to 1,026, with a $62 million income impact.

Then in 2019, when Cyber Command is expanded to planned levels, the Army estimates 2,029 jobs, including more than 1,514 directly created jobs and 515 induced, with an annual income impact of $154 million, to continue “for the foreseeable future.”

Military appreciation

Alvin Mason, one of several Augusta Commission members with a military background, said many Au­gus­­tans don’t realize that as most U.S. military installations are reducing, Augusta’s is growing.

“We have to understand the enormity of it all,” he said. “The landscape of Au­gus­ta, Ga., is about to change, and I don’t think this city realizes that.”

Despite the prevalence of retired military and military families who have settled in Augusta over the past century, most residents
don’t appreciate how the development turns the national spotlight on Augusta, including its government, Mason said.

He and another Army retiree on the commission, Bill Lock­ett, said they wish the commission would quit petty bickering and focus on the big picture.

Lockett noted, “We can talk about economic development until the cows come home, but until we change, others on the outside are not going to realize we have lots to offer.”

Both commissioners agreed that an immediate increase in staffing for the city’s planning and development department, as requested by new Director Mel­anie Wilson, is needed to help remedy the blight that’s spread along Gor­don Highway and Deans Bridge Road, which flank the base’s northern and southern boundaries.

Along Gordon Highway, which forms the boundary between Fort Gordon and Co­­lum­bia County, ill-maintained properties are unwelcoming to visitors and business prospects, Lockett said.

“In the condition it’s in now, even though we’ve got such a large amount of people coming in, many of them are going to turn left into Grovetown or Columbia County, not into Richmond County,” he said. “We need to concentrate heavily on Gordon Highway, on Deans Bridge Road, all the way out to Fort Gordon.”

Retail detail

While it might not be where the bulk of the new Army families choose to live – two-thirds of Fort Gordon children attend Columbia County schools – Augusta should hardly ignore the potential for development arising from the Cyber Command, Tuckey said.

Augusta should realize the city will benefit from increased retail – including a large office complex in the works near the post – and all the associated tax and fee revenue, without the demands of a large influx of new residents, Commissioner Donnie Smith said.

“In this particular thing, we come out better. We’re going to benefit from the sales taxes, property taxes, business licenses,” he said.

As a lower-income county, Rich­mond County can offer far greater tax savings and other perks for the contracting and other businesses en route, including some that are here simply because the Cyber Command is here, Smith said.

“Commercial office space is going to be at a premium,” he said. “Cyber contractors … will want to be here, because this is the Cyber Capital.”

If the Augusta side of Fort Gordon is a bit blighted, north of the post is a story of Columbia County residential explosion, with much new residential growth around Grovetown and other areas near Fort Gordon.

That and an agreeable governing body have left the county prepared to handle whatever residential growth comes its way, said Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson.

“We’re pretty nimble; we’ll just do what we have to do,” he said. “One thing you have to look at is we’ve had 39 percent population growth, and a lot of it had to do with military families. When you’ve grown as fast as Columbia County, you’ve got to stay ahead of the curve, and we’ve been doing similar things for the past several years.”

Despite the growth – the county’s population is now around 130,000 – there is plenty of room for more, particularly in western Columbia County, he said.

Traffic tune-up

Among numerous areas in need of extensive study, planning and preparation, such as ensuring adequate health care and social services are available, is traffic.

A significant proposal that has arisen in response to the command’s arrival would create a new entrance – near Lewiston Road – to Fort Gordon between Gate 1 at Jimmie Dyess Parkway in Augusta and Gate 2 in Grove­town, then close Gate 2, which is highly congested, Tuckey said.

The new gate, set further inside the post, will help avoid traffic jams, he said.

Planning for the command is no minor task. The CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, initially formed to address the Base Realignment and Clo­sure Commission, is assembling committees and panels to study the command’s needs and demands and compile an extensive set of plans over the next year or so that could cost nearly $1 million, Tuckey said. They hope to pay for it through state and federal grants, but could also seek contributions from the community.

“I’ve done 12 presentations in 12 days, so folks get an idea this is a big deal,” Tuck­ey said. “This is not something that three or four people can go in a back room and knock out.”

Schooling the system

While Richmond County is considering closing or consolidating several public schools, it has an alternative project on the books – funded by the special purpose local option sales tax – to build an elementary school in southwest Richmond County should the need arise, said Benton Starks, the senior director of facilities services for the school system.

Unlike Columbia County, the system has the capacity to absorb several thousand students, though available classroom space isn’t necessarily at schools near the post, he said.

Columbia County will likely wind up educating most of the command’s 2,000-plus children, if county officials’ expectations are correct.

Even with new schools in the pipeline, portable classrooms in Columbia County are almost inevitable, Tuckey said.

Columbia County school board member Roxanne Whitaker said the system is anticipating about 1,750 new students from the command over the next few years, but an ongoing rezoning plan should alleviate crowding at schools near the post before then.

The system has a new sales-tax-funded school already approved by voters, and plans to complete a larger Harlem Middle School, larger Grovetown Elemen­tary and enlarge North Har­lem Elementary with the next SPLOST.

Whitaker, a native of the tiny Columbia County municipality of Harlem, said she had no qualms about the influx of residents.

“It’s always exciting to see new people come in; with new people come new ideas,” she said.

The town of about 2,700 has long been an enclave for retired military and is already streamlining processes for developers
to get approval for subdivision developments to aid the new growth, according to Harlem City Manager Jason Rizner.

“We’re really excited about it, and we’re working on revising our zoning ordinances,” he said. The community hopes its “unique, small-town character” will attract Cyber Command families, he said.

Comments (14) Add comment
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countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/25/14 - 12:59 am
5
8
Southwest Augusta overlooked in the article!!

''Along Gordon Highway, which forms the boundary between Fort Gordon and Columbia County, ill-maintained properties are unwelcoming to visitors and business prospects alike, Lockett said.''

When did Gordon Hwy become the dividing line for Richmond/ Columbia? Southwest Augusta should replace Columbia County in the above quote..

“In the condition it’s in now, even though we’ve got such a large amount of people coming in, many of them are going to turn left into Grovetown or Columbia County, not into Richmond County,” he said. “We need to concentrate heavily on Gordon Highway, on Deans Bridge Road, all the way out to Fort Gordon.''

They would end up in Richmond County if they turned left... The new homes on Gordon Highway outside of Fort Gordon are located in Richmond County..

''If the Augusta side of Fort Gordon is a bit blighted, north of the post is a story of Columbia County residential explosion, with much new residential growth around Grovetown and other areas near Fort Gordon.''

The majority of growth outside Fort Gordon is located in Richmond County.. What is blighted about Jimmie Dyess? Have you seen the area near Harlem right outside the base? The entire Deans Bridge road and the part of Gordon Hwy east of Jimmie Dyess need revitalization.. The Gordon Hwy area(west of Jimmie Dyess) of Southwest Augusta looks better than any part of the road in Columbia County..

pja5529
1605
Points
pja5529 01/25/14 - 02:03 am
5
0
Gordon Hwy

The Columbia county portion of Gordon Hwy right before you get to Harlem could use some improvement as well. There are 4 new subdivisions in Richmond County right outside of Gate 1. Grovetown has several new subdivisons as well but I think that whole area, Grovetown and and the Jimmy Dyess and area in Richmond County are going to see the biggest increases hence the plans for a new elementary school in that part of Richmond County.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 01/25/14 - 10:38 am
0
0
The local politicians are lining up to steal the money.
Unpublished

The local politicians are lining up to steal the money.

corgimom
31422
Points
corgimom 01/26/14 - 06:06 am
6
0
''Along Gordon Highway, which

''Along Gordon Highway, which forms the boundary between Fort Gordon and Columbia County, ill-maintained properties are unwelcoming to visitors and business prospects alike, Lockett said.''

It is REFRESHING to see county commissioners being HONEST and addressing a problem that has existed for YEARS. I still remember coming to Augusta in 1979, driving along Dean's Bridge Road- Bobby Jones Expressway ended there, back then- and being less than impressed- and that was 35 years ago, and it hasn't improved much since then.

Riverman1
82398
Points
Riverman1 01/26/14 - 02:47 pm
9
2
Thank You, Army

"The Army Cyber Com­mand coming to Fort Gordon is considered by many community leaders to be the best news for the area economy since Savannah River Site in the 1950s."

Those dang community leaders said what I said. Seriously, this is going to be big and keep getting bigger. Dyess Pkwy into Evans is going to boom with new businesses and the whole county will benefit in many ways. Home values will soar.

It's an interesting idea about building a new gate up by Grovetown. The Cyber Command is located up that way on post and a gate there would eliminate traffic on post as well through Gate 1.

Another beneficial effect of the Cyber Command is keeping Eisenhower Army Medical Center going at full speed as the military downsizes. The hospital not only provides jobs, but is a draw bringing military retirees to the area.

seenitB4
85643
Points
seenitB4 01/26/14 - 09:55 am
5
3
Well yeah

“We need to concentrate heavily on Gordon Highway, on Deans Bridge Road, all the way out to Fort Gordon.”

We have been saying that for ages on here....entrance to Augusta & this area has been neglected for years. Finally, yall are seeing the light.

justthefacts
21392
Points
justthefacts 01/26/14 - 10:47 am
1
0
Can they build fast enough?

Columbia County is going to explode.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 01/26/14 - 11:19 am
0
0
it would be great if the
Unpublished

it would be great if the Richmond county portion would grow.. an influx of EDUCATED people into those areas could change the political arena for Augusta.

Jake
32332
Points
Jake 01/26/14 - 11:52 am
2
0
Traffic

I can only hope (for my good friend's sake) that they will widen Washington Rd in Columbia Co all the way to Pollard's Corner.
The daily procession on Wash Rd in the morning and afternoon is very frustrating.

allhans
23546
Points
allhans 01/26/14 - 12:45 pm
3
0
For those who want upper end

For those who want upper end housing, in my area large homes are being replaced by larger homes, some are adding on, modernized....The hill section has renewal going one......the demand is great for homes in the city.

corgimom
31422
Points
corgimom 01/26/14 - 03:53 pm
1
0
Jake, it takes years for

Jake, it takes years for infrastructure to catch up with rapid growth.

Sometimes, it's a "be careful what you wish for" thing.

corgimom
31422
Points
corgimom 01/26/14 - 03:54 pm
1
0
Jake, remember when there was

Jake, remember when there was virtually nothing on Washington Rd past Columbia Rd, just a few houses?

Pops
7766
Points
Pops 01/26/14 - 08:52 pm
1
1
All the new people moving to

this area because of the Cyber Com­mand will be moving to downtown. There is a new mural on fifteenth street and plenty of gentrification going on all over. I know it's true cause I read it here on these message boards so it must be true.

You guessed it...Frank Stallone
83
Points
You guessed it...Frank Stallone 01/26/14 - 09:34 pm
1
1
"All the new people moving

"All the new people moving to
this area because of the Cyber Com­mand will be moving to downtown. There is a new mural on fifteenth street and plenty of gentrification going on all over. I know it's true cause I read it here on these message boards so it must be true."

Don't forget they will be installing cameras and lights on the Riverwalk. Oh, and remember the parents would rather pay 12k a year for private school than send their kids to a solid, free public school system in Columbia County.

nocnoc
41269
Points
nocnoc 01/26/14 - 11:11 pm
1
0
What to do?

We have the annual Face Lift for the Masters coming up
and now ARC has to RUSH to do some red carpet things for Cyber Command also.

Can ARC pull this off?

Stay tune to this Bat Channel

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/27/14 - 01:51 am
1
0
Major fail!!!!

The families moving downtown can send their kids to even better free public school. The number 1 school in Georgia(Davidson)is located in the CBD, and ranks much higher than any other school in the entire CSRA... AR Johnson and CT Walker are both located in the urban core and rank extremely high among the top schools in the state..

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