'Off the charts'

Successful convention signals bright future for new center

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While many Americans observed the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks last week, others were congregating in Augusta to keep us safe in years to come.

The city’s new convention center played host to TechNet Augusta, a conference that brings the public and private sectors of the defense industry together to share information, inspiration and communications strategies in the battle to keep U.S. forces at the top of their game.

Talking to some of the three-day convention’s key players afterward, it’s abundantly clear Augusta has again done its part for homeland security.

“It was off the charts. Everyone wants it here again,” reports Bob Damen, a past president of the Armed For­ces Communications and Elec­tronics Association that put it on, as well as a local manager for Raytheon, the event’s title sponsor.

“This conference was a huge success,” added retired Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, an executive vice president of AFCEA International. “Universally, (the feedback) was very, very positive.”

One measure of its success, besides rave reviews from those who were there, was the participation level: Conference organizers knew they needed 1,000 attendees to make it work. They were hoping for 1,500. They ended up with some 2,100.

Fittingly, AFCEA was actually born in Augusta, at then-Camp Gordon, in 1946. Fort Gordon hosted similar gatherings of the association’s defense-industry communications experts and vendors through the years, but not for several years. It wasn’t until January’s opening of the Augusta Convention Center that the association had the space and amenities to bring this event back and do it up right.

Indeed, Gen. Dubia said organizers were so pleased with the convention center that they were already securing dates for next year.

That will mean a return here by some of the world’s leaders in defense-industry communications technology. But it’s even bigger than that. Word of TechNet’s success will get around the convention industry, announcing that Augusta is
now a major player – and other convention organizers will want to consider coming here.

This was an important event for Augusta and its still-new convention center. It was an audition for regional and national audiences, played out in front of a very discerning group: The military folks, the internationally renowned sponsors, and the 125 high-tech exhibitors involved in TechNet were a tough customer.

And they said it was “off the charts” good.

So are the benefits – including more than half a million in direct spending, according to the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Then there are benefits masquerading as problems: One local businessman wondered Saturday to Barry White why it was impossible to get a rental car last week in Augusta. The president/CEO of the CVB smiled and explained about TechNet – and they both agreed it was a great “problem” to have.

“This is an example of exactly why that facility was built,” White says of the convention center.

We better be careful. Many more events like this could change our “conventional” thinking in this town.

Comments (13) Add comment
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bubbasauce
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bubbasauce 09/17/13 - 01:31 am
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It's about time we hear some

It's about time we hear some good news about this place.

deestafford
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deestafford 09/17/13 - 03:00 am
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There are a lot of good things going on in Augusta other than

our great golf tournament which we seem to gloss over at times.

I believe the convention center is going to be a great draw to Augusta. I know I have been to numerous conventions in different cities and I always enjoyed the ones where the convention facilities, lodging, and eating were all close to each other. I would not have enjoyed coming to Augusta and attending one at the Bell or the James Brown Arena because the lodging and eating were not close by.

We definitely have to do something about River Walk. It can be such a positive aspect for people coming to conventions to stroll and relax away from a convention and all of its activity. However, all it would take is for one convention attendee to get assaulted on there and the word would spread like wildfire that Augusta may have nice convention facilities but you would want to go there because the area around the convention area is not safe.

Let's face it. Cleaning up and making the River Walk safe ain't brain surgery and can be done of the powers that be think out of the box...having volunteer work weekends would help. How about having businesses and civic organizations be responsible for a section as we do some of the landscaping of plots? Have the city erect a recognition sign saying, "Enjoy this section of River Walk thanks to the efforts of R. C. Widget Company."

Riverman1
94338
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Riverman1 09/17/13 - 12:30 pm
6
1
A Start

The event was a great success. I’ve said the fort could bring in events more than once. Fayetteville, NC hosts a yearly event that has about 2,000 outsiders each year thanks to the Army organizing the conference. I’ll also be a realist and point out the 2,000 here included many locals stationed at the fort. The TEE occupancy rate is still pretty bad.

Also concentrate on medical conferences with MCG. That should be the next step. They have a large conference drawing folks from all over the country that used to be in Augusta, but will be held in Braselton, GA next month. Work with them.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/17/13 - 05:50 am
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1
ARC Commish

It's past time to maintain what you have. Put your employees back to work and if they don't want to there at 300 applicants for each job! Clean up Riverwalk. Sheriff Tree, forget taxes, do your job with what you have!!

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 09/17/13 - 06:19 am
2
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The very same companies

The very same companies schmoozing to get more contracts to help the NSA spy on you or to get another place at the government trough. As long as they book the TEE Center and blow a few bucks in Augusta, they're welcomed with opened arms. At what point is it legalized bribery? As long as they bring money and book the Marriott and TEE Center, the Chronicle would welcome The US Kiddie Porn Producers Convention.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 09/17/13 - 07:46 am
4
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Well I'm sure some would

Well I'm sure some would prefer an anti-Zionist convention that would be dedicated to eliminate Israel. That or a Communist Party USA convention that all the local progressives and Dems could attend. LOL?:>) Give it a rest. Even worms gotta eat.

Riverman1
94338
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Riverman1 09/17/13 - 07:57 am
5
1
Augusta Respects the Military

Augusta has a very pro military population that appreciates the jobs the military and SRS provide. Many communities are hostile to national defense priorities and resist the military and defense projects. Our patriotic mindset may pay dividends when the next BRAC hits or expansion of Ft. Gordon is considered. Ft. Gordon and the CSRA are a perfect match.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 09/17/13 - 08:04 am
5
1
Safety in the downtown area is paramount

to having this become a trend. DeeStafford has it exactly right. People from out of town don't know they aren't safe walking around on River Walk or Broad Street alone and even in a group after dark.

This falls on the shoulders of the Sheriff's Office and no where else. LEOs need to be seen all over that area at night, and not just cruising around in cars.

Riverman1
94338
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Riverman1 09/17/13 - 08:51 am
4
1
It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to ask the MCG folks who moved their national conference to Braselton why? A rhetorical question that I know the answer to since I attended the conference there last year, but what do they have that Augusta doesn't?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/17/13 - 09:04 am
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What do they have?

I would imagine Security! A lot of people don't have a clue as to the viability of Augusta without Fort Gordon, SRS or the Masters. Without these blessings to the local economy, Augusta would be about the size of Millen GA or Estill SC. There would be no population base to support GRUsome or any of the other so called colleges here, not to mention the industry.

dichotomy
37653
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dichotomy 09/17/13 - 10:45 am
4
1
Sure, it's great that they

Sure, it's great that they had a successful convention. I am extremely happy to hear it. Please let me know when the additional tax revenue to the city + city's cut of user fees = the payments on the bonds + utilities + Paul Simon's operation contract + all maintenance expenses. Until then, somebody is making money but it ain't me....all I'm making is the payments on the difference between what is makes and what it costs.

I'm sure the "city" cheerleaders.....and the "associates" who own most of the surrounding property.....are ecstatic at having a successful convention center in the middle of their property. But I am a South Richmond County cheerleader so...me.....not so much. Even if hugely successful, a "rising tide" from the TEE will not lift my boat. It will only cause more Section 8 flooding.

harley_52
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harley_52 09/17/13 - 11:33 am
3
0
Let Me Break The Pattern Here...

...and express my congratulations to all those responsible for the obviously successful AFCEA conference and the favorable impression left on those attending by both the organizers and by Augusta Richmond County.

I'll stop right there since I don't feel compelled to badmouth ARC even as I grudgingly admit they did at least one thing well.

badmoon426
1187
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badmoon426 09/25/13 - 04:52 pm
0
0
Congratulations...

...so when are we going to get the new Marriott Convention Center occupied/rented out week after week?

Just wondering, we have a lot of bills to pay because of it.

countyman
21687
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countyman 10/15/13 - 10:17 pm
1
0
Broad street and the

Broad street and the Riverwalk are both safe after dark.

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