Augusta experienced two earthquakes this past week – one literal, one figurative.
The real one measured 3.2 on the Richter scale Tuesday morning.
The metaphorical one on Monday was much bigger.
At a groundbreaking for the already-immense Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center – at which Gov. Nathan Deal turned up to turn dirt – we learned that the center has grown even before it’s been built.
Originally designed as a $50 million public-private center for cyber security education, innovation and training, the project is now a $60 million enterprise which is expected to grow in scope and the number of buildings as demand increases for space there.
The center, notes one report, “will also feature research facilities and will be cleared for top secret work. It will include a ‘cyber range’ where new cyberwarfare capabilities can be created and tested.”
Major participants include the state, thanks to the vision of Gov. Deal and Augustans Jim Hull and William D. McKnight; Augusta University, which will manage the complex; the federal government, which is centering its cybersecurity operations at nearby Fort Gordon; and other assorted public and private entities still to be determined.
Augusta University President Brooks Keel calls it a coming “digital village,” and it certainly has all the hallmarks of a planned and pregnant cyber community here in Augusta. Fact is, Keel and others are coming to the realization that the cyber center has the capacity to make Augusta the nation’s, if not the hemisphere’s epicenter for cyber security.
More than that, G.B. Cazes, former vice president for the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, La., recently told an audience here that Augusta is “well on its way” to being an international center of cyber education, operations and research and development. He said it has the potential to have a $1 billion economic impact here.
“Your trajectory could be very, very steep,” he said.
And the climb has started: An Augusta University study found that existing employers here are expected to increase their cybersecurity workforce by 138 percent.
Everything from training and continuing education to undergraduate and post-graduate degrees will be offered at the riverfront campus – the tremors of which, not incidentally, will be felt in downtown commerce and the entire region.
What beautiful redemption for the once-forlorn “Golf and Gardens” tourist destination on the river that city leaders had so hopefully assembled from various tracts, but which had fallen silent and, at times, overgrown since 2007. We once fussed over who had to fight back the vegetation just to keep it livable.
As visionary as the idea was, nothing can compare to the earthshaking economic, cultural and national security effects that will soon ripple out.
Fittingly, the center will bear the names of the two Augustans who took the idea for the center to a gloriously receptive Gov. Deal: Hull, founder and managing principal of Hull Property Group and vice chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia; and McKnight, president of McKnight Construction Co. and a director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
What a difference they have made in the course of Augusta, of Georgia and the nation. We couldn’t be happier for them or more appreciative of what they have done for their community and country.
They’ve left yet more of their footprints on Augusta.
And in the process, they caused the earth to move.