Thinking outside the lines

Area mayors right to emphasize unity in maximizing growth

Cities have limits. Counties have lines. States have borders.


Communities have none of those.

Of course, having all those various political demarcations allows us the greatest amount of self-governance and freedom. It gives us more pockets of hopefully responsive government. It makes us sovereign. That’s a good thing.

But to create the kinds of communities we want to live in, we’ve got to think outside the lines.

That’s the beauty of attitudes expressed by three area mayors at last week’s forum on growth sponsored by the CSRA chapter of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International.

“I don’t know that growth recognizes a boundary. Growth will occur where there’s opportunity,” offered North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit, whose views were shared by Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon.

“The success of one of our municipalities certainly affects in a positive way the others,” Osbon agreed.

Augusta’s Davis also made a magnificent point when he noted not just the coming growth, but the changing nature of it: Other than a certain golf tournament each year, the Augusta area already is justly known for being a hub in medicine, manufacturing and the military – but with the explosion of cyber security at Fort Gordon and in the private sector, we’ll be known as perhaps the nation’s center for the burgeoning industry.

“Instead of having a smokestack and 100,000 square feet of space, all you really need is a smart device,” Davis told the forum. “I think that’s the kind of economy we want to create and grow.”

The Army Cyber Command Headquarters at Fort Gordon, and the resulting $60 million Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center now being built on the Savannah River downtown, means the entire region will be growing and changing.

Indeed, the community-based Alliance for Fort Gordon’s recent creation of what it calls the “Fort Gordon Cyber District” – the area that growth in the cyber industry is likely to benefit the most – includes Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties in Georgia, and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.

As the man said, when opportunity knocks, it doesn’t much care about boundaries. And in this instance, neither should we.

Fact is, no one political jurisdiction can contain what’s coming – the dozens of companies and thousands of both public- and private-sector cyber warriors.

The Alliance, which aims to coordinate and maximize the growth in cyber, is creating a “a vision for the area that is complete with plans to address education, workforce development, innovation, entrepreneurship and marketing centered around the development of the local cyber community,” according to Executive Director Tom Clark, a veteran of Fort Gordon.

Our biggest challenge, it seems – other than taking intergovernmental cooperation to unprecedented levels here – may simply be getting a handle on all the opportunity and nurturing it.

As the mayors hinted at, maybe the only way to get our arms around the coming growth is to hold hands.



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