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"I believe that Augusta is now undergoing a great awakening and entering a new era of enlightenment as we are now seeing concrete evidence of what can be accomplished when we rise above past differences and come together as one community united in the pursuit of excellence."

The quote above comes from my remarks May 20 at the inauguration ceremony for Ricardo Azziz as the new president of Georgia Health Sciences University. I have long been convinced that this is the case, and this past week offered up another historic moment in the life of our great city that stands to put an exclamation point upon this statement.

On June 5, in what will become one of the greatest stories in the history of collegiate golf, the Augusta State University men's golf team won their second consecutive NCAA Division 1 national championship. The story of how this happened will be chronicled for decades, but one of the things that has continued to resonate with me is simply this: what many considered to be an impossible dream at one point did happen, and it happened right here in Augusta.

ANOTHER POIGNANT part of the story is not just that our team won, but how they won. While other programs chose to discredit last year's national title as a fluke, and to treat our team at times with little respect, these young men led by Coach Josh Gregory chose to handle themselves with the utmost dignity and reverence toward the game while displaying true sportsmanship.

At Monday evening's celebration to honor the team, I listened intently to Josh humbly and graciously give credit to all those who had worked through the years to build a program that is second to none. During his remarks I was struck by the fact that I was again standing in the middle of a transformational moment for the city of Augusta.

Our community had been united by these young men -- our young men -- and their shining example of excellence achieved through the pursuit of a noble goal while focusing on the success of the team instead of individual honors.

I know I speak on behalf of our entire city in saying that words can never fully express how proud we are of Josh and the team, as their accomplishments have served to inspire us all to reach for greater heights, while personifying for our nation what a true champion looks like.

Over the past week, there has been an ongoing discussion in our community about the "cool factor" of Augusta based on the remarks of my good friend Dr. Azziz in a presentation he made to the Rotary Club of Augusta, in which he accurately pointed out that in order for our city to grow "we have to be cool."

I have made the same assertion time and again based on national demographic trends showing that recruiting and retaining millennials, the next generation of America's labor force, will be extraordinarily competitive as cities throughout the nation seek to draw the best and brightest young minds to provide sustainable growth.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, I graduated from the Mayor's Institute on City Design, and was afforded the opportunity to present a case study on our local redevelopment efforts to a panel of the nation's top minds on city design. During my presentation, I stressed my focus on not trying to tell this generation what our city is going to build for them, but to engage them in the conversation and ask them what assets our city needs to have to keep them here, and to help them recruit other members of their generation to Augusta.

My basic premise for stressing this is simple: In sales, you don't tell the customer what you're going to sell them; you market what your target audience wants to buy.

One example of a recent success Augusta has had in its business recruitment efforts through leveraging our assets, with an emphasis on our local institutions of higher learning and our strong quality of life, was the announcement in early December that Rural Sourcing Inc. would be bringing 100 IT jobs to Augusta.

In one interview, RSI CEO Monty Hamilton underscored this point when asked what drew the company to Augusta:

"The educational community here with the college universities and tremendous amount of graduates with the qualifications we are looking for. Low cost of living and high quality of living that Augusta offers. The people that grew up here, want to live here, have roots here and raising families. That makes for a stable workforce, which makes for a happy client. We are excited as we can be. It is just so much fun and so much energy when you walk into a building when you have a 100 young, middle-aged career folks (who) are doing programming and basically solving complex problems for our clients."

THE COMPANY CHOSE to locate its offices in Enterprise Mill, which will be a boost to our downtown redevelopment efforts: 100 more people with good-paying jobs to patronize our downtown businesses -- which is definitely a cool thing.

During the Mayor's Institute on City Design Annual Summit in Chicago earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend time with Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston, S.C., a friend and the man who initially inspired me to run for mayor.

I've come to learn from Joe that Charleston has developed the capacity to embrace big ideas and big-picture projects. It wasn't always this way.

When Joe first made the passionate point that Charleston's waterfront is "the birthright of the people of Charleston," the critics and cynics abounded. Had Joe listened, Charleston would not be blessed with the asset of their amazing Waterfront Park that provides for a calming setting for visitors and residents.

It was Joe's influence on me that resulted in my passion to see our own riverfront developed in a way that maximizes its use to the public while engendering in me a deep love of community redevelopment.

In a recent blog entry, Dr. Azziz makes the point that Next Generation Consulting had recently ranked Charleston No. 2 on its list of "Next Cities: The 60 U.S Hotspots for Young, Talented Workers." How did it get there, and can Augusta make the list?

IN ANSWER TO THE first question, one thing that helped Charleston make the list is there came a point when the city embraced new ideas and began to expect great things. Charleston is home to an array of outdoor public spaces (including a riverfront ballpark in Joe Riley Jr. Stadium); a thriving and welcoming tourism industry; a wonderful arts community; a very diverse local economy; and a citizenry that believes in itself and in the city in which they live.

In answer to the second question, I would have to say a resounding "yes." However, to get there, we must develop the same mind-set as Charleston and no longer allow closed-minded CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) people to drive the debate as to how Augusta moves forward.

Are we a cool city today? Absolutely. We're the home of James Brown, Wycliffe Gordon, the Masters Tournament, Jessye Norman, Lady Antebellum, Larry Mize and the world's largest Iron Man event, to name just a few of the things that make us cool.

Can we become cooler? Without a doubt. Through the leveraging our "green assets" in the Savannah River, the Augusta Canal and the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park to increase our quality of life -- while at the same time focusing on the recruitment of businesses such as RSI, as well as the growth and vitality of our local institutions of higher learning and others -- the sky is the limit.

It's our choice in just how cool we become. As my father used to tell me, "Deke, it's all about attitude, and a good attitude will always take you places."

Along the way, I bet there were more than a few people who said Augusta State University would never win a national title at the Division 1 level -- but our guys never listened to them and they won two back-to-back.

How cool is that?

(The writer was elected mayor of Augusta in 2006.)

Comments (13) Add comment
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DanK
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DanK 06/12/11 - 03:13 am
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Nice speech. Good luck.

Nice speech. Good luck.

wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 06/12/11 - 07:04 am
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"It was Joe's influence on me
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"It was Joe's influence on me that resulted in my passion to see our own riverfront developed in a way that maximizes its use to the public while engendering in me a deep love of community redevelopment."

Hey Deke they developed the riverfront already ...remember "riverwalk"??......what happened to it?(hint)
....CRIME! You can build all the cool and pretty buildings you want but until you clean up the thug element you will just be doing what they say you shouldn't try to do...(you know about.... "into the wind"?.)

Riverman1
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Riverman1 06/12/11 - 07:41 am
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It is impossible to tell if

It is impossible to tell if someone is wearing rose colored contacts. Mr. Copenhaver would have been better off following the examples of Keith Summey, the Larry Sconyers type mayor of North Charleston. That city is a much more realistic comparison to Augusta.

Mr. Summey was smart enough to use the political wisdom of his father-in-law, County Councilman, Minor Crosby, who taught him to go among the people, black and white, in a blue collar way, and not fantasize he was sitting in a paneled office south of Charleston's Broad St. with heavy curtains drawn where only a ray of light can enter through the cracks.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 06/12/11 - 08:48 am
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As a long time resident of

As a long time resident of Augusta, I too, am proud of the Augusta State golf team. Who would not be? Visions for the city where it is located are important. Implementation of these visions are, indeed, much more complex. Money is the first obstacle. Energetic leadership is the next. I see neither in the near future. When both were needed in the early fifties the Committee of 100 was created . 100 business men joined hands and raised the money necessary to purchase land and give it to Continental Can to build the bleached paperboard mill that is now owned by International paper co. It was the first "smoke stack" to
appear in Augusta in a number of years. It began the growth that took place on Miracle Mile in south Augusta. Deke talks about call centers and shopping malls but those entities do not create growth. Manufacturing does. Until we get growth in manufacturing Augusta will never match his visions. We need another Committee of 100 , men with energy as well as vision.
Carleton Duvall

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 06/12/11 - 09:27 am
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BTW, Dr. Azzizz could have

BTW, Dr. Azzizz could have expressed himself in a more mature manner had he chosen a word to describe Augusta other than " cool" or "uncool". These are slang expressions used by teenagers not well educated people. I think the response to his constructive criticism would have been better received. The ACES knee jerk approval of his comments would have better served the community had they pointed that out to him.

Insider Information
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Insider Information 06/12/11 - 10:38 am
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If we only had a downtown

If we only had a downtown stadium...

We would be "cool."

We would have world peace.

We would end world hunger.

All of our dreams would come true.

If we only had a downtown stadium.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/12/11 - 12:12 pm
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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, uhh,

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, uhh, oh, I'm sorry...I fell asleep reading this long winded tribute to what I am not sure...I can tell the Mayor wants us to know he has been on some learing trips and made some contacts...other than that, what is this about?

dougk
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dougk 06/12/11 - 12:02 pm
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Good luck, Mr. Mayor. It's
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Good luck, Mr. Mayor. It's too bad your team has not been as successful as the golf team.

ECDanes
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ECDanes 06/12/11 - 12:50 pm
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More cheerleading .. that can

More cheerleading .. that can be a great thing, but like Augusta's "coolness" factor, something always seems to be lacking with the mayor. Read the mayor's long-winded self congratulatory column and then read Mr Hutchison's below. It is obvious that the latter one 'gets it'. I thought Mr Hutchison, unlike Deke was much more specific. Deke takes half of his column to talk about the ASU golf victory, and while it is most certainly something the area should be proud of, it's almost as though the mayor is trying to cast the light on himself. Then the references to Charleston, as though the city was a cultural wasteland before a "visionary mayor" built a new riverfront ballpark (be mindful that you can barely see the Ashley river from this new ballpark, and it is not even located in the downtown area). I think Charleston was getting along quite fine before a new ballpark was even on the drawing board. And he misses the point completely that Augusta will never be like Charleston. The two cities are so completely different, and Charleston has natural and historical assets that Augusta could just never match. An example more fitting for Augusta to follow is Greenville, SC.. which is where Mr Hutchison points to for ideas. Just because citizens are against the mayor's ballpark does not mean they are against "everything".. maybe these people just better understand that its often the little things that make the biggest impact rather than tying up all of the city's money in big ticket status projects like TEE Centers and ballparks. The mayor also needs to heed is own advice: "In sales, you don't tell the customer what you're going to sell them; you market what your target audience wants to buy.".. He has been doing the opposite.. he has been intent on shoving his ballpark and HIS ideas down the throats of the citizens of this city, RATHER than listen to what they truly want and what ideas they may have for making Augusta a "cooler" city. I think Dr Azziz has done more to challenge Augusta to move forward in the last week, than the mayor has done in nearly 6 years in office.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/12/11 - 01:33 pm
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good points, ecdanes. the
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good points, ecdanes. the comparisons to enviable downtown situations with the suggestion that baseball stadiums create the towns is a little worn by now. i think we realize charleston and greenville have soemthing going on that's not baseball-centered. and yeah, how much are these stadiums downtown or on the water? remember the "free weekly" called popcorn that came out once from the publishing house that also prints the do it deke t shirts? it had seemingly one issue and one column which was to promote the new stadium idea. i think the example there was houston astros? the writer remembered a downtown stadium on the water, but a google map view shows it seemingly out in a desert-looking storage shed compound.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/12/11 - 01:34 pm
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plus is mayor deke suggesting
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plus is mayor deke suggesting a name for his fantasy stadium here? good stuff.

dougk
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dougk 06/12/11 - 01:44 pm
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Good eye, broad street. I
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Good eye, broad street. I missed that.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 06/12/11 - 01:51 pm
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The mayor seems to be missing

The mayor seems to be missing the point. What Augusta is lacking is not another "public space" along the river to make it "cool" but rather its an overall cohesiveness. Sure you have some neat spots downtown here and there, but they are too scattered, and there is not enough of a critical mass to make downtown or much of anywhere else in Augusta a "destination". As ECdanes pointed out, Augusta is never going to be like Charleston. Augusta is never going to be a tourist destination.. and chasing after that is a futile effort. But neither is Greenville, SC a tourist city.. but I do believe it offers a higher quality of life and has a much more vibrant downtown than Augusta.. and that's what young professionals are looking for. Also the mayor seems far too obsessed with these rankings in obscure publications.. as though making some sort of "list" will automatically make Augusta a desired place for young professionals to live. It's much more complex than that.. it's not merely making a list or rattling off a CVB stock list of annual events and openings.. its the overall vibe that the area gives off.. It's more qualitative than quantitative, and the mayor doesn't seem to quite grasp that. I think the other columnist understands this much better. And if we want to talk about Charleston.. I find the coolest parts of that city to be the areas that are not located on the waterfront: the public market and the upscale trendy shops on King street. Sure the Battery area is very lovely.. but look at where most of the vitality is.. the commerce.. the cool shops and restaurants... King street. Augusta has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in public spaces along the riverfront, but also neglected the majority of the rest of downtown. basic things like increased police patrols, improved lighting, improved streetscaping, upgrading sidewalks, pruning the trees, a downtown transit loop have gone ignored or underfunded. Also, the surrounding urban residential areas are allowed to decay to such a point that they may not be salvageable. I thought the RIverwalk was really cool when it first opened in the 80s..but it has gotten rundown, and after visiting it several times, there's just not a lot happening there to keep returning. There seems to be this myopic attititude of many leaders in Augusta that everything has to be located on the river to be "cool".. sure the river is a great asset, but I think that attitude has caused us to neglect a lot of other areas that could really be cool.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/12/11 - 01:57 pm
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amen, enerydan. i'd like to
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amen, enerydan. i'd like to see mayor deke spend a little more time playing simcity and a little less on collecting bullet points for his political resume.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/12/11 - 04:20 pm
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broad street narrow mind,

broad street narrow mind, love the name comment, as doug said, good eye.

Brad

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/12/11 - 09:38 pm
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which is more loving of
Unpublished

which is more loving of augusta- wanting a new stadium or liking the one we have? it's super cute and lake olmstead is one of our treasures. let's promote family day canoeing and all that. easy peasy cheap and easy.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/13/11 - 11:44 am
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Can we just rename it after

Can we just rename it after Deke and then all will be well?

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/13/11 - 03:21 pm
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good idea, brad. i'll pay
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good idea, brad. i'll pay for the signage myself. also i'll fund the hot dog cart, snow cone stand, and canoe rental to make lake olmstead the funnest stadium ever. i love augusta including lake olmstead.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 07:05 pm
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Broad Street Narrow

Broad Street Narrow Mind....hahaha...love that icon. Why didn't I think of that?

studmuffin1533
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studmuffin1533 06/18/11 - 08:28 am
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About 1970, a psych prof at

About 1970, a psych prof at AC wrote a white paper on Augusta politics. He stated in his paper that for Augusta to move forward, it simply needed about a dozen good funerals. Forty years later his words still ring true.
We need to replace the "Do Nothing Dozen" with new blood that can think more than 6 months in the future.
btw-the professor was summarily fired.

studmuffin1533
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studmuffin1533 06/18/11 - 10:18 am
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About 1970, a psych prof at

About 1970, a psych prof at AC wrote a white paper on Augusta politics. He stated in his paper that for Augusta to move forward, it simply needed about a dozen good funerals. Forty years later his words still ring true.
We need to replace the "Do Nothing Dozen" with new blood that can think more than 6 months in the future.
btw-the professor was summarily fired.

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