Column: Augusta is poised for a prosperous 2014

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As we look back on 2013 and forward toward 2014, I can say without hesitation that our city is headed in the right direction with our best days to come. As the national economy continues to turn, Augusta and our entire community is entering into an exciting time of prosperity the likes of which I firmly believe we have never known.

The year began with the opening of the long-anticipated, state-of-the-art Augusta Convention Center. After a long and at times difficult process to bring the facility online, the center now serves as a point of civic pride with historic preservation at its core, while at the same time exceeding revenue projections and contributing $9 million in direct visitor spending to our local economy.

THRIVING CITIES MAINTAIN constant attention from new retailers and commercial development, as the investment of quality commercial developers is a leading indicator for the strength of a local economy based on market research performed by the investors. With this in mind, Augusta is extremely fortunate to have announced in 2013 the entry into our marketplace of Cabela’s, Whole Foods and Designer Show Warehouse and Home Goods in west Augusta, as well as a Chick-fil-A and a Krispy Kreme to serve our southside residents. I know that I join with all of our citizens in welcoming these businesses to our city while looking forward to their grand openings in 2014.

Augusta and our community as a whole is extraordinarily blessed to be home to Fort Gordon and the U.S. Army Signal Corps. It was this relationship that ultimately led to the most transformational economic development initiative that our community has seen in a generation, with the announcement that our fort will be the home of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, bringing with it 1,500 new jobs. In a recent article, Dan Chapman of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated, “For Augusta, it’s Christmas, New Year’s and the Super Bowl all wrapped into one.”

Couple all of the above with last year’s passage of the transportation special-purpose local option sales tax; the ongoing expansion at Plant Vogtle; the consolidation of Georgia Regents University Augusta and its commitment to all future expansion efforts to come in the urban core with the potential for the Mills District; and the gravity of what is about to happen to our city truly begins to resonate. Having been invited to address the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals World Summit in Phoenix and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy over the past year, I can assure you that what we’re doing here in Augusta is not going unnoticed at the national level, and it’s truly an exciting time for our city.

IN THE COMING YEAR, we all can look forward to a new $172 million Starbucks production facility becoming fully operational, as well as the grand opening of the $76.5 million J. Harold Harrison, M.D., Education Commons building at GRU Augusta. This undoubtedly helps to put our city at a competitive advantage as we seek to leverage ongoing investments in a very competitive national economic development environment, which is something we never should take for granted. The fact that the metro Augusta unemployment rate is at a five-year low also bodes well for the coming year.

In closing, I would like to thank all of my citizens for allowing me the opportunity to serve you as mayor for eight years, and I pledge to you all that I’m fully committed to working as hard as possible to make great things happen for Augusta in the coming year. Happy New Year to all, and here’s looking forward to a prosperous, healthy and happy 2014!

(The writer first was elected mayor of Augusta in 2005.)

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/13 - 09:18 am
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Remarks in Chicago

Was it at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy where you told them about the 10 to 1 private to government investment ratio in Laney Walker? Oh, that's right, that wasn't a mistruth it's a goal. Since all the hotel tax money from West Augusta will be poured down that initiative thing called Laney Walker for the next 50 years with 10-1 private investments I figure all the money in the western hemisphere will find its way to Laney Walker.

As far as the Convention Center, when they had the 50 visitors at the Tattoo Festival did you pedal your bike over and get a tattoo?

soapy_725
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soapy_725 12/31/13 - 09:00 am
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I pledge to enrich the lives of my family and inlaws to the best
Unpublished

of my ability, so help me "concrete and asphalt".

soapy_725
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soapy_725 12/31/13 - 09:01 am
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And I might even consider that "administrator" job, maybe....
Unpublished

And I might even consider that "administrator" job, maybe....

soapy_725
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soapy_725 12/31/13 - 09:03 am
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seenitB4
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seenitB4 12/31/13 - 09:40 am
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Won't they be happy campers over that!

"as well as a Chick-fil-A and a Krispy Kreme to serve our southside residents."

How lucky can the southside get....one day chicken--next day doughnuts...:)
Happy happy happy...

seenitB4
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seenitB4 12/31/13 - 09:45 am
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Your next Mayor

On a a serious side...

I hope you do vote for a Mayor who can make a difference in the entire county...a business educated person with a deep desire to see Augusta prosper....don't get blinded by the bright lights..you really need an outstanding candidate...good luck.

debbiep38
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debbiep38 12/31/13 - 09:53 am
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Is the Mayor practicing?
Unpublished

I see a stand-up comedy routine in his future.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 12/31/13 - 10:37 am
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I'm looking from Southeast

I'm looking from Southeast Richmond County and I'm not seeing much properity. It just looks like higher garbage fees and a RAIN TAX to me. But since I can't get a Five Guys burger I guess I'll just....maybe.....if it actually comes....have a Chik-fil-A and a doughnut on my way home from shopping in North Augusta. I see a TEE Center that WE built and then turned it over to the richest people in town and paid them to run it while we pay for all of the maintenance. I see a Laney Walker project with a few new houses and a lot of vacant properties that some people made good money from selling them to the city housing folks. But from where I live I just don't see much prosperity. I just see a boatload of long term tax money being dumped into marginal, over priced, poorly managed downtown "projects".

countyman
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countyman 12/31/13 - 11:13 am
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Great job Deke!!!!

The citizens of Richmond County deeply appreciate our mayor and the accomplishments speak for themselves... If you continue to win each time with over 60% of the vote then you're obviously doing something right. The white flight in South Augusta ended when he became mayor in 2005 and the commercial growth started to resume in the area(after years of decline; Regency Mall).

The most expensive hotels(Marriotts) are located downtown and not in West Augusta. The hotels in the CBD are contributing to the Laney Walker/Bethlehem development..

The leaders from the surrounding counties like Ron Cross in Columbia County don't match up... The Ironman is held in Augusta and instead of helping the metro's outdoor/fit image with biking around town. Ron Cross would probably get in the car and drive through the Walmart parking lot just to see the empty Exhibition Hall near Grovetown...

The Chick Fil A and Dunkin Donuts are only two of the recent examples of commercial growth in South Augusta. The Firehouse Subs, Walgreens, 3 acre development near Walgreens, Hampton Inn hotel, Five Guys, etc..

The citizens of Richmond County voted for the TEE Center and the hotel tax is paying for the LW/Bethlehem deal.. The taxpayers of Richmond County didn't vote for the multiple Diamond Lakes improvements, new South Augusta magnet high school, or the underway Butler Creek Greenway in South Augusta... I don't think it's an coincidence the majority of growing neighborhoods in South Augusta are located nearby Diamond Lakes..

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/13 - 12:28 pm
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Countyman, tell you what

Countyman, tell you what let's add up all the hotel taxes in Richmond County and see which area brings in more by far.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/31/13 - 02:20 pm
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Hotel Tax

Good point on the hotel taxes, RM. The hotel taxes are taxed on an "occupied room per night" basis. So if the tax is 3 dollars per room, the 3 dollars is collected and transmitted to the city whether the room rate is $30 per night or $300 per night. So you know that West Augusta delivers much more hotel tax money to the city than does the Central Business District.

harley_52
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harley_52 12/31/13 - 03:01 pm
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The Augusta Metropolitan Area....

...is literally booming. Thanks to Fort Gordon and other ARC growth centers, it looks like it will continue well into the next decade and beyond.

While the city suffers the usual problems of aging and crumbling infrastructure, the situation is definitely improving. The local government could (and should) do a better job of improving conditions in all neighborhoods but, in general, I'm not sure how any of us could expect a better prognosis for the future than what appears likely for us.

The suburbs, as usual, are the main beneficiaries of the growth and (also as usual) aren't left to deal with the same problems that plague the inner city. For that they should be grateful.

We should thank our lucky stars for Fort Gordon and the growth it's had and will continue to have with the new Cyber Command.

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 12/31/13 - 04:21 pm
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Does Deke really believe

Does Deke really believe this, or does he just sign his name to whatever his bosses type uo?

Gage Creed
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Gage Creed 12/31/13 - 11:25 pm
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FACTS are pesky things!

That kids, is a prime example of idol worship... did you notice the brown stains? Deke should warn a fellow when he intends to stop so quickly.

Remember! Groveling is SO beneath you!

deestafford
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deestafford 12/31/13 - 11:56 pm
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I agree things will improve...

I agree things will improve because they almost have to because of the dastardly leadership at the national level has kept the cork on the bottle and some of the pressure has to be released in spite of it.

Just think what Augusta and the surrounding area would have been and could become if we had a decent county council. If certain people become the mayor we will be in big trouble as they spread the "stuff" around because "it's our time".

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