Originally created 09/13/03

Group to make changes in 2004



City leaders hoping to parlay next year's Masters Week into a chance to bring businesses to the area will woo retailers, life science companies and those interested in working out of the regional airport.

For the most part, the targeted industries mirror last year's focus by Augusta Showcase, the local group that invites, wines and dines the business bigwigs who come to town.

Still, showcase committee members at a meeting Friday said to expect some changes during the 2004 tournament.

Economic developers, for example, consider the area's retirement communities and health-care industry a growth market worthy of consideration, said Ed Presnell, the president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, the showcase's project sponsor.

"At this point we aren't sure who we'll be inviting because things change so rapidly from day to day," he said. "One day someone's hot and the next day it's someone else."

A list of roughly 40 companies will be put together in early January by economic developers. City officials don't say whom they're inviting because of concerns other metro areas might compete to outbid Augusta.

The next Masters Week marks the fourth year of the showcase. The group has yet to snag a big business, but say that past efforts have paved the way and that a deal is just a matter of time.

"We were hoping to have some announcements by this point this year," Mr Presnell said. "All I can say is that some things are in the works. I can't go into details, but we are real close to having something finalized."

That prospect could be Genvec, a Maryland-based drug maker that last month asked city developers to look into lining up $10 million in bond financing to build a facility in the area.

Another more procedural change taking place is that the showcase will for the first time fold its committee structure in with that of the statewide Red Carpet, an annual event sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce that uses the golf tournament as its centerpiece attraction.

Most of the local people serving on the Red Carpet Tour committees also serve on the showcase committees because their aims overlap, said Woody Merry, a showcase co-chairman. Now the process will be streamlined, saving time and money and allowing the two groups to better coordinate their efforts.

Reach Matthew Mogul at (706) 823-3352 or matthew.mogul@augustachronicle.com.