Originally created 12/30/04

County might form own group



Columbia County might once again consider starting its own regional development authority.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross told state lawmakers at a legislative delegation meeting Wednesday that the county might form its own group to promote the county and region to potential businesses if Richmond County officials are unwilling to join with them on a regional authority.

"I think we have a leadership opportunity in this region," Mr. Cross said. "We need someone to represent this region. It's in the best interest of all involved."

Mr. Cross said he has received assurances from state officials that a Columbia County-run regional development authority would be recognized by the state.

Earlier this year, Columbia County officials sought to form a regional economic development organization with Richmond and Burke counties.

When the attempt failed, leaders in Columbia County considered turning to McDuffie and Lincoln counties to form a regional authority.

Another attempt to form a regional partnership among Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties failed when a Dec. 15 meeting at the Boathouse Community Center at the Augusta Riverfront Marina turned into a squabbling match between factions within Richmond County.

Columbia County Commissioner Tommy Mercer referred to the incident as the "fiasco at the boathouse."

However, Mr. Cross said another meeting will be held next month among the three counties to further discuss a regional industrial recruitment organization.

If that meeting fails, Mr. Cross said, the county might reluctantly pursue its own recruitment organization.

"I don't ever want to say, 'To hell with Richmond County,'" he said. "Hopefully, we can form an organization that will benefit everyone. Even if we can't, (Columbia County) will still look to promote the region as a whole and not just itself."

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 109, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.