As 2006 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to share with the citizens of Augusta some of the highlights of what has been nothing short of an exceptional year for our city and the surrounding region. Though there is still much work to be done to completely unlock our community's vast potential, 2006 has given a solid glimpse into what is undoubtedly a very bright future.
In the past year, Augusta has benefited greatly from receiving an abundant amount of positive media attention at the state, national and international levels. During the spring, we again drew the world's spotlight as we hosted yet another spectacular Masters Tournament. However, this was not the only sporting event that brought the world to our door while the dogwoods and azaleas were still in full bloom. For the second straight year, Augusta played host to the start of North America's premier cycling event in the 2006 Ford Tour De Georgia. ESPN Fight Night and the Citgo Bassmasters Pride of Augusta fishing tournament also served to bring the type of positive attention to our area that many other communities can only dream of.
THOUGH THE television cameras provided picture-postcard moments of Augusta for all the world to see, some of the most substantial coverage of our city came from the print media. In May, Southern Business and Development magazine ranked Augusta as one of the "Top Ten Places in the South With Plenty of Talented Labor." The accolades did not end there; later in the year, our city was featured as one of the nation's premier places to retire in both The Wall Street Journal and Where To Retire magazine. Georgia Trend, one of the state's most highly regarded publications, also ran a glowing feature article on Augusta and the progress our city is making.
Over the past year, our economic development and job-creation efforts truly have begun to take off as word has spread that Augusta is a great place to do business. In 2006, our community heralded the announcement of Automated Data Processing, bringing a new Solutions Center and 1,000 new jobs to Augusta. Coastal Xethanol's purchase of the former Pfizer plant also represented a step forward for our city, as we are now positioned to become a national leader in biofuel production and technology.
The National Security Administra-tion's recent announcement of a $286 million facility at Fort Gordon represents a major shot in the arm for our local economy. Major expansions announced by both Kellogg's and Augusta Tissue - along with millions of dollars in investment represented by the Augusta Mall renovation and the Village at Riverwatch lifestyle center - are strong indications that businesses and employers alike clearly see that the Augusta market is a good investment.
The year also has seen substantial investment in one of our city's strongest assets: our medical community. On May 16, University Health Care System announced the largest expansion in its history, to include a new $50 million cardiovascular center. The opening of the new $54 million cancer research center at the Medical College of Georgia, and the soon-to-be-completed $22 million Select Specialty Medical facility on Walton Way, certainly will serve to further Augusta's reputation of having some of the finest medical facilities in the state.
ANOTHER NEW investment in our community was made when Ripken Baseball purchased the Augusta GreenJackets. Since acquiring the team, Cal Ripken Jr. and his entire organization have established strong partnerships throughout our city, and earned a reputation for their firm commitment to giving back to our community. In the process, the team also managed to win the South Atlantic League's Southern Division championship in their first year under new ownership.
Though this is not an exhaustive list of all of the good things that have gone on in Augusta over the past year, these highlights undoubtedly show a city that is on the move and whose best days lie ahead.
In closing, I would like to list one last highlight that gives me the most clear indication that we, as a city, are moving forward. On Nov. 7, in what I can only describe as a truly humbling experience, a vast majority of the citizens of Augusta were able to overwhelmingly come together across all lines to support a single candidate for mayor. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to serve you for four more years, and I hope that everyone has a blessed holiday season.
(Editor's note: The writer was first elected Augusta's mayor in 2005.)
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