Economic development

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Recent activities reported by area economic development organizations:

AUGUSTA METRO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Chamber to advocate on state issues: The community's success in luring new businesses -- and retaining existing ones -- is directly related to our region's ability to engage on state issues that have a direct impact on our business community's future success.

The chamber will be closely following several issues during the upcoming legislative session. Two issues will be our top concerns.

The first is the final development of a responsible and executable statewide water management plan. The chamber will advocate on this issue to ensure there is a balance between future economic opportunity and the management of one of our most precious resources, water.

The second issue is advocating for the elimination of sales tax on energy costs for manufacturers. Georgia remains one of very few states who have not eliminated this over-burdensome cost to manufacturers.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

Special purpose local option sales tax projects under way: An important part of the Downtown Development Authority's mission is to strengthen downtown as an attractive urban environment for residents and visitors alike. In 2002, the authority received $850,000 in special purpose local option sales tax funding to do just that.

Several key projects have been completed, including the stabilization of Houghton School and the historic Widows Home; funding for the James Brown statue and historic clock on Broad Street and improvements to the Springfield Park on Reynolds Street.

In June, the following projects were approved to spend the remaining funds on:

- 43 new trash receptacles for Broad Street. The existing ones will receive a fresh coat of paint and be placed on side streets ($42,028)

- Streetscape improvements for Ellis Street between Ninth and 10th streets ($125,000)

- New entry signs for downtown ($101,000)

- Greenway improvements at the Augusta Museum of History in anticipation of the James Brown wing ($50,800)

- Streetscape Improvements for James Brown Boulevard via a transportation enhancement grant ($41,500)

- Pilot streetlight project for the 900 block of Broad Street ($100,000)

DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF RICHMOND COUNTY

Marketing strategies enhanced for results: The Development Authority of Richmond County is in the early stages of producing a new marketing DVD highlighting Augusta's business climate.

The new marketing tool will feature local businesspeople talking about the benefits of working and doing business here. It will be shown on our Web site and copies will be mailed to the top site selection consultants, state developers, allies and prospects in early 2008.

The development authority is currently working on 23 active industrial projects, an all-time high for 2007.

New locations in Augusta announced during the past sixty days include Equity Residential, a Chicago-based management company creating 35 jobs downtown. "Augusta had the right combination of amenities needed for the expansion of our business," said Tom Berraducci, of Equity's Chicago office. "It was a pleasure to work with the Development Authority and property owner, Bettis Rainsford ... to make it happen."

The Jacobson Co., a logistics company from Plainfield, Ind., is locating in the former President's Bakery building near Augusta Regional Airport, creating 10 jobs and investing more than $1 million.

BluWood, a building products component manufacturer and processor, will create 15 jobs at its Gordon Highway facility, the former Fischbein-Inglett building near Bobby Jones Expressway.

CSRA ALLIANCE FOR FORT GORDON

Military construction has local impact: Major construction projects on a military post not only are indicators of stability but also serve as an economic boost through local contractor hiring, temporary relocation of out-of-town contractors and the purchase of construction materials.

The intelligence facility under construction, at more than $300 million, is the largest Fort Gordon project, but there are more under way or projected.

GMH Military Housing has awarded more than $11 million to local contractors as they continue to build new and renovate existing on-post family housing. GMH will invest more than $110 million during the full five-year development period.

Other Fort Gordon facilities under construction include a law enforcement center ($4.5 million) and a communications R&D center ($5.9 million).

Better student barracks are a high priority, and several buildings will be renovated under a $16 million contract, with a $93 million student barracks replacement project scheduled for 2013. Another training need is a new weapons qualification range, currently projected for 2013 at $10.5 million.

Quality-of-life improvements remain a military family-related priority and new projects include a new child care center ($7.8 million in 2008), religious education center ($9.6 million in 2013), new bowling center ($10.4 million in 2011) and over $2 million in improvements to the facilities at Pointes West, the Fort Gordon recreation center at Thurmond Lake.

Mission growth and replacement of outdated facilities will continue to generate new construction priorities and economic opportunities for the area.

AUGUSTA TOMORROW

Top planning companies look to Augusta: The top planning companies in the United States have expressed interest in the city center now that a new master plan is under way for downtown Augusta and North Augusta. Many applications have been received from the Request for Qualifications that was released nationally.

Reviewing the applications will be completed during the next couple of weeks and the top three to six firms will be selected to make oral presentations in January. Selection of the first company is anticipated early in the first quarter of 2008.

One of the most important aspects of the master planning process will be for the selected firm to obtain input from all citizens to develop a plan that reflects our community. Augusta Tomorrow said it is looking forward to public input.

AUGUSTA CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

New visitor information kiosk at airport: Visitors arriving at Augusta Regional Airport soon will have tourist information at their fingertips and a great photo opportunity inside the new visitor information kiosk.

The Bureau is designing the information kiosk to create an inviting area and provide visitors a glimpse at all there is to do in Augusta. Several photos of area attractions including the Augusta Canal, downtown's Artist's Row, Riverwalk Augusta and more will be featured on one wall of the kiosk with an invitation to "Play Augusta, GA" by seeing some of our attractions, taking part in outdoor recreation, shopping or dining.

A seasonal calendar of events will also be displayed. A second wall will feature a mural of Augusta National Golf Club and a photo of grass on the floor that will give visitor the feeling they are standing on a fairway at the famous course.

The information kiosk is expected to be close to completion in time for the opening of the new terminal and baggage claim area.


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Storm brings heavy rain, property damage reported

The National Weather Service in Columbia says the threat of severe weather has left the Augusta area, but not before leaving behind some property damage Sunday.
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