The service-based industry with call centers and "back office" facilities continues to thrive, while the traditional manufacturing industry continues to slow in a changing economy nationwide.
In 2008, Automatic Data Processing Inc., based in New Jersey, opened its $40 million Solution Center on Flowing Wells Road, which eventually will employ more than 1,000 workers. The company already employs 400 people in Augusta and plans to add 200 employees each year for the next three years, according to Steve Penrose, ADP's senior vice president of operations.
Along with Teleperformance and T-Mobile, ADP is part of a 2,000-job surge in Augusta's customer service sector.
Teleperformance USA in 2008 opened the doors to its new 50,000-square-foot customer service center in the Waccamaw Building on Wylds Road near the Augusta Mall. The company will begin with 150 employees and eventually grow to 300, said Randy Zomermaand, the senior vice president of operations.
In 2007, T-Mobile opened a $17 million, 80,000-square-foot office building at Wheeler Road and Interstate Parkway that will have 750 employees when it reaches capacity. The call center will accept inquiries from customers throughout the United States.
Augusta's own Medac Inc. also announced plans in 2007 to open call centers in the region. Medac Inc. is developing a facility in Lincoln County, Ga., that will create up to 300 jobs. The businesses join similar back office centers, the largest being Sitel Corp.'s 1,000-employee call center on Windsor Spring Road.
While call centers thrived, one of Augusta's major employers closed its doors in 2008. Castleberry's Food Co. ended an 82-year tradition of canning stew and hash after its sale to a New Jersey subsidiary of Hanover Foods Corp. The closing came more than a year after a widespread product recall in 2007.
Fort Gordon, the region's second-largest employer, continues to have a significant impact on the area's economy. The National Security Agency, the intelligence service that monitors global communications for the U.S. government, has a $340 million Regional Security Operation Center under construction near 16th Street and Lane Avenue. The 525,000-square-foot building will house 4,000 people and be one of only three facilities of its type in the world.
In retail, Augusta Mall's Promenade opened in fall 2007, offering a number of upscale retail shops . New stores include The Walking Co., Coldwater Creek, Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma, White House-Black Market, Ann Taylor Loft and J. Jill.
Among other economic growth sectors are the region's sizable medical community, including the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta's third-largest employer. MCG officials have announced an expansion and plans to embark on world-class research in the biotech industry.
The market's other health care providers - Aiken Regional Medical Centers, University Hospital, Trinity Hospital, Doctors Hospital, two Veterans Affairs medical centers and Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center - continue to draw patients from across Georgia and South Carolina.
Having large government installations and health care institutions as major employers insulated Augusta from major boom and bust periods.
IT'S A FACT
Employees in the Augusta-Aiken metropolitan area averaged $22.80 per hour in February 2008, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The survey reported that workers in production occupations earned $17.72 per hour, while employees in office and administrative support jobs earned $12.54 per hour. Sales and related occupations earned $12.52 per hour.