Economic development

Recent activities reported by area economic development agencies include:

Augusta Tomorrow

Downtown master plan process begins: Augusta in 1982 was much different than today. Attractions such as Riverwalk Augusta, Augusta Common, Springfield Village Park and the arts district did not exist. New shopping malls sapped the retail from a bustling city center.

The city under Mayor Ed McIntyre and Augusta Tomorrow Inc. jointly commissioned the first master plan, with each contributing half of the funding. The first plan emphasized development along the Savannah River to catalyze Augusta's revitalization and was the working document that leaders used to start the downtown's resurgence. Updates to the plan were made in 1995 and 2000.

After 25 years, the master plan is substantially complete and we are ready to embark on a year long process to develop a new plan to guide the next 25 years. This will include reviewing the current master plan boundaries to include North Augusta and central and east Richmond County.

The urban core is everyone's downtown, and this new master plan will be everyone's plan. All residents will have an opportunity to provide input into the plan.

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce

The economic impact of local holiday shopping: If you have never thought of holiday shopping decisions as a way to invest in your community, consider that local spending:

- Enhances regional development by funding special purpose local option sales tax projects.

- Increases your gift budget by cutting costs for fuel and travel.

- Enhances seasonal job opportunities.

- Creates greater consumer demand, in turn generating more businesses and jobs.

- Influences business budgets and investment decisions for the following year.

Why travel anywhere else this holiday season?

Not only have retail and service businesses of the area geared up for yet another exciting season, the convenience of shopping at home adds tremendous value for local residents. For a complimentary copy of the chamber's comprehensive membership guide to products and services in the Augusta-Aiken area, stop by or phone the chamber at (706) 821-1300.

CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon

Personnel increases projected: The CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon continues to promote partnerships between the community and Fort Gordon and to ensure the community is aware of the economic advantages of being a military community.

Funding for the Army National Guard-sponsored Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Gordon was recently increased to support 200 students, double the previous number. To support this increase, the academy added 46 new civilian cadre positions.

With the projected growth of existing missions and addition of new ones, the base's population is expected to increase by at least 1,700 military and civilian personnel during the next five years.

Fort Gordon and Savannah River Site are working to establish a 100,000-acre training site at SRS for use by light maneuver forces and special operations units. This is more than double the size of available training acreage at Fort Gordon. This increases the military value of Fort Gordon as a supporting agency.

The 1,000 to 1,200 service members leaving the military each year at Fort Gordon provide Augusta with a high-tech work force of well-disciplined, team-oriented, drug-free and, in most cases, experienced managers and leaders. Keeping these service members in Augusta strengthens the work force and enhances economic development efforts.

Development Authority of Richmond County

Bonds support local hospitals: The Development Authority of Richmond County board of directors voted to approve three separate inducement resolutions for bond issuances worth more than $204 million in September and October.

Walton Rehabilitation Hospital was approved for $13.5 million, MCG Health Inc. for $145 million and Trinity Hospital of Augusta for $46 million.

Walton plans to expand with new equipment and a conversion from double rooms to single rooms at their facility near downtown Augusta. MCG Health's funding will be for new equipment and financing structure, and Trinity will use part of its bond revenue for two separate equipment initiatives.

The number of new jobs created was not announced but is expected to be significant.

Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Directional signage project under way: The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau recently unveiled the initial analysis for a comprehensive Wayfinding Sign plan, which addresses the need to help pedestrians and vehicles move more easily throughout our community.

Elements of the plan include gateway signs to welcome visitors, specific district signage for the medical and downtown districts, signs designating public parking areas, pedestrian directional signage and information kiosks with maps. Existing directional signs might be removed and replaced as part of the plan.

The first sign, a pedestrian information kiosk funded by the visitors bureau, will appear this winter as part of the streetscaping demonstration headed by the Downtown Development Authority on the 1000 block of Broad Street.

The next signs, including gateway signs funded by the DDA, should be installed by April 1 in several downtown locations. The plan is funded by a grant from Preserve America, part of the Department of the Interior, the visitors bureau, DDA and several industry partners. Funding for sign implementation has yet to be determined. This highly visible project will provide a sense of arrival, a sense of place and foster community pride.

Downtown Development Authority

The Augusta Chronicle Christmas Light-Up Spectacular: The Downtown Development Authority, the city of Augusta and private-sector partners will light up downtown Augusta with new Christmas lights Dec. 8. Phase one of includes new lights for Laney-Walker Boulevard, Broad Street and the Augusta Common.

The day's events will begin with the Holiday Market on Macartan Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by the Christmas Parade at 2 p.m. The Light-Up celebration begins at 4 p.m. at the Augusta Common and will include carriage rides, a petting zoo, an appearance by Santa Claus and roving performers.

At 6 p.m., Mayor Deke Copenhaver will turn on the lights and the evening will end with a fireworks show.

Please join us to celebrate 12.6 miles and 45,000 bulbs of new holiday lights and Augusta-inspired decorations.

This event is sponsored by The Augusta Chronicle, AT&T, Blanchard and Calhoun, Bank of America, DA2, First Bank, Georgia Bank & Trust, Georgia Power, J.B. White's Building, Stoke-Hodges Auto Group, The Watermark, Wachovia, Windsor Jewelers and WJBF-TV (Channel 6).



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