Editorial: This governor has changed Augusta
By Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff
The past year, and likely the one to come, will be remembered in these parts primarily for the ongoing cyber revolution in Augusta.
Recall that Fortune magazine last April named Augusta – along with such global metropolises as Washington, D.C., Boston and London – as “7 Cities That Could Become the World’s Cybersecurity Capital.”
That’s pretty heady company, in a very brainy, 21st century endeavor.
But this era should also be remembered for the central role that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has taken in a bright new dawn in Georgia – and for the even larger footprint he is leaving in Augusta.
When the Pentagon chose nearby Fort Gordon to be the nation’s Army Cyber Command, Deal quickly helped conceive, finance and facilitate the skyline-altering, $60 million, 167,000-square-foot Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training now under construction on the downtown riverfront.
The center, which will house cybersecurity education, training, research and operations in both the public and private sectors, is so teeming with potential that, even before its expected opening July 10, it is scheduled to host a technology conference the next day that has previously been staged in Atlanta.
Moreover, even as the center is being put together, it’s already being expanded.
Gov. Deal was in town last week – notably, just after New Year’s – to break ground on a $35 million 165,000-square-foot second building, which will serve as an incubator for cyber businesses and provide additional training and workforce development space.
Notwithstanding the fact that the second building will be nearly as large as the first, it will be initially cheaper because it will be finished inside only as leases are signed, though the lobby will be built immediately. The second building’s expected completion is in December – and will create a brand new 330,000 square foot cyber complex on the river.
When you factor in a parking garage provided by the city, the cyber center project now exceeds $100 million.
That would be a mammoth footprint for anyone. But Deal isn’t through with Augusta yet.
The governor also has announced that he will call on the Georgia General Assembly to provide $49.4 million in bonds for a new $70 million College of Science and Math building at Augusta University’s downtown campus – further consolidating AU’s research university components in the city center.
While the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the bond request last August, there was no guarantee the governor would formally request it from the legislature. But he is expected to in his State of the State address Thursday morning at 11.
Even all that doesn’t quite size up the governor’s inestimable footprint in Augusta. He has also shepherded the consolidation of the Medical College of Georgia with the former Augusta State University, setting the stage for the new Augusta University to become another of the state’s prestigious research universities.
In sum, Nathan Deal – in the home stretch of his final term, and therefore not acting out of political self-interest – has become one of the most impactful governors in this region in memory.
In believing in us and investing in us, he has changed us.