Young Professionals Ready to Make Changes in Augusta
By Amanda King
Young business leaders from across the state of Georgia are working toward changing the game for work, play and life in the CSRA.
The Young Gamechangers from Georgia Forward made their final recommendations at the Discovery Theater on Dec. 16. Attendees included Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr., former mayor Deke Copenhaver, some Augusta commissioners and numerous members of the Augusta, North Augusta and Columbia County communities.
“As a city we are excited to see the final recommendations from this group,” Davis said. “We have moved beyond the place of potential in the city of Augusta to the place of getting things done.”
Georgia Forward began in 2010 to encourage leaders to evaluate challenges in the state and work toward resolving them. Young Gamechangers emerged from the Georgia Forward program as a group of 50 individuals under 40 ready to make a change. Two groups serve each year–one in the fall and one in the spring–and work in a specific community for the duration of their term.
For six months, the group has been researching and surveying the Augusta area, answering four big-picture questions with numerous detail-oriented solutions. Recommendations included:
- Employer-assisted housing incentives for employees who live close to downtown
- Connect the community to the river region with bike paths, ferries and other riverside activities
- A coalition made up of members from Augusta, Columbia County and Aiken County to oversee activities and maintenance along the Savannah River
- creative “selfie” spots downtown to attract millennials to showcase their activity downtown. Similar locations are currently used at the University of Georgia.
- Longer-running farmer’s market
- Increased safety downtown
- Improve on playground along the riverwalk
A complete copy of the final recommendations are on Georgia Forward’s website, http://georgiaforward.org/.
With city and county expenses already stretched to the max, any adopted recommendations will likely be a public and private partnership, according to commissioner and Gamechanger participant Sean Frantom.
The spring 2016 Gamechangers, which focused on Douglasville/Douglas County, formed their own non-profit to prioritize and implement recommendations. It’s unknown if the Augusta class will do the same.
Gamechangers will meet with the Augusta University cabinet on January 3, 2017 to focus on recommendations made that affect the university, including a suggestion to partner with downtown businesses to accept Jag Cards. The cards can currently be used on campus to make purchases and withdrawals are made from their student accounts. That ability to use student accounts off-campus is already used at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country.
No other meetings are currently scheduled, but Frantom said he will share the project with fellow commissioners, who will likely gravitate toward economic development topics.
“Right now we’ve got to hear what the community feels is the strongest aspect,” Frantom said.