Invest Augusta Conference Highlights Growth of Business Opportunities in the Area
When entrepreneur Tony Lever was growing up in Augusta, he and most of his friends usually had the same answer when asked what they wanted to do when they graduated high school.
“I don’t know, but I’m leaving Augusta.”
Lever said that’s not the case anymore because there are now many more business opportunities in the area. That’s why he started Invest Augusta, a showcase of the companies, investors and business leaders who are leading the increased business growth in the region.
“People want to start here now, people want to grow their businesses here,” Lever said.
Lever and others who spoke at the third annual Invest Augusta conference, which took place at the Legends Club on Thursday, covered a few of those business and lifestyle perks that point toward a bright future for Augusta over the next decade.
“There’s a gradual growth that’s gonna happen over the next decade here, and it’s really going to transform the Augusta economy,” Lever said. “And people are going to look to Augusta for solutions and for answers to cybersecurity problems that they’re having…we can make Augusta that hub.”
Speakers at the conference ranged from experts in the cybersecurity industry to local government to academics.
“We are in fact the most important city when it comes to being the epicenter of those things related to cyber security and what’s happening in this space,” said Mayor Hardie Davis.
Cal Wray, CEO of Augusta’s Economic Development Authority, said that over the last six months, $700 million in capital has been poured into Augusta. Since joining the Economic Development Authority in early 2018, Wray has marketed sites like Augusta Corporate Park to a variety of large manufacturers. Events like The Masters have also allowed him to showcase the area over the last couple years.
But there’s more to Augusta than The Masters. When it comes to site location for manufacturers and cyber contractors, Wray says there are very few communities that can offer the acreage that the Augusta can.
Davis added that there is a huge demand for cybersecurity services and solutions in the public sector.
“Governments are quite frankly some of the easiest targets to attack and find themselves vulnerable,” Davis said. “Let us use the private sector to grow and bring solutions to bear on challenges that we have, but do not lose sight of the fact that one of your most important opportunities and customers are federal, local and state governments.”
Tom Clark, executive director of the Alliance for Fort Gordon, added that improved education in cybersecurity will be a huge factor in preparing a workforce that meets a local demand that will continue to grow. Clark said that introduction to IT, introduction to cyber security advanced cybersecurity have all been added to the curriculum in some high schools.
“We have companies moving to our region all the time,” said Tom Clark. “We made 90 percent of the world’s golf cars in our region. But we also have Starbucks, we have EDTS Cyber, we have Unisys that thought in the beginning they were gonna have maybe 260 employees and now have grown. We have folks like SharedSpace that have come to our area for the opportunity.”