Augusta University bringing growth to downtown area

Business & Consumer

AUGUSTA (WJBF) — Major growth is expected in the CSRA because of the cyber related missions at Fort Gordon.

The military post has grown by 20% since 2012, and now, downtown Augusta is expected to boom as well because of the planned Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center on Reynolds Street.

Governor Nathan Deal approved the funding for the cyber training center when he signed the amended budget for 2017 in downtown Augusta on Wednesday.

State leaders are hoping Augusta will become the “Silicon Valley of the South” as estimates show that more than 13,000 people will move to the area before the year 2020.

“Every year, Fort Gordon will grow by 3%, so some of the growth is here and the people are here, and now we’re putting the buildings in place to accomplish the missions,” Fort Gordon Alliance Director Tom Clark said.

In downtown Augusta, the $50 million cyber center will be the start of Augusta University’s downtown campus.

“We’re going to be using this as a recruiting tool for Augusta University. Our goal has always been to dramatically increase our undergraduate enrollment here. This is going to be one of those signature programs that we can use to put not only Augusta, but Augusta University on the national map,” University President Dr. Brooks Keel said.

With the ongoing efforts of the Innovation Zone, the continued employee growth at UNISYS and the data center on the Augusta Canal, downtown is becoming the cyber-security corridor, and AU is paying attention.

“There are master plan opportunities for residential, whether it be student resident housing or condos or apartments or those sorts of things, to house the very workers who are going to be here,” Dr. Keel said.

And the university president says the cyber center is a major component of attracting millennials to the area.

“They want to be able to walk to where they go to work, where they go to eat and where they have their activities, so this is just an incredible site,” Keel said.

Although Augusta is growing, Keel says the growth expected in North Augusta from Project Jackson will also attract people to the downtown area.

“You can envision an even larger entertainment zone, if you will, that begins to look like Jacksonville, Florida, with ferries on the river and water taxis and that sort of thing,” Keel added.

State leaders are still working on the designs for the Cyber Innovation and Training Center.

Construction is expected to get started in the Spring as the state wants to have the building ready by the end of 2018.

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