Yearly Archives: 2016

CIA Director John Bren­nan said Augusta is doing it right when it comes to supporting cybersecurity.

“I think this community represents the marriage of the private and public sector,” Brennan told media members Thursday after his keynote address on Day 2 of the Cyber Georgia conference at Augusta University.

“We have Fort Gordon … and Augusta University, which is really determined to bring together the representatives from the different sectors of society and recognize that cybersecurity affects us all. It’s something that we really need to all work on,” he said.

The summit, which brings together government, academic and industry experts to exchange ideas, is in its third year at Augusta University. This year’s summit was co-hosted by the Georgia Cham­ber of Commerce. Offi­cials expect the program to continue to grow and gain more national recognition.

“We have been told to expect what’s been called a cyber tsunami,” AU President Brooks Keel said, adding that “Augusta has got to be ready.”

Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who also spoke at the event, said he used to speak about cybersecurity and get little response, but now it’s a topic no one can ignore.

“The No. 1 issue in every boardroom of American companies today is cybersecurity,” Chambliss said. “It’s that important and it’s reached that high a profile.”

He said the nation is seeing everything from 15-year-old hackers operating out of their parents’ basements to sophisticated criminals running programs to shut down entire computer programs.

With the cyber command center coming to Fort Gordon, that means cybersecurity discussions will now center on this city.

During his speech, Brenn­an discussed the “unprecedented range of threats” the country faces today in the digital domain. He said that in fiscal year 2014, federal agencies were the target of more than 640,000 cyber-related incidents.

Attacks are not only coming from everywhere, but attackers can also cover their tracks easily.

Brennan said that forums such as the one in Augusta are examples of ways professionals can work together for solutions and recognize the problems the country faces.

After his speech, Brennan took questions from Chambliss, who served as a host for the morning session, and from the audience. The questions ranged from the serious, such as threats from other countries and terrorist groups, to whether he preferred the TV show Mr. Robot or Homeland. The latter question drew laughs from the audience, but Brennan said he hadn’t seen either show.

During the first day of the conference, the National Security Agency signed a deal with Augusta University allowing soldiers at the NSA’s Fort Gordon complex to obtain degrees at the university. NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett also spoke to attendees.

Keel said the caliber of speakers at this year’s summit speaks volumes to the importance of the gathering and the importance of Augusta in the cybersecurity realm.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Bianca Cain Johnson/Staff Writer

Augusta Convention & Visitors Burea (CVB) Launches Fall/Winter Issue of The New Augustan Magazine

The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has released the Fall/Winter issue of The New Augustan magazine. Originally planned as an annual publication, The New Augustan will now be published twice a year, with Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer issues.

Says Barry White, President and CEO of the Augusta CVB, “Because of the tremendous success of the inaugural issue, we decided to move forward with a biannual publication. We hope that this second issue inspires visitors and locals to get out and experience all that Augusta’s River Region offers during the fall and winter months.”

The Fall/Winter issue of The New Augustan features stories from throughout Augusta’s River Region, which encompasses Augusta, Aiken, Columbia County, Edgefield and North Augusta. The lifestyle magazine highlights the region’s history and heritage, while also showcasing the arts, culture and outdoor adventures that flourish alongside the banks of the Savannah River.

The New Augustan is distributed locally and out-of-area to state and regional visitor centers and direct mail requests for Augusta information worldwide.  Locally, the magazine is available at the Augusta Visitor Center, area Kroger grocery stores and the Fort Gordon Post Exchange, Augusta University departments, and outdoor display stands in downtown Augusta, North Augusta, and Columbia County.  Thousands of annual guests attending meetings, conventions, sports tournaments and festivals receive The New Augustan promoting opportunities to enhance their experience.

A digital flip-book version is available on NewAugustan.com.

Source: News Release: Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Augusta cancer therapy trial draws children from across nation

Melanie Davis “never, never” thought she would leave her home in Virginia to seek medical care in Augusta for her daughter with a recurring brain tumor.

But a clinical trial at the Georgia Cancer Center at Au­gusta University featuring a homegrown discovery is not only the best option for her daughter at this point but is also drawing kids from other prestigious cancer centers across the country. It was designed to be tried first in children and have a trial in adults, a move rarely seen in clinical trials, officials said.

Madison Davis, 7, of Hamp­ton, Va., is being treated with Indoximod, an inhibitor of the enzyme known as IDO, whose role in inhibiting an immune response was first elucidated at the Medical College of Georgia in 1998 by a team of researchers led by Drs. David Munn and Andrew Mellor.

“From my perspective, the name of the game was always to get this into a clinical trial and to get it into a trial in kids,” said Munn, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. But getting a clinical trial started first in children is tricky, he said.

“Most patients with cancer are adults and the last thing you want to do is have a clinical trial that harms some child,” Munn said. “So you want to make sure it is safe and effective in the adults before you start the trial in children. The problem is that means that the kids have to wait for a decade sometimes before they can start their trials.”

Because it was their discovery, and because of the relationship they have with NewLink Genetics, the company licensed to develop the drug, that was much easier, he said.

“Because we happened to invent the drug here and because the drug company that licensed it from us has been very open to doing pediatric clinical trials, that’s allowed us to start the pediatric trials much earlier than they would usually be started,” Munn said.

It also took support from cancer director Samir Khleif, but he said the trials fit his philosophy of how he is building up the cancer center.

“We have developed a very strong immunotherapy program, a tumor immunology program,” he said. “We became one of the prominent programs in the country.”

Having this allows them another unique “niche” with a pediatric immunotherapy trial.

There are very few pediatric immunotherapy clinical trials – a search of ClinicalTrials.Gov turns up 10 active clinical trials, including the one in Augusta. Part of it is the numbers game – there will be an estimated 10,380 cases of cancer this year in children 14 and younger vs.
nearly 1.7 million in adults, according to the American Cancer Society.

“So the majority of people concentrate on where the bulk is” and focus on cancer in adults, Khleif said. “(But) I didn’t think that was a major barrier. I thought if we take a chance on it, we will be able to succeed and help people and develop in a way that we can be a destination, similar to what we’ve done with our adult (program).”

The trial also was helped by the arrival of another homegrown product in Dr. Ted Johnson, who got his MD/Ph.D from MCG in 2004 and had Mellor as his advisor when he was doing his doctoral thesis on IDO. His preclinical work on brain tumors and IDO helped set up the trial, and Johnson also got a key grant from Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which became a key supporter of the current clinical trial.

“Alex’s supports the infrastructure that actually allows the trial to go forward,” Munn said. NewLink’s in-kind support is also invaluable, he said.

But it is also how Johnson has structured the clinical trial that is key to its success, Munn said. The patients, who are children whose brain tumors have come back, are getting standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy in addition to the immune therapy. Because of the combination with immune therapy potentially providing a benefit, Johnson can use a conservative approach with smaller doses, Munn said.

“If the immune system is helping you, then even the less toxic employment of the conventional therapies may, together with the immunologic therapy, have an overall benefit that was greater than any one of those alone,” Munn said.

The idea would be to foil the way the tumor uses IDO to evade the immune system and trick the immune system to think it is injured tissue after radiation or chemotherapy is applied, Johnson said.

“What we hope is true is that every cycle of chemotherapy and every dose of radiation should stimulate an immune response,” he said. “But without the immune therapy drug, the tumor has ways of suppressing those responses so even sometimes the same immune cells that could reject the tumor actually help it heal its wounds from the chemotherapy and radiation. The same cells can do both. It actually can proactively help to heal the wounds in the tumor and work against your chemotherapy and radiation. What we’re hoping is this type of immune therapy is going to reverse that paradigm and actually amplify the damage to the
tumor.”

They do not have outcome data, so how or if the therapy is helping is speculative. But Johnson said he gets positive feedback from the patients and families who have enrolled so far.

“A fairly universal sentiment among the families and the patients is that they are just generally feeling better, generally doing better,” he said. “They are able to go on vacations, be in school, spend time with their friends. They are able to have their birthday parties, sometimes birthdays they never expected to get to. These are things that really impact how they view the time they are able to spend with their families.”
Outside of the first month of the trial, they only have to come back to the hospital or to Augusta once a month to do lab work and get refills. That is important because more than half of the 16 or so children enrolled live out of state, Johnson said. Some of them are patients who were being treated at major cancer centers such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who exhausted options there or for whom this trial now became the best option.

“We’re part of the conversation with these larger centers, too,” Johnson said.

Madison had her first brain tumor removed at another prestigious center, The Children’s Hos­pi­tal of Philadelphia, two years ago and the family thought they had beat it when a new small tumor showed up in April in the same site as the first one, Melanie Davis said. Madison got surgery again at CHOP but her mother, an emergency room nurse with a science background, began researching clinical trial options.

She initially passed over John­son’s trial because it is an early stage Phase 1 trial. But after hearing about it again from a friend whose sister’s charity donated to help the trial, she began to consider it again and was convinced after a long phone conversation with Johnson.

“As soon as I talked to him, in my heart I knew that was where we needed to be,” Davis said.

The family had ties to Augusta – Melanie’s husband, Ben, went to high school in Evans and his mother still lives there – but she never thought they would be going there for treatment. After doing more research, “I was very excited about the trial,” she said.

Madison got seven weeks of radiation therapy and the Indoximod beginning in July and started chemotherapy in September but now only has to return to Augusta once a month.

Madison is now doing “fantastic,” Davis said. “I tell people you never would even know she was sick.”

She feels good her daughter is getting immunotherapy, which is “the way cancer treatments are headed,” Davis said. “I feel that we are kind of on the front line of it. I’m grateful for that.”

It isn’t the metro area’s largest construction project – it may not even be in the top five.

But the extensive renovation of the old cotton storage building at the historic Sibley Mill complex is arguably the most interesting.

In about four months, workers will have converted the 19th century warehouse into class A office space for Augusta-based IT firm EDTS and classrooms for UMBC Training Centers, a Maryland-based cybersecurity training firm.

The work is just the first phase of a local investment group’s long-term plan to turn the former textile mill into a high-tech mixed-use complex called Augusta Cyberworks, which aims to be a magnet for a local cyber industry being driven by the relocation of U.S. Army Cyber Command from Fort Meade, Md., to Fort Gordon.

Though EDTS and Columbia, Md.-based UMBC are expected to move into the 32,500-square-foot facility as early as January, transformation of the entire 20-acre site into a tech mecca is likely a few years – and millions of dollars – down the road.

For now, the priorities are simple: removing lead paint and asbestos, installing modern utilities and busting out bricked-up windows to let sunshine in for the first time in decades.

“It was like a dungeon in here,” Cape Augusta CEO James Ainslie said while giving a tour of the three-story building this week. “None of this was designed for human occupation.”

Ainslie and his business partner Wayne Millar – both South African-born businessmen – acquired the mill earlier this year through a long-term lease agreement with the Augusta Canal Authority.

The authority had been searching for a partner to redevelop the canal-front property since acquiring it in 2010 from Alabama-based Avondale Mills, which shuttered its denim operations there in 2006.

The cotton building is just a small part of the massive 500,000-square-foot mill property that Ainslie and Millar hope to redevelop in stages with help from outside investors and various local, state and federal historic preservation tax credits and enterprise zone incentives.

The entire redevelopment effort could top $100 million, the company says. Augusta American Building Co. is the project’s general contractor.

Cape Augusta’s plans call for a 10-megawatt data center – also known as “server farms” – whose cloud-based storage capacity would be available to not only Augusta Cyberworks tenants, but other area institutions, as well. There are no large-scale data centers in Augusta, Millar said.

“Where does Augusta send all of its data right now? Out of town,” he said.

The data center would be housed in the mill’s former boiler room, where the roof will be heightened by 40-feet to accommodate all the electronic gear, as well as heat exchangers to keep them cool. The most novel aspect of the center is that it would be powered and cooled by the waters of the Augusta Canal, which flow through the mill’s three built-in hydroelectric turbines at a rate of 600 million gallons a day.

Cape Augusta’s joint-venture deal with UMBC, a subsidiary of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, was announced earlier this week. Cape Augusta already leases the school a small space in Evans to train about a dozen information security professionals for 9- to 12-month certificate programs, but the finished cotton building will expand that capacity to about 200.

Ainslie said the program complements, rather than competes, with the cyber education efforts underway at local institutions such as Augusta University, Augusta Technical College, Georgia Military College and University of Phoenix.

The cybersecurity market is expected to grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020, according to research advisory firm Gartner. A 2015 analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showed more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled.

Aside from defense and national security related missions, cybersecurity professionals help safeguard private sector data ranging from multibillion-dollar currency transfers to debit-card transactions at local grocery stores.

“This is a major growth sector, and we need to capture that in Augusta,” Ainslie said. “(The training) needs to be scaled up; not everyone can wait for four-year degree programs.”

He pointed out that San Antonio, Texas – a city that’s home to the Air Force’s cybersecurity operations and considers itself the No. 2 cybersecurity market outside of metro D.C. – is three times Augusta’s size but has nearly eight times its student population.

With U.S. Army Cyber Command moving to Fort Gordon, Cape Augusta believes the Sibley Mill complex and the larger, adjacent King Mill – of which it has an option to acquire – could recreate in Augusta a scaled down version of Maryland’s National Bus­iness Park, a city-sized office complex in Baltimore near Fort Meade and National Security Agency headquarters.

“We have to look at Baltimore if we want to be serious,” Ainslie said. “It’s the 800-pound gorilla.”

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Damon Cline/Staff Writer

Augusta University is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for residence halls on the Health Sciences campus.

President Brooks Keel will officially dedicate Oak and Elm Halls from 1 to 2 p.m. in the lobby of Oak Hall, according to a news release.

Oak Hall, the undergraduate residence, is composed primarily of two-bedroom suites with a student in each room and two-bedroom suites with two students per room. Each suite is fully furnished and has its own bathroom. Elm Hall, the primarily graduate residence, has fully furnished studios, one-bedroom, one-bath and two bedroom, two-bath apartments, each with their own kitchen and breakfast bar, according to the release.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Doug Stutsman, staff writer

TechNet Augusta Military Trade Show Returns.

The biggest names in military communications and electronic warfare will be rubbing shoulders downtown this week for TechNet Augusta 2016.

The fourth annual trade show at the Augusta Marriott at the Con­ven­tion Center has exceeded the exhibit hall’s floor space, requiring organizers to put up outdoor exhibits in the surface parking lot at 10th and Reynolds streets.

“It keeps growing every year,” said Barry White, the president of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Registration for the event, which runs Tuesday through Thursday, could hit an all-time high of 3,000, which White said is a sign of the region’s growing prominence in military cyber affairs.

Fort Gordon is home to the Ar­my’s signals intelligence and cyberdefense missions, as well as the site for one of the National Security Agency’s three global surveillance
centers.

“The people coming in for TechNet love it and think that Augusta is the natural place to do it,” White said. “With the relocation of Army Cyber, this is the place they want to be. It’s a perfect fit for Augusta.”

TechNet grew out of the old Signal Sym­posium, which was last held in Au­gusta in 2005. TechNet was revived in 2013 by the Armed Forces Commu­nications and Electronics As­socia­tion, better known as AFCEA International.

The organization was founded in Augusta in 1946, when the fort was known as Camp Gordon.

In addition to providing key armed services personnel with a forum for discussing doctrine and best practices, TechNet provides an opportunity for military contractors to demonstrate new cyber technologies and services to government, industry and academic leaders.

The event generates a $1.4 million economic impact, according to Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates.

White said this is the third year officials from Augusta, North Augusta and Columbia County have staffed a joint exhibit at the event to promote the region. Known as the Greater Au­gus­ta Communities Partnership, the initiative highlights the area’s
low cost of living, large health care sector and abundant recreational opportunities.

Trade Show Executive magazine named TechNet one of its “Fastest 50” growing trade shows last year.

White said he believes the event will only grow larger and possibly create spinoffs.

“I think we’ll see more things like this coming in the future,” he said.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Damon Cline/Business Editor

Throughout the 1800s, Augusta-Richmond County’s location on the Savannah River made it a prime spot for industrial development and a jumping off point for moving goods throughout this region of the state. Now economic development is coming along a different route – fiber optic cables that connect a wide array of companies and government agencies to the Internet. While still a center for manufacturing, this city is seeing a high-tech future.

The announcement a few years ago that the U.S. Army was moving its Cyber Center of Excellence to Fort Gordon was the tipping point. With a massive National Security Agency (NSA) facility nearby, the region has been transformed into an incubator for technology companies and education.

“We have defense contractors who have supported missions at Fort Gordon for many years,” says Sue Parr, president and CEO of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of technology-based companies here already that create that very fertile ground for workforce development, talent development in this area.”

Now their numbers are growing as the region becomes ground zero for the nation’s defense against cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. That’s also created an opportunity for the county to bolster its economy.

“I want Augusta to be the No. 1 place in the state to do business,” says Mayor Hardie Davis.

City officials and economic developers are working closely to make Augusta a welcoming place for businesses of all kinds and sizes – many of them focused on technology.

“You’ve got a number of off-shoot businesses in the technology sector,” Davis says. “You’ve also got the likes of Booz Allen Hamilton, Raytheon, SAIC and a number of other firms [that] have relocated offices to Augusta to support those missions. There’s been a lot of effort and growth in that sector.”

In fact, the chamber just launched a new cyber and technology committee comprised of many of the tech companies located here, ranging from app builders to technology ventures firm and data-center developer Cape Augusta.

“By bringing these companies together, they can make sure that as a community and as a chamber of commerce that we are addressing the issues that are most important for new and existing companies in this industry,” says Parr.


Repurposing History

Driving into Augusta along Riverwatch Parkway, one of the first things you see rising up along the Augusta Canal is a towering brick chimney. Today, it is all that remains of the Confederate Powder Works. This gunpowder factory was hastily constructed at the start of the Civil War to manufacture munitions for Confederate forces.

Next to the cylinder is a sprawling, long-vacant brick building – Sibley Mill – that once housed a textile mill. The two structures speak to the area’s history, but these days they also represent Augusta and Richmond County’s future as a high-tech center. The historic Sibley Mill property is owned by the Augusta Canal Authority, which purchased it in 2010 with the goals of preserving the structures and finding a developer who could give them a new and more productive use. That developer – Cape Augusta – has been found. The firm will redevelop the property as a data center and campus for tech firms called Augusta Cyber Works.

“We were looking to do something that would be more cutting edge and supportive of other ongoing developments that have recently happened in Augusta,” says Dayton Sherrouse, executive director of the Augusta Canal Authority. “And looking at what’s happening in technology nowadays, this just seemed to be the fit. It would not only support other ongoing activities, but has the added benefit of providing a data center at one location and sufficient space for all the related businesses that would be attracted by the data center.”

The authority will also continue to operate the hydropower plant inside the mill to provide the data center with electricity and water for cooling its servers.

The hydroelectric generators in Sibley and next-door neighbor Kings Mill, also owned by the authority, can generate up to 4 MW of power, which, along with a direct connection to Georgia Power’s grid, ensures that a server farm can be kept up and running around the clock.

Augusta is poised to capitalize on the emerging trend of locating large data centers in cities other than major markets such as Chicago, New York and Silicon Valley, says James Ainslie, CEO of Cape Augusta.

“Augusta has a significant amount of fiber that connects the actual physical site to the regional network,” says Ainslie. “Power is a huge part of a data center value proposition. The reason that data centers are located in primary markets is because they need huge amounts of power.”

Where an industrial plant might use 1 MW of power, large data centers can consume up to 80 or more megawatts of power. Having a reliable connection to the power grid is essential.

The canal authority also hopes to bring similar development to King’s Mill in the future. That additional space could be very attractive to other tech companies or even serve as expansion space for Augusta Cyber Works.

“This project really starts to put us on that road where we can now cluster education, research, of course the cloud services together, and also produce a park where technology companies can come together,” says Parr. “It’ll also create that critical mass that is so important for workforce development and for innovation.”

Training and education are vital for ensuring that the city’s burgeoning tech sector can continue to flourish. The focus on cybersecurity generated by the Army’s Cyber Command and NSA facilities prompted Augusta University to launch its own Cyber Institute.

The university has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. This designation is a part of the federal government’s effort to get more people interested in cybersecurity careers.

“We just don’t have enough people with the skills and experience to help protect our nation,” says Joanne Sexton, Cyber Institute director.

After hosting the region’s first Cyber Security for Defense Conference, the university began developing its own program.

“A university can make a very big impact on workforce development and economic development,” she says. “We wanted to understand what our role was and what we could do.”


Back to Basics

When it comes to economic expansion, Augusta has been on a roll. Since 2009, new and expanded businesses have totaled more than $1.5 billion. In 2014 and 2015 those investments were $331.6 million. That pace has continued into the new year, with the first half of 2016 bringing $100 million in private company capital investments, according to Walter Sprouse, executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority. “And close to 2,000 new jobs during 2016,” he adds.

The region has also been attracting good old-fashioned manufacturing firms that make tangible products.

Earlier this year, company and city officials celebrated the opening of the $172-million Huntsman Corp. plant near Augusta Regional Airport. The facility will make the iron oxide color pigments – 30,000 metric tons annually – used to color concrete, plastics, food and paper.

The facility, the first new pigment manufacturing plant in the country in 35 years, brought with it 300 construction jobs and will employ more than 140 permanent workers with a $5-million annual payroll.

Augusta leaders have been celebrating a lot of company expansions and new arrivals – and the jobs they bring. Just last year, Solvay Specialty Polymers announced that it was building a new specialty polymers resin unit to boost its production capacity of polyether etherketone, or PEEK. In addition, carbon nano-tube-enriched concrete products maker EdenCrete Industries Inc. opened a $67-million global manufacturing headquarters and created more than 250 jobs.

And, tech company Unisys garnered headlines when it moved into the former Fort Discovery museum space along Riverwalk Augusta. The museum closed in 2010, and the space had been vacant ever since.

The new location is one of three Unisys service centers in the United States and will initially provide IT support for Army personnel needing end-user support services. The number of workers is expected to expand to about 700 over the next few years.


Loft Living

Much of Augusta’s success in attracting these companies is a result of being in the right place at the right time. Its river location made it a prime spot for industry and commerce, and that also helped make the region an important player in the nuclear power industry as well.

“You’ve got to start with our workforce,” Mayor Davis says. “We have the Savannah River [nuclear plant] site and all of the engineers and professionals who worked in that arena who still live in the area. Then there are the students who were educated in our institutions of higher learning. We’ve got a strong workforce and we’re able to take existing talent looking for opportunities and talent being developed, and that makes Augusta extremely attractive.”

Augusta has other important assets as well, including its vibrant downtown. The historic stretch of blocks along the Savannah River has gotten quite a bit of attention in recent years, and those invest- ments are paying off. Along Broad Street and other thoroughfares that crisscross the city center, old buildings are being transformed into shops, restaurants and offices. The trend back to urban living has also spurred the renovation of historic buildings into loft apartments and condos.

“Most have been built in the last few years,” says Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta. While some have been around for as long as 15 years, many of the historic conversions on Broad Street, the main downtown commercial district, have happened more recently, she adds.

Local developer Mark Donahue recently converted the former Lowrey Wagon Works, which had been abandoned and boarded-up for years, into 19 loft and one-bedroom apartments.

Lowrey’s historic warehouse on Ellis St. was built just before the Civil War. During the war it was a Confederate shoe factory, and in 1865 a group of local churches housed Augusta’s first African-American school in the building. Its owner, Jacob Lowrey, took back the building the following year and restored the wagon operations. In more recent times, the structure has been a warehouse and a bicycle shop.

The influx of new companies locating in the area is helping drive its revitalization. “We’re seeing a lot of the creative tech companies relocate downtown,” says Woodard. “We’re seeing office demand rise.”

Plus there’s the educational opportunities and high-quality healthcare. Aside from Augusta University and its 8,300 students, there’s also Augusta Technical College, which has become a leader in job training and education, and the private, historically black liberal arts Paine College.

The county is also home to 11 hospitals and the nation’s largest burn center, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors’ Hospital. Augusta University is home to the state’s premier medical school, and University Health Care System includes a 581-bed medical center that serves the entire region. The system has also added the $30-million University Hospital McDuffie and six new urgent care and practice locations, with more slated to open this year.


Fore

It’s hard to talk about the Augusta economy without mentioning the Masters Golf Tournament. Held the first full week in April at Augusta National Golf Club, it regularly fills hotel rooms and homes and generates a large, if undocumented, amount of economic activity in the region.

Of course, it’s not the only attraction that brings outsiders to town. Tourists spend about $1.2 million per day in the county on hotel stays, eating out and shopping. That number doesn’t include activity generated by the Masters. The tournament doesn’t release figures on ticket sales and attendance, and much of the spending by attendees tends to fly under the radar.

“We’ve seen a growth in that direct visitor spending over the past 10 or 11 years – north of a 45 percent increase,” says Barry White, president and CEO at the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That continued even through the recession. We never saw a down year or decline year over year throughout the recession.”

That strength is reflected in every aspect of Augusta’s local economy and promises a bright future for the city, county and the region that surrounds it.


Local Flavor

Feel the Beat: When you talk to local leaders in Augusta about what draws businesses here, quality of life is tops. And a big part of that is the rich and varied music community. On any weekend you can listen to performers ranging from contemporary acts who fill the James Brown Arena to the world-class Symphony Orchestra Augusta to talented local country, jazz and hip-hop artists.

“We have something for everyone,” says Brenda Durant, executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council.

It’s often the arts that make newcomers feel at home here. Durant recalls that one of her board members, a professor at the dental school, reflected on the joy he felt to discover that city had a number of barbershop quartets.

“If you love it, you’re very happy to find that we have it,” she says.

The city is home to more than 20 live music venues in the downtown area – along with a variety of community theaters as well. Local citizens have demonstrated a willingness to come out and support these artists with their time and dollars, says George Claussen, a local concert promoter.

“It’s crazy what’s happened over the last year and a half of just being able to see the scene just boom,” he says. “Augusta is now on a par with Savannah and even Atlanta when it comes to touring [performers].”

Of course, the patron saint of Augusta’s music scene is the legendary James Brown, whose unique style and hit making revolutionized soul music.

“When I arrived in Augusta in 2005, I was told that when you think of Augusta you think of two things,” recalls Nancy Glaser, director of the Augusta Museum of History. “One is golf, and the other is James Brown.”

Like many Southerners she grew up with his music but never realized he was an Augusta native. In fact, he both lived and died in the city. Today, the museum’s most visited exhibit is a retrospective of the life and times of the Godfather of Soul.

“He grew up in downtown Augusta,” says Staci Cooper, communications manager for the Augusta CVB. “So a lot of historical spots are there. He also owned a radio station in West Augusta and had airplanes at Daniel Field.”

The museum includes an array of his flashy stage costumes, musical instruments, records, personal items and even a “King of Soul” crown worn by Brown in the 1950s. You can see and hear interviews with the artist and listen to his music.

In this city, music fills the air and is part and parcel of both history and everyday life.

Source:Georgia Trend Magazine
Author: Randy Southerland

Jarrett Davis looks like any other college student loading up plastic storage bins onto a hand truck to haul them into his new dorm room at Augusta University. But the place where the first-year student at the Medical College of Georgia will now lay his head is much different than the residences he might have found in previous years.

Graduate students like Davis began moving in Thursday into the newly opened Elm Hall on the Health Sciences Campus. Oak Hall next door, for undergraduate students, will open Aug. 13. Together they will house more than 700 students, which is a net gain of about 500 beds from the housing the campus previously had, said Mark Allen Poisel, AU’s vice president for enrollment.

“Not to mention a quality gain that is very different” from the previous housing, he said. “We had 40-year-old buildings compared to apartments that we designed with specialized students and programming in mind” in the new buildings.

Those buildings and the spaces within them are very different, Poisel said. The graduate and professional dorm, which will house about 300, is almost all studio and one-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, compared to the undergraduate buildings where students will mostly live together in suites and share large common kitchen areas, he said.

“What we really wanted was an opportunity for students to have their own individual experience, knowing that graduate and professional students don’t necessarily want a roommate,” Poisel said.

After having roommates all four years at Georgia Tech, that is something Davis is eagerly anticipating.

“That’s going to be really nice,” he said.

The buildings will also have different looks, Poisel said. The undergraduate building will have brighter colors and murals on the walls and the big common areas with kitchens will be places where “they can play Xbox, they can hang out and eat, they can gather,” he said. The graduate building has more muted and wood colors and will have artwork on the walls, Poisel said.

“We’re trying to create a slightly different experience,” he said. “It’s certainly one that’s more mature and sophisticated.”

It is also part of the school’s push to provide more housing on campus and create more of a residential campus experience. With the opening of the two buildings, plus the older University Vil­lage on the Forest Hills Cam­pus, the bed capacity at the university will increase to over 1,200 from 700 or so the previous year, Poisel said.

While the graduate and professional programs generally don’t grow because they only have a certain number of slots, the university’s growth strategy would be with incoming freshmen and transfers, Poisel said. And while it is still very early, it appears to be moving in that direction, he said.

“Right now, we have more students registered today compared to a year ago,” Poisel said. “But it’s so in flux. It’s hard for me to say at the end of the day what enrollment is going to be. Right now, we’re ahead. We certainly have more students living on campus than we’re ever had before. And that’s going to be a big plus.”

The biggest advantage to living on campus is obviously the location, Davis said.

“Walking distance from class, the gym, the cafeteria, the bookstore. I’m really excited about that,” he said. “I couldn’t really be in any better situation than this.”

There really might be only a small downside, Davis said.

“Maybe that my mess is my mess and I can’t blame it on any roommates I don’t have,” he said, laughing.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Tom Corwin/Staff Writer

The draining of the Augusta Canal is allowing two downtown bridges to be restored.

Work has already begun on the Archibald W. Butt Memorial Bridge on 15th Street and the Broad Street bridge over the Augusta Canal. Although both are structurally sound, traffic engineers said it will allow for some rehabilitation.

Crews started Monday injecting a waterproofing material into the cracks in the underside of both bridges.

“They drained the canal so the contractors can actually get up under there,” said Anthony Taylor, Augusta construction engineer.

The bridges are two of eight undergoing upgrades in Richmond County with funds from the Georgia Transportation Investment Act, a penny sales tax passed in 2012 to provide infrastructure improvements to the Augusta area. Five of the bridges are downtown. Taylor said all eight bridges are under contract and in various stages of rehab.

The Butt bridge project will be one of the more extensive projects and is budgeted for $2 million. Hameed Malik, assistant director of the Augusta Engineering Department, said the project’s goal is to “bring the historic look back.”

The bridge was dedicated April 15, 1914 to honor Archibald Butt, an Augusta native. Butt, a military man and close adviser to President William Howard Taft, died on the Titanic in 1912. Witnesses said he went down with the ship after giving up his lifeboat seat to women and children.

The rehabilitation project will include replacing the bridge decking, adding bike lanes to both sides of the road and restoring or replacing some of the historical elements including the lighting.

Cranston Engineering Co., which was awarded the contract for the Butt bridge, is working closely with Historic Augusta to make sure the historical look is maintained.

“The bridge itself is going to look new,” Taylor said. “You’ll have new painting, bike lanes and lighting.”

Replacement of the decking will result in some lengthy closures to 15th Street. Traffic engineering have a tentative closure date of Monday.

Closures are expected to last about eight months.

Rehabilitation to the Broad Street bridge will not be nearly as intensive and will not affect travelers as much.

Most of that $1.2 million project, which was contracted to Moreland Altobelli Associates, will consist of repairs and upgrades to the underside of the bridge. It, like the Butt Bridge, will get patchwork and painting underneath.

Crews will also be strengthening the Broad Street bridge support with encasing concrete columns.

Officials said a closure will likely be needed later in the project while crews work on the railing, but it will not be as lengthy as the other project.

“We’re really not trying to close both bridges simultaneously because we know it disrupts traffic,” Taylor said.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Bianca Cain Johnson

 

After more than three years of preparation for its recent survey, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University has received a full eight-year accreditation from its accrediting body, Dean Peter Buckley said today.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting agency for U.S. and Canadian medical schools, gave the school its full accreditation for meeting the 12 standards the agency has for medical education.

Schools must be reviewed at least every eight years and since the last visit in 2008, MCG has added four regional campuses at Athens, Savannah, Albany and Rome, which adds “a degree of complexity” to meeting those standards, Buckley said. The quality of educational experience at those campuses must be equal to what is offered in Augusta and the administration and oversight have to be well-coordinated, he said.

“You want to know that you have good quality at each place but you also want to know that it’s the same quality,” Buckley said. “It can’t be different. Getting that in all of the other campuses so that the oversight and management of the medical school is consistent is rigorous.”

At the same time, the reason for having regional campuses is to offer something else, he said.

“Of course, there are different experiences at each of the campuses and you want that difference as well,” Buckley said. “It’s a challenge from an accreditation point of view. They really endorsed the statewide model, as well as the strategy and the mission behind that, that’s ultimately tied to improving the health of Georgians.”

Beyond just the regional campuses, the survey involved all of the affiliated hospitals and ultimately included 170-180 people, including hospital CEOs, Buckley said.

“It goes from being student-centric to really an extraordinary community, statewide effort to show off our prowess in medical education,” he said.

The standards also change and evolve over time and one criticism MCG faced eight years ago was that it was too traditional and lecture-based and its buildings lacked space for things like small-group learning, Buckley said. Much of that was addressed with the help of the new J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons building,

“All of that just blew them away, that this is a medical school that has a solid foundation in its training but has upgraded its curriculum and its environment to be contemporary, what you would expect for training tomorrow’s doctors,” Buckley said.

After adding four regional campuses in five years and then undergoing the review process, MCG can now focus on building up research and residency programs and community engagement statewide, he said.

“It now gives us the opportunity to continue the innovation in the medical student education but also to fill out the broader portfolio of our academic missions,” Buckley said.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Tom Corwin/Staff Writer