Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 21, edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
As we reflect on the past 18 months to two years, some of us might think that we do not have much reason to be thankful.
Our lives have changed significantly during this time, and I think most might argue that those changes have not been for the better. The dominant theme during this time has clearly been the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the pandemic, such as deaths, hospitalizations, and lockdowns have clearly negatively affected our lives.
In addition, we also had significant social justice conflicts and intense disagreement among our major political parties.
Finally, most recently, we have been adversely affected by high levels of inflation (will it be long term or transitory?) which have driven up our costs, and supply chain challenges that have disrupted our ability to access items we want and/or need.
Given all of this negativity, you might ask: How can we be thankful? My perspective is that despite all of this negativity, there are many reasons to be thankful for the business community in Augusta.
Stability and growth – an unbeatable combination: The first thing to be thankful for is that our local economy has a stable foundation while also being poised for growth. We have a number of industries in the Augusta area that provide a solid employment base that tends to mitigate the larger impacts of recessions and negative economic conditions on our local economy: health care, federal government (Department of Defense, Department of Energy) and education.
At the same time, while such a foundation typically helps a local economy maintain reasonably good health in tough times, it often limits the growth potential of that economy. However, in the Augusta area, we also have a significant growth component of our economy to complement this foundation, and that is cybersecurity.
When the U.S. Army decided to consolidate its cybersecurity efforts at Fort Gordon, it initiated a domino effect of economic growth in Augusta. Starting with the direct effect of the increasing numbers of active-duty cyber soldiers and their government civilian counterparts at Fort Gordon to support the cybersecurity mission, we are seeing significant economic and employment growth.
This growth is further enhanced by the defense contractor base that supports the cyber mission. In addition, the state of Georgia’s investment in its Cyber Center in Augusta is stimulating growth in cybersecurity both in the public and private sectors. We should be very thankful for this unique combination of a strong, foundational economy, supplemented by a growing cybersecurity industry in our community.
Local and state business environment: Another reason to be thankful is the excellent environment for business at both the state and local levels. As most of us know, Georgia has been at or near the top of many “Best States for Business” lists for most of the past decade. This is because of a large number of factors including business-friendly regulatory and labor environments (i.e., “business climate”), cost of doing business, tax incentives, workforce and transportation.
When we look specifically at the local Augusta area, there are a number of things that it make it very attractive within the state. For instance, we have outstanding workforce sources such as Augusta Technical College and Augusta University. Additionally, our location with its proximity to ports, interstates, railways and airports allows for excellent transportation for business. Clearly, these attributes are attracting more businesses to the area, with the two new Amazon facilities as a prime example.
Business and community: One of the things we should all be thankful for is the mutual commitment of our businesses and community to one another. I have lived in many places in the eastern half of this country, but I have never lived anywhere else where there is such mutual support between business and community. I am impressed with how business invests in making this community better. The recent developments supported by the Augusta National Golf Club and the Medical College of Georgia Foundation to support the Laney-Walker and Harrisburg neighborhoods is a great example of such investments.
This relationship is also evident at Augusta University. As I reflect on my almost five years here in Augusta, I am thankful for the ongoing support that the Hull College of Business has received from the local business community. I am grateful for all of the individuals and businesses who have visited our classrooms, supported our Business Showcase and Business Connections programs, and joined our Advisory Board to help make business education at the Hull College a great experience for our students.
Finally, I am thankful for my fellow administrators, faculty, and staff in the Hull College who are committed to our students and to a collegial and fun work environment.
Despite the adversity we have had in recent times, there are many reasons for us to be grateful. I hope you take the coming week to be thankful for all that we have and have a most blessed Thanksgiving holiday.