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Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 4:30am

Augusta Mayor Wants Tech Economy

Augusta’s mayor thinks his region’s economy relies too heavily on government installations like Fort Gordon and the Savannah River Site.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver wants to change that with a regional collaboration center focused on the technology, energy and health sectors. He unveiled a business plan this week that gives the first details of what his center would do.

The idea is to tie together SRS, Fort Gordon, local tech companies and the area’s soon-to-be merged universities to find new partnerships and business ideas. Copenhaver wants the leaders of those organizations working together to create a knowledge-based economy for the region.

“We have a very good opportunity when you consider the expansion at Plant Vogtle, new missions being undertaken at the Savannah River Site – the MOX facility out there, mixed oxide fuel – and then the NSA facility opening up on Fort Gordon,” Copenhaver said. “Really, the timing is right for this.”

Copenhaver said goals include seeing more quantifiable investment in the area and new businesses starting up. And he’s looking for more young faces around town.

“That is what I’m hoping will also be a quantifiable goal [of the center]: how many of those bright, young kids getting out of college have we attracted to the community or how many that are from this community have had the opportunity to stay here? I think that’s one of the keys,” Copenhaver said.

The Augusta-Richmond County Commission has set aside $100,000 to get Copenhaver’s Augusta Regional Collaboration project up and running.

The mayor plans to hire a coordinator to run the nonprofit with private dollars after the initial public investment. He said a proven fundraiser whom he would not name has committed to raise another $100,000.