On behalf of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and its 775 business members, I would like to welcome golf patrons to Columbia County and the Greater Augusta area. We embrace you with all the enthusiasm the course offers its first visitors as they step on the untouched greens.
From wonderful weather to great Southern hospitality, we hope you will take some time to get to know our community while you are here. The Chamber serves as the welcome mat to the community, not only for businesses, but new residents and visitors as well. The focus of the Columbia County Chamber resides in economic advocacy, membership development and community leadership. We partner with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Development Authority for overall community betterment and economic growth.
Columbia County is home to more than 124,000 residents, a 38 percent growth since 2000. The county consists of the two smaller cities of Grovetown and Harlem, along with the most populated, yet unincorporated areas, of Evans and Martinez. CNN/ Money Magazine has consistently ranked Columbia County in the category, “Best Places to Live in America,” and in 2009, Family Circle magazine named Evans one of the top 10 places for families to live.
What makes our county so exceptional? We agree with these publications that affordable housing, quality education, a safe community and unmatched recreational facilities make Columbia County a great place to live, work and play.
Focused on families, the Columbia County public school system is academically ranked top in the 8 percent in the state and educates more than 23,500 students per year. Due to county growth, the Columbia County school system has built 10 new schools in the past 10 years, and the school system is the largest employer in the county. Two local private schools, Augusta Preparatory Day School and Augusta Christian, also hold top rank in the state. Augusta Technical College recently built a brand new campus extension in Grovetown to ensure a qualified future workforce for area businesses.
The Greater Augusta area, also called the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area), has a diverse business market. The area boasts five hospitals, which not only offer outstanding medical care throughout the Southeast but also serve as a vast field of opportunity for those seeking medical employment. Savannah River Site is across the river in South Carolina, but 1,500 employees choose Columbia County as their residency. Many Plant Vogtle employees drive into Burke County daily, but return to Columbia County with their paycheck.
Fort Gordon Army base consists of about 24,000 military, civilian and contract employees. Fort Gordon creates a large talent pool for Columbia County businesses providing educated and skilled soldiers who have completed their military term. Many are a good fit for county industries such as John Deere Commercial Products, Club Car, GIW Industries, Uniparts USA Limited and Nutritional Resources, which offer a variety of skilled and professional-level positions.
Primed for retail growth, the third Super Walmart opened in late 2009 near Grovetown, and sits at the backdoor to Fort Gordon. Columbia County recently surveyed residents regarding retail and restaurant needs, and results indicated high responses for full service and upscale restaurants, department stores, specialty boutiques and various retail operations. We are a community full of growth and opportunity.
I moved to Columbia County in 1976 and have had the privilege of welcoming many golf patrons to the Tournament, whether at a party, a welcome tent at the Tournament, or running into visitors at one of our great local restaurants. The first Masters Tournament was played in 1934, and Columbia County, at this time, was nothing but countryside. Now it is a bustling area with many golf patrons renting homes in our neighborhoods, enjoying our new Evans Towne Center Park and dining at our local establishments.
Columbia County is making great strides while staying true to its hospitable roots and offering our visitors a satisfying county to enjoy once the last putt of the day has been made on the 18th.
Thank you for allowing me to introduce you to Columbia County. I know you will enjoy your stay.
To serve as a resource for guests, we encourage you to visit our office at 4424 Evans to Locks Road or www.columbiacountychamber.com and click on our member directory for a list of chamber members who invest in the business community. We encourage you to shop chamber members first!
(Tammy Shepherd is president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.)