At a meeting planned for this morning (Wednesday, Dec. 15), Columbia and Richmond County officials will try to salvage an agreement for the counties to work together for economic development.
One county is a rising star in the area economy, while the other is fading. But oddly enough, a group of folks from the faltering community next door are the ones hoping to kill the agreement.
Some members of the Richmond County Development Authority have decided they want nothing to do with a proposed regional partnership, worrying that the plan sounds too much like the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce trying to get involved in their operation -- as if that's a bad thing.
Whatever the case, it's to the credit of Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross and Augusta Mayor Bob Young that they're still trying.
What's at stake? Most of all, the name: Augusta. As a consulting group told county officials this past week, industrial developers seeking new sites focus on identifiable metropolitan areas, and narrow the search to specific cities or counties later.
This means Columbia County needs to identify itself with the Augusta name when it's trying to lure industries. Apparently, though, some within the Rich-mond County Development Authority believe they've already got the Augusta name, and don't need Columbia County.
They're kidding themselves. Augustans voted down an ambitious sales-tax referendum, and now Columbia County is studying a way to build the arena Augusta passed up. Two worldwide sporting associations are either moving their headquarters here or thinking about it. And an industry magazine for executives hails Columbia County's schools as a "blue ribbon" system.
Fact is, Augusta has done little more in recent years than ride the long coattails of the Masters Tournament, while Columbia County boosters have had to work hard for their achievements. The result? Thecity has gotten soft, while the suburban community has become lean, fit and hungry.
Richmond County will shirk a relationship with their neighbor to the west at their own risk. But if they decide to go it alone, Columbia County is more than capable of building partnerships with other neighbors who are easier to get along with.
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