From school openings to tourism venues and all streets in between, members attending Tuesday's Columbia County Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting received an encapsulated update on the state of the community.
The bi-monthly Not Just Coffee, held at the Board of Education office, featured School Superintendent Charles Nagle, County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, and officials from county events, tourism and industry-recruitment agencies.
Nagle said while schools opened with populations slightly under projections, the system still is growing rapidly - especially in Grovetown, where the new Cedar Ridge Elementary opened with nearly 80 more pupils than projected.
"We're growing so quickly in the Grovetown area that it jumped on us a little quicker than we thought," he said.
That area also is where the county's fifth high school is planned for a fall 2009 opening, Nagle said, with 1,600 students expected to enroll.
The rising student population is a sign of the county's growth overall, and one symptom is traffic congestion. Cross said several projects to ease bottlenecks are starting soon.
The addition of a turn lane on Washington Road at Goodwill and improvements on Lewiston Road at Interstate 20 could begin within 30 days, Cross said.
Other projects on the way include the extension of William Few Parkway to Hardy-McManus Road, a turn lane on Evans-to-Locks Road at Blue Ridge Drive, and longer-range projects to extend River Watch Parkway and widen Flowing Wells Road, Cross said.
Also presenting were:
Andy Lasser, executive vice president of business development for University Hospital, talked about the expansion of the hospital's Evans campus.
That project includes a new medical office complex and imaging center, and the county's first parking deck.
Stacie Adkins, the manager of special events for the county, listed available county venues and the events planned for them this year.
The newest of those venues, Blanchard Woods Park, in Evans, is scheduled to open in September, Adkins said.
Pat Goodwin, secretary-treasurer of the county's Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said the county's hotel-motel tax revenue - which funds the CVB and other community and tourism efforts - has passed the half-million-dollar mark.
Much of that growth is credited to the county's increased involvement in major fishing tournaments, Goodwin said.
Zack Daffin, director of the county's Development Authority, said he expects recent efforts to attract retirees to the community will begin to bear fruit "in the not-so-distant future."
The county's under-construction speculative building already is attracting visits from recruiters and prospective industries, Daffin added.
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