South Augusta: spending money to make money

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 23, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---There are a number of people paid money to bring money to Augusta: the Downtown Development Authority and the Development Authority of Richmond County. News 12 has learned there is a plan to bring something similar to south Augusta.

Fort Gordon is a south Augusta staple, but it's the development outside the base taking center stage these days.

"Everybody gets a don't know how long your turn is, but when you get got to make the best of it," said Tanya Barnhill who lives in south Augusta.

Barnhill works from home, and she's excited about what's being called the South Augusta Development Initiative.

"I think it's a great idea," said Barnhill.

The plan is to create a new position that would pay someone to focus on economic development on the south side. Commissioner Alvin Mason is leading the effort.

"We'd just like to be able to go have a nice meal at a sit-down restaurant or go buy a nice blazer or tie without having to go 5, 10, or 20 miles to spend our dollar," said Mason.

"I mean...with $3.50 a gallon gas...oh I would definitely love it," said Barnhill.

It's not too far off. Doug Cross is an Atlanta developer who is looking to set up shop in the area.

"We don't build for the experience or whatever we build to make a profit," said Doug.

The landscape is ripe for development in south Augusta. Over 70% of the land to be developed in the city is found there. There are those who say if you build it...they will come.

"Oh...I think the future looks rosy," said Barnhill. Signs of growth are already popping up. Cross and his team are building as many as 200 new homes that could pave the way for retail and entertainment spots.

"Do I want to see Tobacco Road mirror Washington Road...No I really don't, but I want some of that business out here," said Barnhill.

Cross is committed to doing his part. "We didn't come to be here for just a year maybe two years. We plan to be here," said Cross.

Commissioner Mason hopes to present a master plan to the commission in the coming weeks. One suggested plan calls for a board and an executive director. The salary would be about $70,000. Mason says initial talks with the mayor and commissioners have been promising.

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