Leaders from both sides of the Savannah River came together to discuss collaboration, among other topics, at the first State of the Region session Thursday night. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 21, 2011)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Times are tough for Raymond Cowins.
"It's really hard to make an honest buck out here," he told News 12.
He owns Loveable Huggables, which sells stuffed animals on Broad Street in downtown Augusta. He says his struggle is pulling in new customers from throughout the region -- from both sides of the river.
"They don't even like to cross the bridge. If it's 15 minutes, it's too far," said Cowins.
And his problem is echoed by his neighbor, who also works for a downtown business.
"It should be one community. We should be able to travel from one community to the next," said Dorothy Robertson.
And that's the problem addressed in Thursday's work session -- right across the river from Broad Street -- in the North Augusta Municipal Building. Politicians, dignitaries and business people from most counties in the CSRA gathered for a new type of meeting.
"The main mission was to create a regional vision for these communities," said Anthony Robinson.
Robinson is a professor at the James M. Hull College of Business at Augusta State University. He's also the interim MBA program director there.
"In an increasingly global environment, we have much more success if we collaborate more regionally. So, we have to build this cooperative effort and get people excited and on board with packaging and promoting those things that we do best," he told News 12.
He says there are many areas we succeed in.
"Those themes that are emerging right now, economic themes, are health and wellness and science and technology," he said.
But there are roadblocks, too.
"As many of the speakers said this evening, the wind doesn't stop blowing when we go from South Carolina to Georgia, so the cooperative effort shouldn't stop," he said.
With regional unemployment at approximately 9.6 percent, Cowins says he hopes cooperation -- and customers -- will come soon.
"We're all together," he said.
At Thursday's meeting, there was a whole room full of community leaders. Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Columbia County Chairman Ron Cross and Aiken County Chairman Ronnie Young to name a few. There was also the garrison commander from Fort Gordon and a leader from Savannah River Site.
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