News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 19, 2010
AUGUSTA---CarMax is open for business in Augusta. The ribbon-cutting came as Mayor Deke Copenhaver hosted a major economic summit.
It is all being sold as a sign that things are looking up for the city.
"We've been planning to come to Augusta for quite some time," said CarMax CEO Tom Folliard. "We've been nervous, too. We have been paying the rent for over a year. We are very excited to come to Augusta."
Augusta currently ranks 5th on Forbes' Best Bang for the Buck cities list.
"Augusta has actually held up pretty well," said Folliard. "You guys have done great here."
The major investments go beyond CarMax. More than $300 million is being flooded into a one-mile area in and around downtown Augusta.
Work is already underway on a $98 million Salvation Army Kroc community center. A $112 million MCG School of Dentistry project is also in the works. A $67 million Judicial Center is coming out of the ground. And a brand new $24 million library complex is pretty much complete.
But by the looks of things at the Augusta Department of Labor, those numbers don't translate into automatic jobs.
"It's still kinda hard," said Penny Ann McMahon. "I only have a part time job right now."
"I hate it," said Penny. "It is harder to look for a job than it is to go to work."
Penny has been on the job search for months. Frank Leonard was laid off days ago.
"I've never really been unemployed before," said Frank. "So I've never really thought about how tough it is out there with the economy."
"It's been tough," said Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver. "The best is yet to come."
The mayor held an economic summit to drive home that point.
"We need people that are educated and able to take advantage of the jobs that are coming," said Copenhaver. "They are coming."
Fort Gordon, Plant Vogtle, SRS, and the medical community were represented at Wednesday's summit. CarMax executives say they are currently fully staffed.
It has been a rocky ride to get CarMax open. We first heard about plans for the superstore back in 2008. The company started construction and planned to open in 2009. The down-turn in the economy slowed the process.