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Augusta, Ga., Home of New National Cyber Headquarters

A local alliance is even repurposing itself to help the Augusta region coordinate and maximize the limitless opportunities a new cyber center is expected to create.

(TNS) -- Buckle up. The entire region is going for a wild ride into uncharted stretches of cyberspace.

Even before the ceremonial breaking of ground for the U.S. Army's new national cyber headquarters at Fort Gordon last Tuesday, the ground was being prepared all over for what is potentially this region's most dynamic changes ever.

Technology giant Unisys moved here in 2015 -- with a ribbon cutting at the old Fort Discovery building on the river last February -- to be near the Army Cyber Command. Unisys is expected to bring 700 or more jobs to Augusta, and expanded parking is being prepared behind the old train depot on Reynolds Street.

Local schools and colleges have scurried to ramp up computer-related education, and student excitement, to pave the way for a more cyber-savvy workforce.

And importantly, the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, a nonprofit created in 2003 to -- ironically enough -- help save Fort Gordon from any notion of closure, is now repurposing itself to help the Augusta region coordinate and maximize the limitless opportunities the cyber center is expected to create.

From the start, the Alliance has involved and been supported by the best minds and most civic-minded and patriotic leaders this area has to offer. Its benefactors have amounted to a Who's Who in the region's business world, and the Alliance has brought together public leaders from multiple counties in a spirit of apolitical cooperation that has been unsurpassed by any other entity.

To have such an organization now turn its sights on helping the region into the brave new world of cyberspace travel is nothing less than a gift to every one of our communities in a seven-county region.

That's the geographic scope of what the Alliance is calling a Cyber District: Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties in Georgia, and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.

But in truth, there is no limit to what can happen with this new mission -- which is technically being assigned to Fort Gordon, but which will involve many defense-industry and computer-industry companies as well as every other walk of life. Our infrastructure will have to grow, and already is; our retail shops and restaurants will grow; and downtown will no doubt get younger and more vital.

The Alliance is currently staffed by Command Sergeant Major Tom Clark -- once the senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of the Army Signal Corps and Commanding General of Fort Gordon, and a soldier's soldier we have tremendous respect for. The organization plans to get him some help, with a national search for a CEO type to join forces with Executive Director Clark.

Why is all this important to you? Several reasons.

First, it's important we all get our arms around this. It's huge -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Augusta region, as Alliance Chairman Stan Shepherd noted recently. The cyber explosion, combined with North Augusta's Project Jackson development, Augusta University consolidation downtown, the growth of the Augusta Canal facilities, unprecedented roadwork due to the T-SPLOST sales tax and more, means there's a perfect storm of rapid progress hitting the area.

"I'm not even sure we have a handle on just how big this storm is going to be," says Alliance board member Paul Brewer. "We've got one chance to get it right. We aren't going to have this kind of opportunity probably ever again -- and not too many cities ever do."

In addition, there will be opportunities for new and exciting careers for those -- young and old -- who get in the game.

And the more the community gets behind this rocket ship, the further it will go.

Even those not employed directly or indirectly by the cyber industry would do well to immerse themselves in its culture. We encourage the Alliance to provide opportunities for that immersion -- perhaps in the form of public forums, seminars and even TedTalk-style events. There are many folks for whom the rampant talk of cyber-this-and-that may be meaningless, if they don't understand the term and its implications.

Our own view is, with smart phones and other computer-related activities so widespread and integral to almost everything we do -- even waiting for a table at a restaurant can involve getting texted on your phone -- that "cyber" is simply where you live.

And if you live anywhere in the seven-county area, where you live is about to change. Big time.

©2016 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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