A thought leader is described as one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential. In the spirit of the New Year, we spoke to four local thought leaders of different ages and professions about their hopes and dreams for 2017.
Mayor Hardie Davis
The Elected Leader
Mayor Hardie Davis has always been in the people business.
Early in his career he helped keep the lights on for families as an electrical engineer; then he brought light into people’s lives as a pastor; and now as a politician and mayor of the city of Augusta, he’s shedding light on those issues and solutions that can help improve the lives of its citizens.
Right now, his spotlight is on opportunity.
“We’re on the verge,” he says. “I’m honored to lead this city at perhaps one of the most transformative times in our history.”
He points to Cyber Command coming online at Fort Gordon and the major research university that Augusta University has become. Then there are the multimillion-dollar investments by companies such as Solvay, Unisys, ADP, E-Z-GO and EdenCrete, bringing hundreds of service economy jobs. Combine that with those intangible benefits Augustans have always enjoyed—a location two hours away from mountains, beaches and cities such as Atlanta and Charleston, as well as a low cost of living—“We should really be talking about what makes Augusta the best place in the state of Georgia in which to live, learn, work and to raise a family, and that’s really what I think we’re on the verge of in these next days ahead.”
And it’s what will attract—and retain—bright people who want to be a part of a progressive city, adds Davis. As mayor, one of his goals has been to be a champion for the roughly 32,000 students in Augusta and to ensure the city is a place where they want to return to raise a family—instead of matriculating away and planting their talents in another city. He wants to nurture other generations too, who can lend their perspective, wisdom and guidance.
It will take these people and a partnership between the private and public sectors to keep Augusta on an upward momentum in the coming year, Davis says. He has two major goals for 2017—to transform the river region as well as the Gordon Highway corridor. The first step will happen in early spring when the city breaks ground on a new $14 million transit facility at the old Regency Theater site.
“Inherently the challenge (for all this) is bringing the right people to the table from a private sector perspective, who are willing to take not only risks but who are willing to take their own capital and make those investments,” he says. “As a city, we’re going to take the first step…that’s going to be the jumpstart, the catalyst to not only demonstrate to our private sector that we are serious but that the city is committed to growing all of Augusta.”
Looking downtown, the view from the windows of the Municipal Building onto downtown Augusta hasn’t changed in decades. But Davis cites the excitement surrounding the two new hotels that are being built, totaling a $60 million dollar investment made possible in part by a local government focused on creating the right climate for these kind of investments, starting at the licensing and permitting level.
“Our skyline is going to change—that’s (the sign of) a progressive city,” says Davis. He adds, “These are our best days, and with increased collaboration between our citizens, between the private sector and government, Augusta is going to do things that we’ve never done before.”
This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.