Ever since word got out last December that Fort Gordon had scored the U.S. Army Cyber Command Headquarters and the U.S. Army Cyber School of Excellence, the CSRA, particularly Richmond County and most particularly Columbia County, have been running around like kids on Christmas morning — out of their minds with excitement over what they found under the tree, suspicious of what others might have found and a little intimidated by the responsibility of it all. After all, once you finally get a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, you’ve got to make sure you don’t shoot your eye out.
Almost immediately, Columbia County responded with word of another military memorial — at the cost of $150,000. Goodwill gesture or sacrificial offering, it’s tough to know, but one thing is for sure — when it comes to growth, Columbia County has got the land, the schools and the desire to welcome newcomers with a smile (as long as it’s followed by a ch-ching), even if they are a little slow on preparing the roads for the increased traffic.
What they’ve probably already figured out is that most of these newcomers are coming from places like Washington, D.C., which makes Washington Road and the roads around Grovetown look like the Autobahn.
Without the land or the schools, Richmond County seems to have gone all-in on the downtown. Restaurants seem to be popping up all over and something close to a feeling of optimism almost seems to be growing among even the most cynical. Even if these folks don’t choose to live in Richmond County, the thinking goes, they’re pretty much going to have to come downtown if they want to experience a little culture. Or have a drink.
All of which made the Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG) Cyber Security Conference on Wednesday so important. Why? Because while we’ve all been spazzing out over what to do with this windfall, the rest of the state doesn’t really know much about it. What’s front page, banner-waving stuff here is just a little blurb on the business page everywhere else.
That’s an exaggeration, of course — tech companies consume tech news and many of the movers and shakers in the industry know exactly what the ramifications are for Augusta and the rest of the state, but IT is nevertheless a broad industry, and cyber security cuts through every aspect of it.
Retailers need security experts to keep them from being the next Target. Health IT workers are trying to keep health records secure while simultaneously streamlining their distribution along appropriate channels. And that’s not even bringing up the financial sector, which is perhaps the most vulnerable connection any of us will experience. The wrong website on an unsecured wi-fi network and you can kiss your assets goodbye, assuming you have any left after all the breaches.
It might be surprising to know that TAG has been around since 1999 and has some 25,000 members, including mid-market chapters in Augusta, Athens, Savannah and Columbus.
Not only that, but Georgia is actually a leader in several areas of information technology. In fact, 80 percent of all credit card payment transactions go through Georgia.
Yes, Georgia is more than peanuts, pine trees and peaches, and getting that message out there is important for Augusta, which finds itself at the epicenter of one of the fastest growing phases of information technology.
Not only is cyber security an economic driver, it’s an educational one as well. Currently, Georgia has approximately 3,000 unfilled technology jobs because there just isn’t enough talent here to fill them. Schools are scrambling to add programs to catch up to the need.
And as everyone around here likes to say — these are good, high paying jobs that bring the right kind of people (educated) with the right kind of assets (money).
Getting people together to talk about this stuff is important and constructive first step, because even if the horse you lead to water doesn’t drink right off the bat, he knows the water is here, he knows how deep it is and he knows how likely it is to stay full.
And this water we’ve got should be about as drought-proof and nourishing as any water out there, providing we don’t let it get stagnant.