Augusta's diversified economic sectors and high growth continue to fuel robust job opportunity despite a sluggish national economy. Our city has received top honors in national rankings of housing markets, healthcare, tourism, workforce and business environments. As a testament to this, in October 2009, Business Week ranked Augusta #23 out of the 40 Strongest Metro Economies in the U.S, and Newsgeography.com ranked Augusta #20 in its compilation of Best Mid-Sized Cities for Job Growth in 2010.
Recognition of Augusta's economic strength doesn't end there. Forbes Magazine's November, 2009 Best Bang for the Buck Cities places Augusta at 5th in the nation, and, on its list of 100 Cities Where Americans are Getting Richer, Forbes ranks Augusta 44th. Southern Business & Development magazine named Augusta one of the Top 10 Comeback Cities of the South in 2008. The publication also cited the 1,800-acre Augusta Corporate Park as a Top 10 MegaSite in the South in 2009. MSN/Money Magazine has also recognized Augusta, naming it the second Most Recession Proof City in the United States in 2010. Likewise, in 2010 the Brookings Institute named Augusta the second Strongest-Performing Metro area in the U.S. and the seventh Most Resilient Metro Economy in the nation. Augusta came in at #18 on the Brookings Intstitute's ranking of cities for Economic Performance. Contributing to the city's steady growth, stable economy and desirable quality of life are Augusta's strong base of manufacturers, large employers, world-class medical community and strategic military base.
Home to 12 hospitals, 2 biotechnology business incubators, several life sciences companies and Georgia Health Sciences University, the medical industry alone is estimated to infuse Augusta's economy with $5 to $8 billion dollars yearly. In fact, Augusta has the highest concentration of healthcare in the Southeast and is widely recognized as a healthcare destination. Healthcare employment represents greater than 14% of the area's total workforce and is projected to grow 12% over the next ten years.
A source of strength for the local economy, the medical field currently employs approximately 19,867 people plus more than 2300 doctors and medical researchers. Augusta actively encourages the development of emerging research and health-related sciences. In particular, Georgia Health Sciences University's Interdisciplinary Research Building is opening the door to Augusta's future as a biotechnology corridor. Here laboratories and offices are breeding grounds for life sciences entrepreneurs and research. The Georgia Medical Center Authority is also dedicated to making Augusta a hub for research and development.
At the core of technology-based employers in the CSRA is the Savannah River Site (SRS). This U.S. Department of Energy facility develops and uses technologies to improve the environment and treat nuclear and hazardous waste left over from the Cold War. With a workforce of nearly 12,000 people, over 1000 of whom are research scientists with advanced degrees, and an annual budget of $2 billion, SRS is adjacent to the Center for Hydrogen Research, the only facility of its kind in the world, and the Savannah River National Laboratory which is designated as a federal national laboratory research facility.
The Augusta region is leading the country in the renaissance of clean energy through commercial nuclear power and alternative fuel. With construction underway, the Augusta Region's Plant Vogtle facility will be home to the first two new reactors built in over 30 years, ensuring an abundant supply of power for a growing region. Additionally, Augusta's designation as the golf car capital of the world is driving world-class innovation in the development of electric cars.
In support of the rapidly changing world of communication, commerce and technology, Columbia County is poised to construct a 220-mile fiber optic network. As the recipient of a $13.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Columbia County's Information Technology Division plans to enhance broadband infrastructure which will connect 150 community institutions, such as public health and safety services, as well as serve the very high bandwidth needs of private sector enterprises.
Since 1941, Augusta Regional Airport has played a significant role in the economic development of this community. Three major airlines (U.S. Airways Express, American Airlines and Delta Connection) provide nonstop service to two hub cities, Atlanta and Charlotte, and from 2006 to 2010 airport traffic increased 55.5%. Waiting areas have free Internet connections and travelers can also take advantage of gourmet coffee and food bars. Augusta Regional Airport tenants and visitors contribute approximately $300 million in economic activity to the area each year. With the construction of a new airline terminal, the airport, conveniently located seven miles from downtown, continues to propel the community forward, embracing the vision of Augusta and the CSRA. Future plans for the 400+ acres of developable land adjacent to the airport's two cross-runways include an aviation-related industrial park.
The Augusta region also boasts an impressive list of world-renowned, advanced manufacturing companies including Proctor and Gamble, Nutra-Sweet, John Deere, E-Z-Go Textron, Club Car, Elanco, International Paper, Standard Aero, Tomberlin Electric Vehicles, Covidien and Kellogg, just to name a few. Augusta's rich history in manufacturing, going back to its roots in the milling of cotton, has created a strong foundation for the fabrication and movement of products and services for consumers around the world. Augusta-Richmond County is the 6th largest county in the State of Georgia for imports and exports through the Port of Savannah, which is now the 5th largest seaport in the U.S.
Augusta is also home to companies such as Convergent ERS, T-Mobile and Automatic Data Processing, which have made investments of nearly $100 million in new facility operations and brought 2500 new jobs to the area. And just across the river in Graniteville, S.C., Bridgestone/Firestone has the world's most technologically-advanced tire factory. Only nine miles from Augusta, the facility has won numerous awards since its opening. Next door neighbor, Columbia County hosts top area employers, too, including Quad Graphics, Georgia Iron Works, Augusta Sportswear, Greenfield Industries, Serta Mattress and Pollard Lumber.