The budding cybersecurity center on the outskirts of downtown Augusta is set to dramatically expand before the first phase is even completed.
Gov. Nathan Deal and state officials on Wednesday broke ground on a $35 million addition to the cybersecurity campus, which is to be built a few steps from the $60 million centerpiece that is still under construction.
Together, the Cyber Innovation and Training Center and the incubator hub are expected to be just the initial phases of a cybersecurity research and development compound on a 17-acre site along the Savannah River.
“There are times in life when opportunities present themselves,” Deal said, adding: “We’ve seized the opportunity to do something about cybersecurity.”
The Augusta area is staking a major claim on the growing cybersecurity field. More than 40,000 Georgia residents now work in the field, including about 13,000 in the Augusta area.
Many of them are code breakers and intelligence analysts who work at nearby Fort Gordon, which is home to a major National Security Agency command. The Army will open a new Cyber Command on site this year.
Deal announced last year that the state is putting skin in the game to help train the next wave of cybersecurity experts.
The campus sits on Augusta University’s riverfront land, and it includes classroom space, research laboratories cleared for top-secret work and a “cyber range” where new intelligence weapons will be created and tested. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also will house a cybersecurity facility on site. Both phases are set to open in the next year.
Why build a second phase when the first one still hasn’t been completed?
“Demand, demand, demand. That’s the reason,” Deal said, adding that the state was flooded by requests from government agencies and private contractors for more space after he announced the first phase last year.
The governor, entering his last year in office, said the project is a chance to help an east Georgia region that’s in need of high-paying jobs.
“Much of what we hear the media talking about is what’s happening in the metropolitan Atlanta area. And much is happening there. But we need diversification of where opportunity exists,” he said. “And this is a chance to take advantage of it.”
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