If there was any doubt about the lasting value of the cyber mission in Augusta, Gov. Nathan Deal put it to rest when he addressed a group of students from Augusta University’s GenCyber camp at the groundbreaking of the newly named Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.
“This is your future,” he said.
The groundbreaking event, just four months after the governor was at the same site to sign the budget document funding the center and just a little more than a year from the projected July 10, 2018, ribbon-cutting, was a milestone for the project, which will bring the state’s cybersecurity agencies as well as Augusta University’s cyber education programs into one building on a larger campus along Augusta’s riverfront that will eventually house a variety of cyber-related companies.
According to Deal, the original $50 million price tag has jumped to $60 million, and the proposed 150,000-square-foot building has grown to 168,000 square feet.
“Those expansions are contributable to partners who are coming and saying we want to be a stakeholder in this operation and in this facility,” Deal said. “That alone, even before we officially break the ground here today, is a great indication of the kind of acceptance this program has received.”
The center will expand on the federal government’s heavy cyber presence at Fort Gordon, which is home to the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence, NSA Georgia and the relocation of U.S. Army Cyber Command.
At the groundbreaking, Deal announced the building will be named after the two Augusta business leaders who initially brought him the idea for the cyber center back in December: James M. Hull and William McKnight.
“The construction of this facility represents the future of cyber innovation and cybersecurity here in Augusta,” Hull said in remarks just before the groundbreaking. He also praised Augusta University President Brooks Keel for his leadership in making downtown Augusta a hub of cyber training.
“I want to take this moment to compliment President Brooks Keel on his vision of downtown Augusta being an ideal area to foster cyber training and cyber education and the development of related industries,” he said. “Because of the leadership of President Keel and Gov. Deal and the others who are here today, we are surely on the right track.”
Besides a significant presence at the new cyber center, Augusta University’s health system recently announced an agreement to occupy space at the former Wells Fargo building on Broad Street, an agreement that includes naming rights for the 17-story building.
In his remarks, Deal also referenced an Augusta University cyber workforce study that estimates 13,000 of the 28,000 people involved in the cyber workforce are already here in Augusta, a number sure to grow thanks to the cyber center.