SPECIAL REPORT: “Columbia County.” What’s in a Name?

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Great schools, quality of life and a friendly environment.

Ask some people where they can find all that and they’ll tell you Columbia County.

But, if you live in Columbia County, what do you tell friends who live out of town when they ask “Where do you live?”

Chances are, you say, “Augusta.”

Columbia County used to be full or rural land.

Boy, how times have changed and County Administrator Scott Johnson agrees.

“Being from Columbia County, I’ve really been able to see the county grow in ways that I never thought was possible. I can remember being in high school and only having two high schools when I graduated. It was kind of the east side and the west side,” said Columbia County Administrator, Scott Johnson.

Now, Columbia County is working all sides of its borders to build a community that’s attractive to new homeowners.

“And I think that’s what Columbia County has done well for a long time is trying to build community and try to make a quality of life that people enjoy and want to be a part of and really that’s what continues to attract people,” said Johnson.

Director of Economic Development,  Robbie Bennett, works daily to sell Columbia County.

With selling, comes branding the county which is something Bennett says has been a tough one.

“That’s probably our biggest challenge when talking about how do you sell Columbia County and it’s the same thing for the entire county, not just Evans, not just Grovetown or Harlem, it’s the entire county because we are next door to Augusta,” said Bennett.

Johnson agrees that it can be tough to put Columbia County on the map, living next door to a city that has a global and recognizable brand with The Masters Golf Tournament.

We asked if consolidation is an option?

“I would love to see that in my tenure, I know it was tried several years ago. There are a lot of great reasons for Columbia County to become an incorporated government, a consolidated government. Augusta- Richmond County is together, Athens-Clark County, Columbus- Muskogee County. So, you have one government that operates really as a city and a county. It really makes a lot of sense to be able to do that,” said Johnson.

97db1350df3a4750978ad3a3053d1579While Johnson says he doesn’t see it happening during his tenure, a consolidated government doesn’t mean the cities of Grovetown and Harlem would lose their unique identities.

“It wouldn’t take away from Harlem or Grovetown, they would still be their own cities, much like Hephzibah and Blythe, the way they are in Augusta but everything else is the city of Augusta,” said Johnson.

As far as selling, Bennett says the county has that down pat.

“We’re that upscale, suburban community with a lot of great recreational opportunity, great access to quality of life, and selling those pieces. Education is a prime seller. For us, you know you’re getting a good, quality education for the state of Georgia,” said Bennett.

So, while Columbia County continues to work on its branding, Johnson says this.

“Regardless of what the name is, regardless of what the brand is, what we want to do is make sure that we create a sense of place and that when you come here, maybe you don’t know exactly what city you’re in, maybe you’re not in an incorporated city, but you know you like where you are,” said Johnson.

Bennett says Augusta and Columbia County have a good relationship and when it comes to attracting business to the 28th fastest growing county in Georgia, he makes sure to mention the county’s proximity to Augusta, plus the proximity in  the state of Georgia and southeastern cities.

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