Local elected officials and leaders have been lobbying lawmakers to make a Hinesville Armstrong Atlantic State University satellite campus a possibility, and it’s a project worth fighting for. Seeing the project through to completion, however, may be an uphill battle.
Gov. Nathan Deal complicated things by stripping from the state budget a request for construction of the campus. Even if our area delegates are successful in getting the $4.75 funding request back in the budget, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas thinks the real challenge may be getting someone in the Senate to fight for the bill, assuming it does cross over. We sure hope someone is willing to take up the cause.
A satellite AASU campus in Hinesville would be a boon to the economy and a wonderful addition to the downtown area, which in recent years has seen some growth and development. Furthermore, the campus would be a great complement to the proposed new library, which is part of the Memorial Drive redevelopment project.
Having college students stroll up and down the streets on their way to and from classes would boost revenue for existing retailers and eateries in the city’s business district while encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to get the ball rolling. The infusion of cash into business owners’ operations also helps the local government. Despite recent millage-rate increases, Liberty County’s revenues still are lagging, and County Administrator Joey Brown said the issue essentially stems from running for three years on a declining tax base without increasing taxes or cutting services. The presence of students in the heart of the city could do wonders to help that declining tax base when it comes to point-of-sale transactions.
And the campus would bring more than just students to the area.
A satellite AASU campus would bring needed jobs to Hinesville. With the current metro area unemployment rate at 8.9 percent — up from 8.5 percent the month before — we can scarcely afford to shun potential earning opportunities for area residents.
And finally, there’s the benefit of having a well-educated population. The local school system is full of bright children who deserve the opportunity to continue their education close to home. Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards recently pointed out that several children in the community qualify for the HOPE Scholarship but don’t have the financial means to commute to Savannah or Statesboro to earn a four-year degree. Allowing these students to advance their academic careers right here in Liberty County makes for an overall improved quality of life.
Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway; Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Garden City; and Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, have indicated they are pushing for Hinesville’s AASU satellite campus. Good luck to them in touting the project’s many benefits, and please don’t give up the fight.