Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

May 13

The Augusta Chronicle on city's economy:

Solid. Smooth. Doesn't make a whole lot of noise.

That describes the sound insulation and vibration absorbers that automakers install in their products.

You also could use those words to describe Augusta's economy.

So in a way it's a coincidental fit that Acoustic & Insulation Techniques, a manufacturer of automobile acoustic and insulation materials, has chosen Augusta as the location to set up shop in North America.

The company is based in Barcelona, Spain, and produces the substances automotive engineers use to make passengers' rides quieter. It goes in the doors, the dashboard, the trunk - anyplace in a car that can create or amplify noise. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are just a few of AIT's clients.

The plant it intends to start in Augusta is AIT's very first in North America and it's expected to be up and running by the middle of this summer, employing 45 people, in Richmond County's Forward Augusta Industrial Park.

It plans initially to use 75,000-square-feet of a 298,000-square-foot building, but AIT signed a 15-year lease that includes an option to expand to an additional 75,000-square-feet if needed. We certainly hope it's needed.

The company's CEO cited several reasons AIT chose Augusta. It's close to their American customers and potential markets. It's got ready access and proximity to major highways, an airport and the Port of Savannah.

You might not think 45 new jobs coming to town is a big deal. If you merely look at the raw numbers, maybe it isn't earth-shaking.

But in the same way that numbers join together to produce a successful mathematical formula, the business and industries of the Augusta area join together to produce a successful, all-weather economy.

We've written before about how Augusta's economy isn't flashy. It's all about slow-growing stability. When economic times are bad nationwide, Augusta's market actually looks a bit better because it can better withstand hits from a recession. When times are better overall, Augusta appears to lag slightly - but again, shortfalls don't become worse because of the stability. The solidity of health care and the military as two big area job sectors is a big plus, too.

We would add diversity. Augusta doesn't have all its eggs in one economic development basket like a rusting mill town in the Northeast might. We attract a variety of businesses - such as manufacturers of acoustic components for automobiles.

The Augusta Chronicle Business Editor pointed out another factor in his column Sunday. Augusta has something manufacturers want - buildings, waiting for tenants. Local governments, especially in the 1980s, would construct "spec buildings" already wired and plumbed as enticing carrots for potential industries. That's not being done nearly as often these days - and at a time when manufacturing is resurging and businesses are looking for warehouse space, there's not a big inventory of available buildings.

Fortunately, in AIT's case, Augusta was in the right place at the right time. And Augusta should be in the right place for more business relocations for years to come.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com

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May 11

The Savannah Morning News on HBCUs' governance:

Separate but equal is perhaps the most contradictory term in America's history.

Segregation was anything but equal and left a stain that still marks us here in this city and this state more than a half-century after its abolishment.

Recently, several Georgians, including state Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah 2), identified an inequality when it comes to the state's public historically black colleges and universities. And they are employing a counter-intuitive protest tool — a re-segregation of sorts.

Sen. Jackson has proposed forming a separate public university system specifically to govern Georgia's three taxpayer-funded HBCUs. He introduced a bill on the next-to-last day of the 2019 legislative session that would create the Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical University System, to be comprised of Savannah State University, Fort Valley State University and Albany State University.

The measure would carve the three schools away from the other 23 public higher ed institutions, establish a Board of Regents to govern them and provide for a separate budget line item to fund them.

The move has roiled higher ed stakeholders across the state, including Jackson's peers on the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and administration and alumni leaders at the HBCUs.

Jackson's bill preempted the filing of a resolution prepared by an HBCU study committee, a group of state lawmakers who explored the financial issues surrounding Georgia's public HBCUs. The Savannah senator declined to share the details of the bill — or even disclose its existence — with his fellow legislators until just prior to filing it. The tactic left them "incensed."

Jackson received a similar reaction while addressing a SSU alumni association meeting last weekend. Bypassing stakeholders was a show of "disrespect," several alums told him.

The criticism is neither surprising nor disheartening to Jackson.

He moved decisively — and largely unilaterally — out of frustration with the situation. He was disappointed in the HBCU study committee's lack of urgency in releasing its findings. And he feared that had he not acted to draw attention to a perceived imbalance in how the state's public schools are treated, the three HBCUs would suffer.

Specifically, he worried that the Regents would pick Savannah State's next president without involving SSU stakeholders. And judging by the sidebar conversations during the recent alumni meeting, others shared Jackson's concerns.

An interim president will succeed the retiring Cheryl Dozier on July 1. The search for a permanent president will begin at an as yet undefined later date.

The search process calls for the Board of Regents chairman to appoint campus committees, which will include faculty, staff, students, alums and community leaders. They will work with a consulting firm to identify candidates and eventually recommend a group of three to five finalists. From there, the Regents make the choice.

The process mirrors the one used to select Georgia Southern University's new president, Kyle Marrero.

But Jackson and SSU alums fear the Regents will shortcut the process and "force" a president on Savannah State. This has happened with the HBCUs in the past, they assert, including in Dozier's promotion from an interim to a permanent post in 2012.

Concerns about the SSU president's opening and Sen. Jackson's push for a new HBCU system is indicative of a larger issue within the public higher education structure.

The Board of Regents numbers 17 members, one from each of Georgia's 12 congressional districts and five selected at the governor's discretion absent geographic considerations.

Currently, only one Regent is African American: Sarah-Elizabeth Reed. And she's not a product of a Georgia HBCU; she attended the University of Michigan and Howard University law school.

The last Regent to have attended a Georgia public HBCU left the board in 1999.

Advocates for the state's black colleges can clearly claim a representation problem. The lack of diversity is striking and should be addressed at the next opportunity — January 2020, when five seats are open.

Sen. Jackson won't admit it, but getting more African Americans on the existing Board of Regents is his endgame. His re-segregation push has drawn attention to the racial makeup of the Regents, but the method has infused ugly prejudice into the appointment process.

He and other advocates may have been better served to use their influence in a less divisive manner.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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May 9

The Valdosta Daily Times on giving local, minority contractors edge in school project

Local and minority contractors should be given the first crack at working on the Lowndes High construction project.

That is what we believe and that is exactly what school leaders said they would do.

It is still very early in the process and we have no reason to believe that the board of education will not keep its word.

Last September, District 1 school board member Mike Davis said, "All we want as a board are local suppliers, vendors and workers involved in this project. It's not fair for us to spend $55 million of taxpayer money that goes somewhere into another county."

Mike was spot on.

We could not have said it any better.

Prior to that, when the massive rebuilding project was first unveiled Superintendent Wes Taylor said local and minority contractors will be prioritized so money spent on the project will remain inside Lowndes County as much as possible.

Again, he was right.

Even if a local or minority bid is slightly higher than an out-of-area bid, it just makes good sense to stimulate the local economy and keep the money at home.

We don't want local and minority contractors to have an equal opportunity, we want their opportunities to win bids to be more than equal.

The important thing to remember is that the board of education has discretion in who gets contracting bids.

Don't take our word for it.

The school system's attorney, Warren Turner, told the board last fall that it has a voice in the bid approval process by the construction management firm.

At that time, Turner said, "The intention is to request that the construction management crew solicit bids from anyone in the local area within the county to submit a response to their bid. We get to make a determination as to which bid is accepted, so absolutely we have control over it."

Again, it is still very early in this process and there should be many opportunities for local and minority contractors to bid on projects they are qualified to complete.

We urge the project manager and the board of education to keep the process as open and transparent as possible and even go beyond what is required to make sure that qualified local and minority contractors have all the information they need to attend meetings, meet deadlines and submit bids.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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