ATLANTA – Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis told a group of journalists and government officials from across the state Wednesday that he considers his city in competition with surrounding communities for jobs.

“When we look at competition, it can be healthy,” he said.

The communities that an employer didn’t pick benefit at the same time as the community the company did select for its site, he said.

“In our region, we’ve got a number of counties there, and we do, in fact, compete against one another. The reality is if Company X decides to build a facility in my city and my county and the residents live in the adjoining county, we both win.”

Davis was one of five mayors from across the state participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and the Georgia Municipal Association. The main topic was differences between how metro Atlanta and other cities grow and get tax resources.

Many observers say the competition between Atlanta and cities like Augusta, Columbus and Macon is tilted in favor of the biggest metropolitan area when it comes to things like job recruitment and money for roads.

On the question of transportation, Davis said the sales tax voted in by the region is fueling considerable road building independent of the state.

“Our region and the solutions we’ve engaged in have allowed us to be inside the region and solving problems on our own,” he said. “The resources that we’re expecting from the state, that shifted on account of TSPLOST (transportation tax) in our case. It’s the reason that there are other things we are able to do in terms of moving people that help us augment what the Transportation Department may or may not be able to do.”

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson agreed that the transportation special-purpose, optional sales tax, or TSPLOST, has been good for her region as well where it also passed in 2013. That’s despite analysis that shows Columbus could have kept $80 million more for its own purposes if it had not shared the tax with surrounding counties in its region.

“If you’re thinking about giving $80 million to surrounding communities, that’s tough,” she said.

Davis also called on the state’s congressional delegation to do a better job bringing home federal spending for transportation. He pointed to a story in The Augusta Chronicle this week reporting that 38 states get a greater share of federal spending per population than Georgia.

“It’s a critical issue,” Davis said. “We need to rally around our Washington folks and encourage them to do more than give us a short-term transportation bill. When you talk about big initiatives, such as (intercity passenger rail), you can’t go the way of success without a portion of support at the federal level.”

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