Local leaders optimistic about additional funding for Savannah Convention Center expansion

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Millions of more dollars could be coming from the state to expand the Savannah Convention Center.

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Brian Kemp outlined his 2021 budget priorities. The largest construction proposal was borrowing an additional $90 million to expand the state-owned convention center on Hutchinson Island.

State lawmakers have already dedicated over $94 million in funding to the project since 2017, which includes $70 million secured last July.

President and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council Mike Owens says now is the perfect time for the state to invest more in the expansion project.

“We know recovery is happening. We know it’s going to happen. We know that there is an end to this pandemic,” said Owens. “We as a community must make sure that we are ready for that recovery and this investment makes sure that happens.”

State Rep. Derek Mallow says what’s most important is that the project hires local workers for the over 600 jobs that will open up during the almost three-year-long project.

“What we’re talking about, in my opinion, is a post-pandemic recovery plan,” he said. “We’re going to need to make sure we have a vibrant workforce. We’re going to be looking at more economic investment.”

Although he praises the funding for the project, Mallow did express his concerns for other underfunded areas of the budget, including for mental health services provided by the state.

The two say the proposed additional funding was part of a multi-year development plan for the project and say it’s a great way to jumpstart Savannah’s economy once the pandemic subsides.

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