If 2003 was a year of economic recovery, 2004 should be a year of prosperity for McDuffie County.
There are road projects galore on the books, a new economic development recruiter already in place and more airport improvements planned.
There are also myriad hopes and dreams simmering in the minds of community leaders -- just waiting for the right trigger or opportunity. These range from the physical development of the industrial park on Cobbham Road to the construction of a bass tournament facility on the banks of Clarks Hill.
And then there's City Councilman Mike Carrington's push to recruit a national chain restaurant for one of the lots near Interstate 20 on Washington Road. That's something everyone in the area should support.
McDuffie County has already established itself as a destination for fox hunting, cross-country equestrian events, bass fishing, softball, baseball and several other sports -- not to mention family reunions and overflow from Augusta events.
The hotels to handle such events are in place. So are the gas stations, shopping centers and other amenities. And while McDuffie County's restaurants do a wonderful job of serving the public, there is something missing.
And that piece of the puzzle is an Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's or the like -- some place where people could get a drink with a reasonably-priced food and an atmosphere for all ages.
And before you say it will never happen, remember this: A Ruby Tuesday's for McDuffie County fell through late in the planning process earlier this year.
Such a restaurant would be a place that would catch travelers' eyes on the interstate, drawing them in even if they had no other purpose in the county. It would also be a feather in the county's cap -- something other businesses or industries would see as a testament to the potential of locating in McDuffie County.
Recruiting such a restaurant should become a team effort, joining representatives from the tourism board, chamber of commerce and economic development.
Granted, an Applebee's isn't a 500-employee plant or a tenant for the county's industrial park. But it could be a tenant for the boarded-up Denny's/Shoney's building on Washington Road.
And that's much better than nothing at all.