Board & Staff

Board of Directors

Kerry Bridges, Chairman
Georgia Power

Christina Purkapile, Vice Chair
Booz Allen Hamilton

Rick Evans, Treasurer

Mark Wills, Secretary
South State Bank

Hugh Hollar
Colony Bank

Phil Gaffney
Gaffney Management Services & Retired Club Car

Jean Garniewicz
Community Leader & Former Planning Commission Chair

Stan Shepherd

Ron Thigpen
Former Commissioner & Banking Executive


Robert F. Bennett, MPA, CEcD
Executive Director

Robbie has been promoting economic development in the Greater Augusta area for nearly 10 years.  In 2013, he became Columbia County’s economic developer, serving as the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Columbia County.  During his career in economic development he has worked for the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Greenwood Partnership Alliance, Augusta Economic Development Authority, and the Development Authority of Columbia County assisting companies of all shapes and sizes including Advance Industrial, Capsugel, Fuji Film Manufacturing, GIW Industries, Rural Sourcing Inc., Rockwood Pigments, Starbucks, and Urban Outfitters, to name a few.  The local economic development teams he has supported have announced the creation/retention of more than 4,100 jobs and $790,000,000 in capital investment.

Robbie believes in the value of community involvement.  He is on the board of the SRS Community Reuse Organization, Advisory Board of TAG Augusta, Augusta Regional Development Alliance, CSRA Unified Development Authority, President of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, graduate of Leadership Augusta and Leadership Columbia County, and a member of the Young Professionals of Augusta.  In 2012 he was recognized by Augusta Magazine and the Augusta Metro Chamber as one of “Augusta’s Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch”.  In 2015, he selected as Lander University’s Young Alumnus of the Year.

Robbie holds a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Lander University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina.  He is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). Robbie is married to Trenney Bennett and they have two beautiful daughters.


Taylor Brittan Edwards, MPA
Project Manager

Taylor Edwards has been a life-long proponent of community engagement in the Augusta River Region. Having grown up volunteering across the metro and benefiting from the strong regional assets, she pursued an education that would allow her to have a career serving others. While attending university, she was an avid participant in political action groups, student government association, service groups, and community development projects. She is honored to have earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and to be a Scholar of Distinction. Upon baccalaureate graduation, she was offered a graduate assistantship where she authored a grant worth $30,000  and developed a servant leadership program for the university. She was also the Economic Research Intern with Develop Milledgeville and Baldwin County where she facilitated their Business Retention and Expansion Program and supported ongoing projects.

Taylor joined the Development Authority of Columbia County in May 2017 and is grateful to be a resource for the county’s existing industries and small businesses.  She oversees several programs as part of the authority’s business retention efforts and conducts research.

Taylor graduated cum laude from Georgia College & State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She also holds a Master of Public Administration from her alma mater. She is a graduate of Georgia’s Academy for Economic Development and began the Economic Developer certification process in Spring 2018.


Anita Patel, MBA
Office Manager