Worker influx povides opportunities for Aiken

AIKEN --- Aiken County officials eyeing the impact on their county of Savannah River Site's $1.6 billion in stimulus funds see some good -- and some not so good -- things happening.

 

The good: 3,000 new jobs planned over a 30-month period, which likely means increased sales tax collections.

"The magnitude of the dollars, it's pretty staggering when you think about it," said County Administrator Clay Killian. "It's just a lot of money coming into this economy and the national economy as well."

The not so good: Possible strains on county services and infrastructure from so many new workers.

"I think that's something we need to be talking about," Aiken County Councilman Chuck Smith said at a recent council meeting.

Mr. Killian said the jobs should mean more business for restaurants, hotels, rental housing and apartments.

David Jameson, the president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has been working hard to secure many of the new SRS jobs for local residents.

Mr. Jameson said those jobs should start getting filled soon.

"You're going to really see more of that coming in this next 90-day period," he said.

Already two medical practices in Aiken and Augusta have been granted contracts to oversee pre-employment physicals for prospective stimulus job hires. The contracts are valued at $500,000.

"I'm an optimist, but I'm convinced that this amount of spending and this amount of employment in this short amount of time will kick us out of the recession," Mr. Jameson said.

County Councilman Willar Hightower said he believes two-thirds of the stimulus-created jobs will go to local people.

"I don't think there is any downside to receiving money," he said. "Whatever money we get in, we have infrastructure to support it. The more money comes in, people are going to spend it. And we'll get more sales tax collections faster, which allows us to do projects faster."

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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