NORTH AUGUSTA --- Gov. Mark Sanford's tour of Aiken and Edgefield counties Wednesday celebrated new jobs and educational opportunities, but also showcased the area's attempts to stay economically competitive.
Sanford said his visit at the grand opening of Graniteville's $45 million MTU Detroit Diesel plant correlated to the opportunities that charter schools like Fox Creek High could offer students in the future.
"Choice is simply a means to speeding up the rate of change," the governor told Fox Creek staffers.
Sanford also told school board members that the school's small size was vital as competition in education grows and those students compete globally for their jobs. Offering smaller classes would show greater academic gains over time, he said.
Even with 1,200 local applicants, MTU hired only 50 local employees.
"Having choices and diversity of academics is vital to the larger notion of change," he said.
As Principal Tim Murph showcased class sizes of fewer than 16 students, top-ranked seniors sang the praises of their teachers for knowing not only their names but also their goals.
"I feel like I have a personal relationship with all of my teachers and even the administrators," Jessica Horton said. "I just feel honored that I get to share that with Gov. Sanford."
Sanford commended the school on being fiscally prudent by pursuing federal Department of Agriculture grants to build its facility rather than relying on an increase in property taxes and the Edgefield County School District.
Sanford's visit included a briefing with the Aiken County legislative delegation on pending lawsuits to move nuclear waste from Savannah River Site to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The briefing was part of transition efforts as Gov.-elect Nikki Haley takes over next month.
Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said the process is very much "wait and see" until a 15-member federal Blue Ribbon Panel, appointed by President Obama, tours the site next month.
"I think everyone was just looking for updates and to know we're on the same page," Massey said.