Originally created 08/01/96

Despite layoffs, Aiken still optimistic and growing



Despite layoffs, Aiken
still optimistic and growing

By Chad George
Correspondent
Web-posted July 31, 1996

The director of the Economic Development Partnership voiced optimism for economic growth in Aiken County at the Greater North Augusta Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting Wednesday.

Fred Humes said that despite the loss of 10,000 jobs at the Savannah River Site in the last several years, the area has brought in $453 million in new capital investment and 600 new jobs in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Mr. Humes credited South Carolina's strong business incentive package for new businesses. "Over the past 20 to 25 years, we probably have had the strongest incentive package in the United States," he said.

Mr. Humes also cited increased government and local, private-sector support after the SRS layoffs for what he called "an expanding industrial base " in Aiken County.

Also, Mr. Humes credited SRS management for working hard to maintain the remaining jobs at the site and selling vacated buildings to other companies.

The Economic Development Partnership, which serves Aiken and Edgefield counties, has recently completed a market study listing companies that are looking to expand and will contact these companies and launch what Mr. Humes called "an aggressive marketing campaign" to attract more new business.

Mr. Humes said he would like the area "to be known as the center of advanced technology." To achieve this goal, Mr. Humes said training and educating the work force is essential to attracting high-tech industries.

"If we don't have the (educated) work force, they are not going to come. They are going to go somewhere else," he said.

Mr. Humes cited several professions that have been difficult to recruit for, including tool and die makers and maintenance engineers. Educating, training and recruiting people into these fields should be a high priority, he said.

In related news, Leta Burnett, chamber executive director, said a recent membership drive has brought in more than 130 members. The new members bring the chamber's total membership to more than 450 businesses.