AIKEN -- With a national civic award, a new multimillion-dollar industry and a potential award recognizing its aesthetic image under its belt, Aiken may now be poised to become a prime draw for more industry, city officials say.
Aiken was one of 10 cities to win the All-America City Community Award and $10,000 on June 7 in Kansas City, Mo. The 48-year-old honor recognizes exemplary grass-roots problem solving and collaborations in cities between the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Three collaborations in Aiken were highlighted in Kansas City: the Show Your Heart Community Task Force that brought open heart surgery to Aiken Regional Medical Centers; Growing into Life, which has helped reduce infant mortality in Aiken County; and Stone Soup, a grass-roots movement geared to restore pride and peace in city neighborhoods.
Also in June, Aiken was named one of five cities in the Southeast region with populations greater than 5,000 to make the final cut for the Prettiest Painted Places in America competition.
The goal of the competition is to find an array of places that exhibit a range of architectural styles and exterior coatings.
Competing against Aiken are Selma, Ala.; Miami Beach; Columbus, Ga.; and Charlotte, N.C.
"We've already ruled out every city in South Carolina who participated," said June Murff, Aiken Chamber of Commerce president, who entered the city into the competition. "To me, what that award would say is `This is what image a town is presenting to the world."'
Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said the awards and national publicity Aiken has received will help market the city better.
"The more you can publicize and showcase your community the more people will see it, and the more they see it the more your chances of getting businesses," he said.
It may already be working.
Officials announced last week that Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. would build a $435 million tire plant in Aiken County. The company will eventually hire about 800 people.
The 1.5-million-square-foot plant will be built on a 550-acre site near Interstate 20, across from the existing Sage Mill Industrial Park.
"Bridgestone looked at 1,000 sites in the country and chose Aiken County," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "It was a fast-track process. They started looking in April. I'm looking for more businesses to come into the community."
Fred Humes, director of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership, said any time a community can demonstrate that it's head and shoulders above other communities it leaves a positive effect.
"The economic development business is a very competitive business," Mr. Humes said. "The more you can talk about your product the better off you are. The awards and distinctions (in Aiken) are a marketable tool."