Attracting Aikenís Next Generation
Aiken is an excellent place to live, work and play, but to remain vibrant, it must become more attractive to new workers, families with children and early career professionals.
According to the 2015 Regional Workforce Study conducted by the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO), Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties in South Carolina and Columbia and Richmond counties in Georgia are expected to average about 7,500 job openings annually between 2014 and 2019. These jobs are both new jobs and replacement jobs due to turnover and retirement. Finding competent skilled workers is imperative to the success of the area’s economy. Many occupations in the region have a large percentage of workers that are age 55 and older, and in some occupations, more than 10 percent of the workers are estimated to already be 65.
“The looming wave of retiring workers poses a significant challenge for regional employers but so does the challenge of attracting and retaining the thousands of new replacement jobs,” said Chamber President/ CEO J. David Jameson who also serves as Vice-President of the SRSCRO Board of Directors. “The challenge does not solely rest with the regional employers. Our community must come together now to help address this pending challenge.”
The Aiken Chamber of Commerce recognizes the importance of planning for Aiken’s future. Chamber Chair Charlie Hartz, Dunkin’ Donuts of Aiken, has appointed a 24-member task force to develop strategies and recommendations to effectively develop, attract and retain young professionals with and without families to the area to meet the workforce needs of business and industry.
The Compelling Place to Live Task Force will be chaired by Dr. Sandra Jordan, Chamber board member and chancellor of USC Aiken, and the vice-chair will be Rick McLeod, President/CEO of Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization.
According to Dr. Jordan, “Over the past several years, the Aiken Chamber has commissioned various studies that look at how our city is performing in economic, environmental and social terms. While the studies indicate that Aiken has much to be proud of, they also reveal that there are significant areas of concern that must be addressed to secure the best future possible for our community. The task force will study Aiken’s trends, review model cities to determine those elements that make a city a compelling place to live, work and raise a family. Ultimately, we will produce a report that will outline the immediate and long term actions needed to achieve the most compelling future for Aiken. Our hope is that the report will inform others in their task of enriching this community in which so many choose to live and make their homes.”
Vice-Chair Rick McLeod noted a quote from John F. Kennedy as his inspiration for helping with the task force – “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”
“This task force is an opportunity to shape the future of Aiken and the region to be a compelling place to live, work and play,” McLeod said.
Education, recreational and quality of life amenities, quality child care, transportation, housing, multi-generational activities and regional connectivity are some of the issues the group will research. It is intended that the Compelling Place to Live Task Force leverage the experiences, expertise and insight of key individuals from organizations with a vested interest in seeing Aiken succeed in solving the pending workforce dilemma. The task force has a well-defined focus and expects to provide a decisive list of strategies and recommendations that can be implemented in a relatively short time period.
The final report will be submitted to the Chamber Board of Directors at its August meeting.