Building Aikens cyber future

The Aiken area is ramping up initiatives to accommodate the needs of the expanding Cyber District centered around the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command at Fort Gordon where two-thirds of the U.S. Army’s construction budget is being spent to build the Cyber Command headquarters by 2022.

 “It is imperative that Aiken recognize the importance of the cyber ecosystem that is building in the region and deploy a local strategy to attract investment and job creation related to current opportunities,” said Aiken Chamber President/CEO J. David Jameson. “There is also the opportunity to sell Aiken’s livability and close access to Augusta and Fort Gordon to those families relocating to the area.”  

The Aiken Chamber’s Compelling Place to Live Task Force recommendations and work were originally completed to address the need to attract working families to replace jobs open because of the large number of retirements expected in the area. However, the task force’s purpose and recommendations also apply to this new need, to attract and retain business investment, jobs and working families in the growing cyber ecosystem.

An informal group of stakeholders has been convened by the Aiken Chamber and has met since November to discuss ways to enlarge the “winner’s circle” so that Aiken is included in the economic boost that will continue for the next few years around cyber. This collaboration includes government, industry, private sector and academia.

The Savannah River National Laboratory and the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative will be sites for primary research associated with cybersecurity. “In preparation for expansion of a cyber-corridor, USC Aiken is in the process of seeking permission to launch a new cybersecurity concentration within the computer science program,” USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan said. 
Aiken Technical College (ATC) is developing a certificate program that will align with USC Aiken’s new baccalaureate program and currently offers various technology certificates including internet coding and game design.

Connectivity is important to attract technology savvy employees and entrepreneurs working in the cyber arena to the area. A partnership between the Economic Development Partnership, Aiken County Public Schools and the Aiken Chamber will fund an access study to determine the area’s fixed broadband capabilities so that current strengths and weaknesses can be identified. By carefully mapping Aiken’s available infrastructure and then overlaying the most recent census data, the IBM Watson computer can be used to pinpoint and prioritize specific locations for infrastructure/connectivity improvement.

The Savannah River Site Community Resuse Organization (SRSCRO) has hired The Institute of Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), known as America’s cybersecurity think tank, to provide an assessment of the region’s ability to meet the cyber needs of the Department of Energy (DOE). With the location of the the Department of Defense (DOD) Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon, our region is an ideal place to form a cybersecurity collaboration between DOE and DOD at the Savannah River Site.

The Economic Development Partnership, is working to recruit private industry which will support Army Cyber Command. “Aiken County has positioned itself for contractors for Cyber Command to be able to quickly locate and be operational with minimal difficulty,” said
Will Williams, president/CEO, Economic Development Partnership. “With premier office properties, along with easy access to the fort and state and local assistance, Aiken is ready.”   

The Aiken Chamber of Commerce has launched a social media campaign to promote Aiken to individuals relocating to the area with cyber. Ads emphasizing Aiken as an excellent place to live, work and play are being run in the Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, area where many of the working families and support businesses are currently located.

The Aiken County Public School District is developing a cybersecurity curriculum beginning in elementary school and has created marketing materials specific to military families. The School District will assign a student ambassador to new students being relocated and will honor the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for military children.

The Aiken Chamber and its partners are working daily to build Aiken’s future.


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