Key Chamber Programs Under Way
The Business and Community Development arm of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce is at full speed with several programs and initiatives already underway for 2010.
"We have definitely hit the ground running in 2010 with goals designed to move our community forward in several key areas," said Dr. Deidre Martin, University of South Carolina Aiken, vice chair of Business and Community Development for the Chamber.
"I'm excited about our Business and Community Development programming," said Chamber Chair Liz Stewart, Stewart and Associates, Inc. "The diversity of the scope of work is incredible, from small business to young professionals. The progress of these programs in just six weeks shows the level of commitment and enthusiasm of the people involved. I think it is an omen of the kind of year we are going to have," Dr. Stewart said.
Equine Steering Committee
"We are especially excited about the work of the Equine Steering Committee and the addition of Ed Scanlon to the Chamber professional staff. We expect to see good progress in the coming months as we plan for the International Horse Park and an integrated trail system," Dr. Martin said.
Scanlon was hired last month as manager of Equine Development for the Chamber. In this role he will spearhead efforts to grow and preserve the $72 million-plus equine industry in Aiken County.
The new position moves the Chamber forward in meeting its vision of growing and preserving the revered horse industry. It is a vision that has been in the making for the past three years, beginning in 2007 when the Chamber formed a task force to begin understanding how it could support the equine industry.
In 2008, the Chamber contracted with the School of Business at USC Aiken to produce an Equine Economic Impact Statement, which revealed that the equine industry is a $72 million economic engine in Aiken County. The research and study produce a valuable tool that highlights the importance of the area's equine industry.
In 2009 the Chamber built upon the 2008 Equine Economic Impact Study by bringing together representatives of the various equine disciplines to help develop a plan to preserve and grow Aiken County's equine industry. Approximately 14 disciplines are now represented on the Chamber's Equine Steering Committee with nearly 100 participants.
Under the leadership of board member and equestrian business owner Samantha Charles - Sidelines, the Barn Book, and Hatchaway Bridge Farms - four sub committees were formed to move goals and initiatives forward. The sub committees meet on a regular basis and include Conservation/Open Space/Integrated Trails, Horse Park, Marketing, and Governmental Affairs.
Scanlon will work closely with these sub committees, the Equine Steering Committee, the Chamber leadership, and others in the community to advance Aiken County's equine industry. The Chamber's program of work includes two specific goals:
the development of a plan with a timeline for an equine trail system
the development of a plan with a timeline for an International Horse Park that will ultimately leverage the existing equine infrastructure.
Aiken Young Professionals (AYP)
Another program that hit the ground running early in 2010 is the Aiken Young Professionals. The group held an in depth strategic planning session in mid January and has developed a strategic plan that will focus on the attraction and retention of young professionals and that will align the group closer to the Chambers mission and goals.
With a well defined vision and bold action steps for 2010 and beyond, the Aiken Young Professionals, with AYP Chair Josh Stewart, J.E. Stewart Builders, Inc., are moving forward and preparing to take the group to the next level. That level includes networking, community service, and educational events designed to nurture future leaders of the Greater Aiken area.
"Our Aiken Young Professionals group continues to grow and to reach out to their peers as they implement initiatives that emerged from their January strategic planning session. I am very pleased with how they are progressing," Dr. Martin said.
For more information or to join the AYP group, please go to www.aikenchamber.net or call the Chamber at (803) 641-1111. The AYP is also on Facebook.
Women in Business
The Women in Business program is set to launch April 14 with a program theme designed for both the Spring and Fall Series. The theme, "Business Success - Inside and Out" will address the components that lead to business success, including health and wellness as well as dressing for success. Details of the Spring Series will be covered in the next issue of the Commerce Report.
"We definitely have an exciting program planned for our Women in Business this year. I think everyone will be pleased with the topics and the presenter," Dr. Martin said.
Plans are already underway for the 2010 Aiken's Makin', and meetings of the various committees have already begun. "While it might be hard to believe we're already thinking about it, we are gearing up for September's Aiken's Makin' and working closely with the City on the parkway changes and how we can make Aiken's Makin' even better in 2010," Dr. Martin said.
Task Force on Best Practices
On of the Chamber's 2010 initiatives under Business and Community Development is to create a task force to research best practices of other communities that help entrepreneurs and small businesses expand. The task force is being led by Immediate Past Chair Joe Lewis, Savannah River Banking Company, and will report its findings to the board this spring.
"This new area of focus is especially important with the current economic conditions. I look forward to their report in a couple months," Dr. Martin said.