Meet Bart Blackwell and read his review of the Chamber's mid-year progress

Bart Blackwell is the 2015 chair of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the Chamber board of directors since 2010. In 2012 and 2013 he served as vice-chair of public affairs and in 2014 as the chair elect and vice-chair of membership services.

Blackwell is the president and owner of B & S Machine Tool. He is a former Air Force officer and began his manufacturing career nearly 24 years ago as a program manager for a defense contractor.

Before joining B & S Machine Tool, he led the development and manufacturing efforts of a startup medical device manufacturer and holds patents for the Lotecon Personal Care System.

Blackwell is a 2003 graduate of Leadership Aiken County, has served on the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee, and is a former scout den leader and youth soccer and baseball coach.

He received his B.S. from the College of Charleston and an M.S. from the University of Southern California.

Blackwell reviews mid-year progress of the Aiken Chamber

Why is the Aiken Chamber important to Aiken and its business community?

Aiken’s future as a desirable place to live, work and visit depends upon a dynamic, diversified, and growing economic base that complements the unique character of Aiken. I believe economic prosperity is the primary means of supporting a quality of life that is distinctive to Aiken. The Chamber exists to create opportunities for members to build successful businesses and enhance the quality of life.

How is the Aiken Chamber growing an economic base that complements the character of our community?

For this question I will have to go back to the Blue Ribbon Panel we assembled in 2013 and the recommendations it made for Aiken’s future. This group of strategic thinkers brought us a list of recommendations and we are using a multi-year plan to chip away at that list.

What are some of the recommendations that are currently being worked on?

Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in the community, establishing an annual benchmark report, learning from other communities and expanding the importance of economic vitality are some of the recommendations we are working on right now. I feel great about our progress.

How is the Chamber learning from other successful communities?

David (Jameson) and I will lead a group of about 50 business and community leaders on a trip to visit three different aspirational cities this September. These are forward-thinking folks who will be looking at the successes in those communities and how they were implemented. Our goal is to return with at least one great new idea for Aiken that we can put into action right away, something that can truly make a difference to our economic future.

What specific initiatives has the Aiken Chamber taken to make Aiken a desirable place to live, work and visit?

Three initiatives come to mind. The Aiken Young Professionals, which I believe is now in its eighth year, has helped to attract and retain the talent needed to take Aiken forward. A second initiative is the Young Entrepreneurs Academy which has just completed its very successful first year and has exposed students and those who work with them to the world of business and entrepreneurship. Finally, the Chamber’s commitment to being the eyes and ears of the business community and having a local government liaison at public meetings to keep the Chamber up to date on issues that affect the business community is very important.   

Why is the annual Benchmarking Report important to Aiken’s future?

This report helps the decision makers in our community focus on enhancing Aiken’s strengths and trying to eliminate or neutralize its weaknesses. It allows decisions to be made based on facts rather than relying solely on what we think is happening and provides a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of those decisions.

Thank you, Bart, for serving as the chair of the board of directors of the Aiken Chamber.

It has been my pleasure to serve as the 2015 Chair, and I look forward to the rest of my term. I love Aiken and the lifestyle we have here, and I truly believe a vibrant and healthy business community is critical to maintaining it.  

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