Third Generation Building Aiken's Future
Joshua Stewart, chair Aiken Chamber of Commerce
Joshua E. Stewart, a third generation Aiken small-business owner, will continue the legacy of his family by building Aiken’s future as the 2018 chair of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
Stewart said, “My family’s business has been a part of this community for 62 years and I am proud to serve as the chair of the Chamber in its 100th year.” He continued, “A community needs an organization that isn’t afraid to get out and push a bit. We can never be complacent and must always be looking over the horizon. My family taught me about effort and commitment, and I will teach my children the same as I continue my family’s service to Aiken.”
The Stewart’s family story began in Aiken when James Stewart, Sr. moved here from Greenville with his wife Ruth and infant son in the early 1950s. He came as one of the many workers tasked with building the Atomic Energy Commission’s Savannah River Plant. Seeing the need in the Aiken area for a quality homebuilder, Mr. Stewart formed Stewart Builders and began building for Aiken’s future in 1955.
With a superior reputation in the residential market to build upon, the company moved into light commercial work in the mid-1960s and later into the industrial and commercial business when the mortgage market slowed down.
James Stewart, Jr., began working for his father during summer breaks from Clemson University and gradually took on more responsibility for the family business after graduation. He married Sharon Dunn in 1975 and their family grew over the years to include three children, Joshua, Whitten and Nathan.
Stewart, Jr., officially acquired the business in 1987 and grew the company substantially until his retirement in 2015. He served as the Vice Chairman, Small Business Development, for the Aiken Chamber in 1995 and was named the Small Business Person of the Year in 1998. He served in the South Carolina Legislature representing House District 86 from 2003-2010.
Joshua Stewart began working in the family business during high school as an estimator. He followed the family legacy and attended Clemson University where he studied civil engineering. Upon graduation he moved to Charleston, where he was a structural engineer with Britt, Peters and Associates, Inc.
Joshua had the ability and opportunities to go anywhere with his career, but in 2007 he chose to return to his Aiken roots where he and his brother Nathan joined their father full time at Stewart Builders. Stewart, Sr. was very proud to have his son and grandsons in the family business. He was known for stopping by the office almost daily to sit and chat with his two grandsons up until the day he passed away in 2014.
The next few years were very busy ones for Joshua despite the economic downturn across the nation. In addition to working for Stewart Builders, he began his own business focused on the engineering and structural side of the building business. J.E. Stewart Engineering, Inc. was founded in 2008 and Joshua is the principal and engineer.
In 2007, Aiken was just starting to grasp the importance of attracting and retaining young professionals to the area. Joshua worked with others on the Chamber’s Young Professionals Initiative aimed at attracting and retaining young professionals ages 22-39 to Aiken. The Aiken Chamber formed the Aiken Young Professionals (AYP) group in 2008. While running his own new business, Joshua held a position on the AYP steering committee under the leadership of the now Senator Tom Young, Jr., and helped research other similar groups across the country. Stewart served as the organization’s chair for two terms He received the Most Valuable Young Professional award in 2009.
He married Erin Parks in 2009. Erin is a Physician Assistant at Medical College of Georgia. Joshua says he now has three very personal reasons for wanting to continue to build Aiken’s future. They are his children: Parks - 6, Ansley – 3, Connor – three months.
Joshua also serves the community through the Rotary Club of Aiken, Friends of the Aiken Railroad Depot Board, Aiken Technical College Foundation Board and he serves on the Design Review Board for the City of Aiken. He is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of South Carolina, the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Institute of Steel Construction.