October 21, 2014

The Economic Development Partnership celebrated its 30th anniversary at its annual meeting Monday, highlighting its commitment to meeting the needs of new and existing businesses in Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda counties.

From 1984 to 2014, the partnership has helped to bring in capital investments of almost $10 billion and to create 22,263 jobs in the region. In the last fiscal year, ending in June, the partnership oversaw new capital investments of $42.5 million that led to the creation of more than 600 jobs.

“These investments come from both existing and new industry,” said Gary Stooksbury, the chairman of the partnership’s board of directors. “We had a very good year this year of executing our mission of raising per capita income, increasing the tax base and diversifying the economy.”

Stooksbury also outlined the partnership’s key developments during the last year. Saluda County joined Aiken and Edgefield counties in the partnership on July 1, making the “region stronger as a whole,” he said.

During the last fiscal year, the partnership incorporated the Applied Research Center, making it an affiliate with its own government and board of directors. Researchers at the center are working on hydrogen, solar, wind and microwave energy technology and other forms of advanced technology.

In conclusion, Stooksbury said, “I know we are aggressively marketing our region for new investment opportunities and working with our existing industries to help foster expansion.”

Will Williams, the president and CEO of the partnership, outlined some of the partnership’s other accomplishments:

• In July 2013, MTU, a diesel-engine manufacturing facility, invested $22.5 million and created 10 new jobs to build out its research and development test center.

• Recleim, a recycling plant, announced it will hire 200 employees for its facility at the former Hickman Mill in Graniteville. It should open by the end of the year or in early 2015.

• In April 2014, Medac, a provider of services and products to anesthesia-related health care providers, announced a $12 million investment that will create 612 jobs at a new facility in North Augusta. The operation should open in mid 2015.

“We’ve had existing companies expand and new companies come to the area,” Williams said. “That’s what you’re always looking for. You want a good balance of the two.”

Williams said the partnership has worked closely with the Aiken County School District, Aiken Technical College and USC Aiken to prepare the local workforce for the jobs of the future.

He also said the partnership has worked to change the paradigm that manufacturing jobs are low-skill and low-paying.

“The average yearly income of manufacturers in this area is about $58,000 a year for an employee,” Williams said. “As we like to say, manufacturing works. Build a career on it.”

Williams said the region we can be very competitive in maintaining existing business and helping attract new industry.

“Our pipeline is full of potential projects, and I’m encouraged by these opportunities from companies that are both new to the region and are already here and looking to expand,” he said.

Ronnie Young, the chairman of the Aiken County Council; S.C. Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville; Dean Campbell, the chairman of the Edgefield County Council; and S.C. Rep. William Clyburn, D-Aiken, also spoke.