Greenville, SC & Winston-Salem, NC- An effort to revitalize downtown and the surrounding area in Aiken.
Aiken community leaders and officials came together for a special trip called the “Aspirational Cities Tour.” The tour, led by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, is the first of its kind.
News Channel 6’s Nicole Snyder was with the group during this tour. The group made three stops: Greenville, South Carolina, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
On the first leg of the tour, the group went to Greenville and Winston-Salem.
What may seem like a random piece of art in the downtown area of Greenville, South Carolina is all a part of the plan to keep the city vibrant.
“Whether it’s art, whether it’s quotes in the sidewalk or bells in the trees or statues, it’s really amazing how people like to engage,” said Nancy Whitworth, Greenville Deputy City Manager.
In the last decade, Greenville has transformed from its old days as a textile town to a thriving, technology-based community.
Whitworth told Aiken community leaders that a lot of the city’s success is due to public-private partnerships.
“It’s understanding what this community wants, then we can begin to talk about working with our private partners or non-profit partners, okay what is the best way to achieve that,” said Whitworth.
Whitworth said Greenville has focused on investments that are centrally located and used them at catalysts for the rest of the area.
“Greenville did such a great job using their resources like the Reedy River, and they built around that and focused on it, the main thing is they came up with a plan, they united behind it, and they worked towards that,” said Rick Osbon, a business owner in Aiken.
Aiken leaders are not only learning how to grow economically, but how to combine the community into an environment where people can live, work, play, and even do some yoga.
At the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, it’s about creating a place where people of all ages can network and collaborate.
That means everything from group exercise classes outside at Bailey Park or working together in labs on the latest research and medicine.
Innovation Quarter, located in the heart of Winston-Salem, is known as the area’s leading technology park. It’s already expected to grow exponentially within the next year.
“There are lots of ideas about financing, there’s lots of ideas about innovation and land and building use that we can definitely take back,” said Andrew Siders with Aiken County Council.
What now houses offices for biotech health research and new technology used to be a tobacco manufacturing warehouse owned by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco.
There has been more than $200 million poured into the 145-acre development in just the past couple of years. The park, anchored by Wake Forest, continues to be funded by public-private partnerships.
“I think Winston-Salem has done a very successful job of pulling in tax credits, looking for other money and private investors to put things that would be of interest to the citizens, and I think we can certainly use that and learn from that in Aiken,” Osbon.
For more on the Aspirational Cities Tour, check out part two of this report: