Read Aiken Aspirational Cities Tour Part 1: http://abc6.wjbf.com/1FDSgf3
Raleigh, NC- Aiken community leaders came together for a special trip called the “Aspirational Cities Tour.” The tour to three cities, led by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, is the first of its kind for a group this size.
The first two stops on the tour in Greenville, South Carolina and Winston-Salem, North Carolina created awareness for incorporating arts and technology. The stop in Raleigh, North Carolina harped on innovation. Raleigh has grown tremendously in the last decade and has increased its appeal to the younger generations.
As Aiken community leaders toured Raleigh, North Carolina by bus, they learned about the ways the downtown area was revitalized in the past decade.
The city has been able to garner the attention of the younger generation. A current statistic shows 71 percent of the population is under the age of 47.
“A lot of the graduates that are coming out of our university system choose to stay in Raleigh,” said James Sauls, Economic Development Manager for the City of Raleigh.
By focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, the city is building on small businesses that have made an ideal job location for millennials.
“I think a lot of that can be accomplished in partnership with the local university, who is coming out of the university, who can you get to stay there versus leaving to go to other opportunities, and then also working with the other local companies,” said Sauls.
Aiken community leaders addressed the struggle of trying to mesh the older and incoming populations in a historic town.
“There are mutual things that we can agree upon that older generations and the younger generations will appreciate as well,” said Lessie Price with Aiken City Council.
HQ Raleigh is an example of a space for young, thriving entrepreneurs, it’s a special space that allows them to gather and talk about innovation, which has been a main source of growth for the area.
A cup of coffee to open up the dialogue on the future: the creators of HQ Raleigh believe it’s the simple ways that can help propel new ideas into concrete businesses.
“We’ve seen ways that we can nurture start-up business, we’ve seen some ideas for how we can enhance the city center and the lifestyle throughout the city and we’ve seen a number of other examples of how these cities help businesses grow and thrive and that’s one thing we are very interested in,” said David Jameson, President and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
Collaboration, a reoccurring theme on the trip, kept Aiken community leaders thinking about what other partnerships they could make with others to grow the downtown area.
“Our town has done well with a private-public partnership with the theatre with AECOM downtown, certainly, they have made a huge investment and there are a number of other investments like that, that we can make that will really make our city much stronger than it is right now,” said Price.
Whether it’s fostering the relationship between young professionals coming out of school or creating new places for ideas to blossom, there is one lesson many could take away.
“We need a clear plan for the future of Aiken and we need leadership to cause it to happen,” said Jameson.
On Monday, Aiken City Council will take a vote on the first reading of a five foot height increase for Hotel Aiken. On the trip, city leaders talked about the success of an established hotel to bring more people downtown and create more business.