Aiken & Edgefield Counties, South Carolina

With the combination of work force, transportation amenities, and ready-to-go sites, Aiken/Edgefield wins the "Triple Crown."

By John L. Tobiah

History, tradition, and rich southern charm make Aiken & Edgefield Counties in South Carolina extremely alluring. Framed by Columbia, SC and Augusta, GA, this graceful community has been a racehorse- training site and playground for the wealthy since the late 1800s. But when it comes to providing the right location for corporate success, the area exchanges its genteel ways for a direct, determined approach.

As a result of this decidedly pro-business attitude, Aiken/Edgefield has ranked among the top three small markets in the South for five of the last ten years, according to Southern Business & Development magazine. Amid intense competition, Aiken/Edgefield has earned this distinction for its proven record of drawing new companies along with continued investment from its existing industry base.

The combination of a well-trained work force, low construction costs, outstanding tax incentives, a solid transportation infrastructure and a great quality of life have made Aiken/Edgefield the frontrunner in so many corporate decisions. Together, the two counties are home to a diverse industry mix. Local Fortune 500 companies include Kimberly Clark Corporation, Carlisle Tire & Wheel, Automatic Switch Company (Emerson Electric), and Pepperidge Farm Corporation (Campbells Soup Company), and United Defense LP (FMC).

A strong global presence has also emerged in the area. Many companies with international parents, such as Bridgestone/Firestone South Carolina (Japan), GlaxoSmithKline (United Kingdom), SKF USA (Sweden), UCB Chemicals (Belgium) and Rieter (Switzerland) call the community home as well.

Believing that the strength of a community lies within its existing industry base, Aiken/Edgefield is committed to providing "service after the sale" to all of its companies. "There are no more important companies than the ones that already call our community their home," explains Fred Humes, director of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership "Over two-thirds of new capital investment and job creation originates from expanding industry, indicating a strong sense of satisfaction from our existing companies."

Newcomers and companies that have been in Aiken/Edgefield for decades attest to the exceptional productivity of local workers in relation to other areas of the U.S. With an area-wide population of 500,000 (in the Aiken,SC -Augusta, GA MSA), Aiken/Edgefield offers a work force of 73,000. Another 250,000 workers are within a 45-minute drive.

Aiken/Edgefield also boasts a particularly large number of highly skilled, educated workers for a community its size. The presence of the Savannah River Site, which has been charged with developing technology for the U.S. government since 1950, provides a constant flow of technology-oriented individuals.

In addition to the large, technically skilled work force, most plant managers cite the community's concentrated transportation grid as a primary reason for locating in Aiken/Edgefield. More than two-thirds of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive of the area. And, this South Carolina location sits directly on Interstate 20, making it particularly ideal for companies that serve the growing Southern Automotive Corridor.

With its tradition of excellence, Aiken/Edgefield is also preparing for 21st Century growth sectors. For example, an initiative at the nearby Savannah River Site involves applied research with medical isotopes. The opportunity for commercialization of this burgeoning technology opens superb opportunities for nuclear medicine companies, pharmaceutical firms, cryogenics companies and similar endeavors. In addition, the Savannah River Site is home to the world's leading experts on hydrogen-powered fuel cells, a technology that also has strong future-potential.

Clearly, Aiken/Edgefield is leveraging its brainpower and its technology to drive its future. In addition, area leaders are actively developing sites to house the diverse and growing industry base. In Aiken County, Sage Mill Center for Advanced Technology offers a perfect location for companies using robotics or other sophisticated manufacturing processes. Edgefield County is home to the area's newest industrial park, an ideal site for most types of manufacturing

In the end, it's the combination of work force, transportation options, and industrial sites that put Aiken/Edgefield in a "photo finish" for so many deals. However, quality of life is where the community makes one of its strongest showings. If your company is looking for the opportunity to be close to two major metros, but out of the busy lifestyle; to have all of the big city amenities, but at a quieter pace, look no further than Aiken/Edgefield, South Carolina.

For more information on Aiken & Edgefield Counties, visit www.edpsc.org