June 9, 2014
A recent study ranked Aiken as one of the top cities in South Carolina to live.
CreditDonkey.com compiled a list of the top 10 cities in South Carolina after analyzing data on crime, commute times, income, education and restaurants. Aiken was ranked No. 3, coming in behind Lexington and Port Royal
The rankings were compiled using data from the U.S. Census Bureau for commute time, income and education attainment, the North American Industry Classification System for restaurants and the FBI for crime, according to Charles Tran, a spokesman for CreditDonkey.
The entire study can be viewed by visiting http://bit.ly/1uykvCl.
According to the study, the odds of being a victim of a violent crime in Aiken are 1 in 267; the average commute time is 20.9 minutes; the average income is $53,825; the percentage of residents who attended some college is 21.6; and the number of restaurants per inhabitants is 1 per 328.
The study called Aiken a “centrally-located city with a progressive business community and a strong arts scene.”
“Just north of Augusta, Georgia, Aiken is a major draw for science and engineering professionals, and the University of South Carolina’s satellite campus attracts thousands of students each year,” the study stated. “Both crime rates and commute times are at the lower end of the scale, while incomes are higher. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, as well as numerous local attractions including the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Redcliffe Plantation.”
Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said it’s always good to receive such recognition, but that he wants to see the City build on it.
“It’s very good for our city, and we need to build on it and continue to do those things that can make our city even better,” he said.
Cavanaugh said he was most proud of the city’s decreasing crime rate. He noted that the City went from recording seven murders in 2012 to just one in 2013, and praised the new Safe Communities initiative that targets repeat violent offenders.
“The most important thing we can do is have a safe city, because that leads to everything,” he said. “If you don’t have a safe city, people are not going to want to move to the city, people are not going to want to go out shopping, and that’s going to hurt the businesses. If we can do that and do it well, the other things will fall into place.”
Lt. Jake Mahoney, a spokesman for Aiken Public Safety, said the department was honored by the news.
“The Aiken Department of Public Safety, along with our community partners, works tirelessly to provide our residents with the most professional, dedicated and responsive services that we can offer,” he said. “Any successes that we have had along the way are a result of the tremendous support we receive from the community and through the partnerships we have forged.”
David Jameson, president and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, said he is pleased to see Aiken set aside as a model for other cities.
“The recognition is very satisfying,” he said. “We can’t let this sort of recognition lull us to sleep. As a community, we can continually improve. What steps would it take to be No. 1?”
Cavanaugh and Jameson each said the news is especially good after a study by USC Aiken business professors indicated that the city is approaching zero growth and the county is approaching negative growth.
“Recognition like this is good for drawing attention,” Jameson said. “It reminds people that we’re alive and well. And, it encourages folks to take a closer look at Aiken as a place to live, work and invest. We must all work hard to reignite economic vitality for our community. Everyone benefits from a dynamic economy.”
Cavanaugh noted that Aiken has grown with each Census report since 1880 and said fluctuation in employment at the Savannah River Site has rippled into Aiken’s population.
“We need more projects out there to bring more people in to work at the projects,” he said. “We need MOX to go through and be built. That is something very important to our country.”
‘Not just horses or golf’
Aiken residents were also pleased with the honor, and had some other views on why Aiken is a great place to live.
Micki Reikiel said the hospitality is the best part about Aiken.
“It’s laid back but yet vibrant,” she said. “They’re always looking to reinvent something to keep the young and the old together. It’s not just horses or golf.”
Jane Huff agreed.
“It’s a nice cosmopolitan city. There’s something for everyone,” she said.
Diana Moore moved to Aiken from just outside Philadelphia, and said the variety of activities and attractions is one of the best things the city has to offer.
“It’s not, ‘What are you gonna do’ but ‘Which are you gonna do’ because there’s so many things you have the opportunity to pick from,” she said. “There’s just too many things to do here that I would never have had the opportunity to do.”
Even younger Aiken residents are aware of what the city has to offer.
“It’s friendly,” said 11-year-old Brodee Stewart. “Everyone just helps everyone else out.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.