December 12, 2013
A blog has ranked Aiken County seventh in the state for job seekers.
Titled “The Best Places in South Carolina for Job Seekers,” the ranking is posted on www.nerdwallet.com – a finance analytics website. Posted on Dec. 2, the blog ranked Aiken County right after York and just before Pickens County.
Blog writer Annie Wang said the study took about three weeks and was based on three criteria: county growth, household income and unemployment rates.
“We are a consumer activist website. Jobs are a big topic, and people are trying to figure out where they can go, so that’s how we came up with the idea,” Wang told the Standard. “We’re a very analytical company, and we looked at several variables.”
The ranking can be found at www.nerdwallet.com/blog/2013/best-places-south-carolina-job-seekers/.
Local staffing agencies, public figures and legislators have offered their thoughts on the ranking.
Teresa Swafford, regional director of Manpower, attributes the ranking to the growth she’s seen in several areas locally. These include leisure and hospitality; wholesale and retail; construction; transportation and utilities; and nondurable and durable goods manufacturing.
“These positive hiring trends should continue into half of the 2014 year,” Swafford said.
While she’s optimistic about hiring, Swafford is also realistic about the uncertainty of the job market.
“Continued uncertainty plays a critical role in hiring decisions, and employers are forced to function in a fast-moving business environment where local and global events impact employment strategies more than ever before,” she said. “These new market conditions require our employers to think differently about workforce models and the talent they need for business success.”
Swafford added that the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership have collaborated to seek new businesses that promote growth and create jobs for the area.
Isaac Kelly from Aiken Staffing said Aiken’s success is predicated on its diversity of companies. Like Swafford, Kelly also said the company works with the Chamber to find productive ways to bring more jobs to the area.
“Aiken has a lot more to look forward to and agencies like ours are the first to see that because we get to look at the hiring trends for upcoming years,” Kelly said.
“Overall, the diverse makeup of our community gives us the stamina to have such a fruitful employment environment.”
When asked about Aiken’s employment ranking, Chamber President and CEO J. David Jameson referenced a recent article that highlighted Aiken’s success. In the Dec. 3 edition of the Aiken Standard, an article titled, “Times cites apprenticeship model” appeared on the front page. The article mentioned a New York Times story that highlighted a partnership between the Aiken County Career Center, Aiken County School District and diesel-engine manufacturer Tognum.
The partnership offers apprenticeships for high school students. Jameson said efforts like the partnership make Aiken a premier place for employment.
“(The story) recognizes innovation that has been recognized by many, including the White House,” Jameson said.
Will Williams, director of the Economic Development Partnership, said a ranking like this requires several things, such as long-term vision, commitment, collaboration and a daily focus.
“It demonstrates the hard work by County Council Chairman Ronnie Young and Aiken County Council over the years to ensure this is the premier location in South Carolina to locate a new manufacturing operation or expand an existing one,” Williams said.
Williams added that educational opportunities in Aiken – at the Aiken County School District and its Career and Technology Center, Aiken Technical College and USC Aiken – also assist in job creation.
“Additionally, it shows what a strong community we have where so many organizations that are key to economic development and job creation are working closely together almost every day,” he added.
S.C. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, recently posted about the blog in his constituent newsletter. Young agreed with the staffing agencies and other leaders about the work ethic of the community.
“The recognition received by Aiken County is the result of a lot of hard work by local leaders throughout our community,” Young said.
Young added that he’d like to see Aiken add to its success through more opportunities with various avenues of employment.
“I’d also like to see us build on our success by bringing more manufacturing jobs and high-technology jobs to the area,” he said.
Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh attributed the county’s success to several factors, including its growth every census year, residents deciding to settle in the county and a millage rate on property taxes that hasn’t increased in 25 years.
“I think it’s very good sign, especially when we’re placed higher than other prominent areas,” Cavanaugh said. “When you’re growing as fast Aiken does, that means more jobs and also more spending from visitors, as well.”
Cavanaugh added, “As long as we can keep that up, I think we’ll see more people coming to Aiken to live, and it’s clear why – overall, it’s a good place to be.”