Celebrating Organic Growth in Downtown Aiken

Guest post by Avery Spears-Mahoney, the Director of the Aiken Downtown Development Association and member of The Mill on Park Advisory Council, Aiken’s new downtown office community supporting small business.

Shadowing the recent efforts by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and the City of Aiken with the development of 2014 goals, the Aiken Downtown Development Association will continue to strive to be an advocate for local small businesses. In the coming months citizens will notice a variety of programming that will offer community members opportunity to support the downtown core. Not only is it essential that we support businesses that put dollars back in our local economy, but buying local also ignites a sense of pride in supporting home-grown businesses that are locally owned and operated. Our downtown business owners continue to give so much back to our great city. Through community support and the “shop local” initiative Aiken can strengthen, and in turn, grow what downtown offers.

Beginning next month in June, the Alley in downtown will host the Aiken Farmer’s Market on the first Thursday evening of each month. The collaboration between local growers and downtown businesses attest to the renewed efforts to bring diversified shopping opportunities to Aiken consumers. Partnering two established institutions like the Farmers Market and the downtown community help solidify the Aiken Downtown Development Association’s commitment to bringing quality products and entertainment to the Aiken community.

Change is coming now. An example is the recent opening of The Mill on Park and the partnership it has with USC Aiken. Collaborative efforts like this help build a spirit of entrepreneurship within the community and represent a new wave of fresh ideas. By offering support services that foster ultimate success, The Mill will spawn innovative small businesses that will go on to create jobs and offer products and services that enhance the local economy. These startups have the potential of changing the face of downtown Aiken as they grow into established small businesses and take residence in other spaces in and around downtown. Their success ultimately represents our community’s collective growth! Concepts that are a focus of ADDA such as mixed-use development, rehabilitation and reuse, and pedestrian orientated design, all major characteristics found in The Mill project, are vital to developing a viable downtown district.

The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is more than a motto, it is an important piece to a more sustainable downtown district. We all share the same goal of living in healthy, vibrant communities where we can live, work and prosper. ADDA is excited to be working with Dumpster Depot on green initiatives to improve recycling efforts and be more environmentally conscious. By choosing to grow in a smarter, greener, more sustainable manner; we can preserve our historical inheritance, protect our environment, and enhance our quality of life, all while growing our economy.

Collectively, our downtown businesses define what is unique about Aiken. Established small businesses currently serving downtown play a vital role in offering a variety of services to support the demand of a growing Aiken community. With new industry and expansion of old, downtown retailers have answered the call by offering more diversified products for consumer enjoyment. To sustain and ultimately grow our downtown, it will be a combined effort for the small businesses to continue and answer to the needs of the consumer and too, for the consumer to support these businesses so that they may see continued success.

The future is bright and because of efforts and programming as offered by the ADDA many great things can be expected from the Aiken downtown community. Local Leaders and small businesses must continue to champion cooperation between the public and private sectors. Aiken will continue to see success and growth from small businesses in and outside of Aiken’s downtown for years to come.