AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Wednesday’s public meeting focused on what people want to see in their neighborhood. Leaders want folks to weigh in on different types of development, and where that development is needed.
In Aiken County, there are three opportunity zones. Two in North Augusta and one in the All America City in the northern section.
“It is a method for the federal government to encourage to put money in communities or portion in the community that just need a little more attention in investment,” explained the assistant to the city manager for business development, Tim O’Briant.
O’Briant says about 6,000 people are living in this zone. Unfortunately, the poverty rate sits at 41%, and just above 50% of those people who live in that zone are working. Aiken City officials and investors are aiming to change that.
“There has been a lot of question of what about what does the city want to see, or what project is the city planning,” said O’Briant. “We’re not.”
They want to see people back at work.
“What we are doing is we are marketing the fact that we are open for business,” said O’Briant. “We have available property. Some of it is an older commercial property that can be reinvigorated, and some of it is open land.”
City council members say they can help. They can encourage businesses to invest in the opportunity zone. If a company does, there are tax incentives.
“I see like the old Church’s Chicken that’s been sitting for years, said Harold Robinson. “The building is dilapidated. A couple of other buildings in the community, with the right resources, can be used in the right areas to employee people.”
Most people at the meeting say they hope this will be a funding tool to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities.
“I’ve heard the numbers; it was like 41% living in poverty,” explained Robinson. “I care about people and want to own my own business. If I can bless someone in that process, it helps the community overall.”
The prospectus document will release in Mid-October. That document will showcase investment opportunities in the City of Aiken.
Photojournalist: Will Baker