AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — South Carolina Senator Tim Scott started the “Opportunity Zone Program” in 2017 as a way to spark economic growth in low-income areas.
Some say Opportunity Zones have the potential to transform some of the most economically underdeveloped parts of the country and lift millions out of poverty.
The goal, to help promote investment, economic growth, and job creation in low-income and underdeveloped communities. Aiken County is taking part in the program.
“Areas like this appeal to local businesses and growing that local business environment as an incubator area to grow into larger business areas, that’s one of the goals,” Katy Lipscomb told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Lipscomb and Gail Bush Diggs have been watching development for quite some time in Aiken. Diggs as a councilwoman and Lipscomb as a small business owner. They say it’s a challenge to bring new ideas to District 1.
“We are trying to make it as appealing as we can,” Councilwoman Diggs added.
The pair and a number of others are holding a series of sessions they are calling Blending Visions in which you can share your ideas and what you want to be made into space that’s already available in the area.
“We thought we would get people together, sort of walk the area. Look at the parkways, look at how, where crosswalks would be good. Whatever ideas people come up. What’s a significant asset you see? What’s important to you?” Lipscomb said.
“Whether it’s businesses, restaurants, housing, we want to hear from people,” Councilwoman Diggs added.
There are a number of ideas officials already have. “We don’t have a free dog park. We have 179 parkways in Aiken may be one of the parkways could become a dog park. I feel like Richland Avenue is our railroad track. Not because any side of the road is different but you can’t get across it there are no crosswalks. There’s really no lights in the area, either,” Lipscomb shared.
But now they want to hear from those who will use the products and services in the area every day — you. “We’ve got business incentives, we’ve got historic tax credits. There are all kinds of tools, but you kind of want to plan what we’re trying to get so that we can get there. We are trying to be proactive,” Councilwoman Diggs added.
Session 1: Ideas Collaborative and Neighborhood Walks
Sunday, March 8 from 4-6 p.m. starting at the Farmers Market on Williamsburg Street.
Session 2: Entrepreneur Faire/Open Mic/Networking
Sunday, March 15 from 2-6 p.m. at the Indie Arts Market at 616 Park Avenue SE.
Session 3: Business Opportunities/Open Houses/Walks
Thursday, March 19 from 3-5 p.m. at the Farmers Market on Williamsburg Street.
“I think these three sessions are going to help us figure out what questions would you like to answer next,” Lipscomb said.