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Aiken businesspeople provide feedback to S.C. Chamber of Commerce

September 21, 2018

A distinct group of Aiken business and industry leaders on Thursday had the chance to influence the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s priorities and agenda for the coming year.

That morning, more than a dozen businesspeople converged on the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce headquarters for a S.C. Chamber of Commerce grassroots tour stop.

Each year, the state chamber completes a competitiveness agenda, which is informed by businesses across the state and local chambers. Last year’s agenda focused on workforce development and tax reform.

Ted Pitts, the state chamber president and CEO, on Thursday said about 20 grassroots stops would be made before 2019′s agenda is finalized.

At the Aiken stop, Pitts posed a handful of questions to the audience and recorded the answers given.

One of the first questions asked was if comprehensive tax reform was worth supporting.

A vast majority – 84 percent – said yes. Answers were submitted electronically and were tallied on screen before moving on.

Another question: Do you support sports betting in the state?

More than 60 percent of respondents said yes.

“The decision needs to be made based on what people think is the right thing for South Carolina,” Pitts said, “whether it’s already happening, and it’s pushed underground and this’ll bring it out in the open, or if they don’t want to because they think it brings ills.”

A little more than half the Aiken respondents said the state’s legal climate is detrimental to economic development. A little less than three-quarters of respondents said it’s time to reform the state’s energy policy.

“We’ve got some work to do on energy reform,” Pitts, a former legislator, said. “I think we’re headed to a place where they’re going to, the General Assembly is going to have that conversation.”

Pitts said the state chamber believes in “expanding renewables.” Solar energy was a hot topic last legislative session.

Roughly one quarter of survey respondents cited teacher shortages as the No. 1 issue affecting education. The question required participants to rank pertinent issues, which included lack of funding, inefficiency at the local level and school boards.

Pitts recognized shortages upfront.

“We have a teacher shortage issue. I don’t know if you have one here in Aiken, but, you know, it’s a problem,” the chamber CEO said, later adding: “The teacher shortage is the thing that I see that is kind of on the front burner right now with policy makers. It’s something we need to address.”

Pitts’ remarks received nods from the audience.

Rhonda Overbey, the Aiken Standard publisher, participated in the session and voted.

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