The members of the Aiken Young Professionals want to see more of an effort made in making this area a little more appealing to their generation, and they’ve taken the first step in making that happen.
Aiken Young Professionals was established in 2008 by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. The organization is for individuals from the ages of 22 to 39 and offers networking opportunities for young professionals in the area.The organization holds a variety of events throughout the year. The next Third Thursday event will be at Grumpy’s Sports Pub in the Publix Shopping Center on Feb. 21. Aiken Young Professionals is still offering the $35 beginning-of-the-year member special for anyone interested in joining.For more information, visit www.aiken-yp.com.
Aiken Young Professionals’ Chair-elect Derrick McLane stood at the front the City Council Chambers in which almost every seat was filled Monday evening to present some ideas that the organization brainstormed to provide an environment for young, career-minded individuals in Aiken.
“Aiken’s done so well in the past to be considered a retirement community,” McLane said to Council. “We, as the members of the AYP, hope that with this presentation that maybe we could start a discussion on how to maybe attract and retain professionals that are of the younger generation to become a part of the community since they are your future citizens and leaders of the community.”
McLane first discussed arts and entertainment, stating that more free events like the 5th Friday street festivals that the organization holds would be quite intriguing.
Councilwoman Gail Diggs pointed out at the meeting that she had attended one of the 5th Friday events, which are held in Downtown Aiken, and said that’s the kind of thing she could see bringing one of her two daughters back to the area.
“I think the best thing I remember is everyone dancing in the street to Preston and Weston,” Diggs said about the 5th Friday event.
McLane added that using existing facilities to bring in comedians and bands as well as holding open mic nights would also be something that young professionals would enjoy immensely.
McLane suggested in his presentation the establishment of affordable, trendy downtown apartments, the creation of more bike or walking paths, installing more sufficient street or sidewalk lighting for pedestrian nighttime traffic and using the parkways for outdoor seating or picnic areas.
The members of Aiken Young Professionals are also excited about the Union Street improvement plan and feel it has potential of growth in business on that end of Downtown Aiken, McLane said.
McLane also suggested looking at potential development down the west side of Richland Avenue to bring the downtown atmosphere closer to USC Aiken.
Lastly, the presentation included ideas for the City’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department to administer sporting leagues for casual games of flag football or kickball. McLane mentioned that it would be beneficial to think of ways of making younger residents, most who depend a lot on their cell phones, aware of the social applications like Facebook or Twitter that the City uses to keep them up to date on all the great programs or events the municipality already offers.
Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said he would like to continue the discussion and talk more about the ideas presented Monday evening. He feels like the dialogue between the Aiken Young Professionals and Council was a great start to reaching the goals mentioned.
McLane reiterated that the presentation wasn’t a message that Aiken needs reinvention but rather the implementation of some of the ideas from the younger residents into what is already in place.
“As you’re saying, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel or come up with the rims and the tires,” City Manager Richard Pearce said at the end of the presentation. “I think we’ve got it. I think it’s the pressure that we got in the tire to make it roll right.”
McLane said Councilwoman Lessie Price encouraged the organization to make the presentation to Council. Price feels that good things will come from the City and the Aiken Young Professionals working together. In fact, it has been suggested that a steering committee of young professionals be created to report to the city, offer input in policy and be more of a part in the citizens’ involvement, Price said.
“I’m so proud of that group and their method of how they want to get involved in addition to how they delivered their message,” Price said. “I appreciate the spirit and professionalism of how they conveyed their message. I see so many potential leaders within that group.”