TO THE CLOSING OF AN AIKEN BUSINESS STAPLE: Pepperidge Farm will be shutting down its Aiken bakery by March 2014, forcing 115 people to lose their jobs. Management suspended operations at the facility on Thursday, but resumed work Friday morning at the plant that has been open since 1976. The first layoffs are expected to begin in September.

We hope to see all of those employees make a smooth transition and find new employment in light of the company’s announcement. Fortunately, Pepperidge Farm will offer employees a comprehensive support package that includes compensation, access to employment specialists and meetings with financial advisers.

The company will also organize job fairs, where companies looking to recruit workers can meet with the Pepperidge Farm employees.

Aiken has recently experienced superb growth with the additions of Academy Sports, Longhorn Steakhouse and Sam’s. The bakery’s closing, however, is a harsh reminder that communities are still vulnerable to changing market conditions.


TO THE SERVICE AND RECOGNITION OF A LOCAL WAR HERO: Aiken resident Richard Wayne Jolley was among seven World War II veterans to receive France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, during a ceremony held Monday in Charleston.

Jolley, age 88, served as an Army infantry rifleman, earning the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster and the Bronze Star Medal during his military career. He arrived in Normandy in France five weeks after the D-Day invasion in 1944, and was wounded in when shrapnel from artillery fire hit him in a thigh and damaged a finger.

We’re filled with pride to see one of Aiken’s own receive such a prestigious honor, especially one who has lived in our city for nearly 60 years. We hope he and all service members are shown the respect and recognition they deserve.


TO INCREASED HOMELESSNESS IN SOUTH CAROLINA: The number of people living on the streets has increased 28 percent in the past two years, according to the South Carolina Coalition for the Homeless.

The picture of the problem is based on the Coalition’s Jan. 24 count of 6,035 homeless statewide. In 2011, the total homeless count was 4,701. The organization works with regional homeless coalitions every two years to conduct a one-day count of people who are homeless. About 51 percent of those identified during the count were “unsheltered” – living in cars, parking garages or other outdoor places.

We encourage lawmakers and local nonprofit organizations to push for prevention programs that can keep people from falling into a pattern of homelessness. Throwing money at the problem is certainly not a viable solution, but finding effective ways to break that cycle would be a win-win for the state.


TO THE SPOTLIGHT ON HALEY-SHEHEEN, ROUND TWO: In the Washington Post’s most recent rundown of the top gubernatorial races, South Carolina ranks in the top 10, listed as the seventh most competitive election of 2014.

With the election still over a year away, our assessment of Gov. Nikki Haley’s performance in office is incomplete. However, it’s interesting to see that her likely rematch with S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen has already garnered national attention.

The more competitive the race, the better it makes those running. We hope to see Sheheen bring out the best in Haley and vice versa heading into the rematch in Columbia.