Clemson University and the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce announced its newest partnership in the creation of the Urban Ecology Center, which will assist in turning Aiken into an urban technology corridor.


Dr. Gene Eidson, director of Clemson University's Institute of Computational Ecology, will direct the new center housed by the Aiken Chamber of Commerce for up to two years. Eidson, who grew up in Aiken, made the announcement at the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce First Friday Means Business breakfast.


The Center will be supported by the city, private partnerships and grants for research, outreach and education.


“This is a project we have been working on at the university for six years,” Eidson said. “This is an opportunity we've been trying to create in Aiken for a year, opening the Urban Ecology Center. ... What we're doing is bringing an economic development center to Aiken. Our technologies are ready to be commercialized. And we want to showcase those technologies here in Aiken.”


The Center's main mission is to create sustainability-based research and improve public communication in a small city environment. With social media and new technologies on the rise, Eidson said the Center will embrace and promote different ways to engage the community on environmental and economic issues as well as developing an urban technology corridor.


“When we talked about why Aiken, we knew there was a lot competition who would take on this center ...” Eidson said. “Most of my work has been done in Greenville, Charleston and Aiken, but there are a lot of cities who would like to have this because I think this will be a great business. Richard Pearce (city manager) earlier mentioned the Green Infrastructure Project and what was really fascinating is we brought technology, technology that drives.”


Through an online stream – using Intelligent River technology – users could watch measured rainfall in Hitchcock Woods. The majority of the users streaming were worldwide, many from other countries, according to Eidson.


With the Center, Eidson said he hopes to improve community enhancement with similar technology.


In Aiken's Urban Ecology Center, the technology will be developed for Intelligent City. This will enable entire cities to utilize computerized operational models and decision-making tools to manage urban infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, utilities, energy and green spaces.


With the Center housed right downtown, Eidson said the best part is he can take people to see the Intelligent River, the Intelligent Farm and Forest and now, the Intelligent City in a 30-mile radius. Both the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and Clemson University are anchor institutions of the Urban Ecology Center. Key partners include Aiken County, the City of Aiken, the University of South Carolina Aiken and Aiken Technical College.


“This is the fourth economic project the Chamber has been involved with since August,” Jameson said. “It's an exciting time. These are little pieces of the puzzle that will help build Aiken's economy over the long run. This Urban Ecology Center has been one of the Chamber's four major goals this year to get this settled and brought to Aiken, and were delighted to have you (Eidson) here. Gene, thank you so much, we're excited to hear how this project goes and matures and what it will mean to Aiken.”


Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville.