Local leaders feel that the Savannah River Site receiving more funding than its federal budget request will help stabilize Aiken's economy.
Last week, appropriations committees passed an omnibus bill that granted the Site $1.134 billion for the fiscal year – a significantly higher amount than the $1.09 billion requested.
Economic Development Partnership Director Will Williams feels the funding will provide balance to the SRS workforce and the local economy.
“The funding in the budget for SRS and the contractors provides some much needed stability for the Site, the employees of the contractors and the region for the foreseeable future,” Williams said. “This stability will translate into stronger consumer confidence that impacts the businesses of the area.”
In a recent letter submitted to the Aiken Standard, David Jameson – the president and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce – praised several congressional delegates for their efforts in securing a budget. Among those was U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who voted yes to the omnibus bill. Graham also showed support for the South Carolina Ports Authority during the appropriations process, which helps the Port of Charleston.
“Everything that is said about his support of the Ports can be echoed about his support of SRS. Kudos to Graham. Disappointingly, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., voted no,” Jameson stated in his letter.
In the House, Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Tom Rice, R-S.C., also approved the bill. Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. and Mark Sanford, R-S.C., voted against it.
“We have repeatedly asked the South Carolina Legislative Delegation to unite behind a budget bill and to support the Savannah River Site's needs,” Jameson added. “I feel that the Aiken Chamber's advocacy for SRS, along with the energy of many other organizations, has paid off.”
One of those organizations is the SRS Community Reuse Organization. Executive Director Rick McLeod joined Williams and Jameson in a trip to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with members of the delegation.
Currently, the individual contractors at SRS are waiting on their budget numbers from DOE and may not receive as much funding as they desire. Still, McLeod believes the increase in the fiscal year 2014 request and House appropriations should be considered a “win” for the local community.
“While not all SRS contractors got their complete 'wish list' of funding, the designated funding will provide enough funds to move projects and cleanup forward and keep people working,” he said. “Also important, is that it provides a sense of sustainability for the local workforce, at least for the next couple of years.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.