South Carolina spends millions trying to lure big companies such as Boeing and BMW, but it must not forget the small businesses that fill storefronts throughout our state.


The resources to empower those entrepreneurs are thankfully already in place in Aiken and appear to be growing in strength. The Small Business Development Center on USC Aikenís campus has received praise for such efforts, while The Mill on Park has also earned recognition from local leaders, including from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. R-S.C., who visited downtown Aiken last week.


These projects help to ensure local startups have the backing they need to be successful and find a long-term home in our business community.


To give local businesses the jump-start they need, certain roadblocks need to be eased, according to Catie Rabun, president of Caradasa LLC, a start-up real estate development company in Aiken, who is also the driving force behind The Mill on Park.


ďItís hard to start a business,Ē Rabun said. ďIf youíre starting a business and running an office, itís just another layer of complication. Here, weíre trying to make everything streamlined and simple.Ē


While big-box retailers and large-scale manufacturers can be great corporate neighbors, supporting small businesses undoubtedly weaves unique benefits throughout the community and is one of the best economic engines that we have. Small-business owners are our neighbors and friends, and we shouldnít lose sight of the fact that supporting them keeps dollars in the local economy, therefore enriching the whole community.


The Mill on Park and its collaborative efforts with USC Aiken are a creative asset that helps to defer some of the costs of establishing a new business. That kind of small business assistance serves is an excellent incubator for entrepreneurship and innovation.


Having the support of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce also gives the project added credibility and confidence that should lead to further economic benefits in the future.


Additionally, tenants of The Mill on Park actually have access to the building and workspace 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That kind of long-term, unrestricted access is the best use of such space and gives entrepreneurs the best chance to succeed.


It also represents a needed commitment to local decision making and creates the right climate for economic development in the future.


The stateís unemployment rate has thankfully dropped recently Ė and while people have fallen out of the workforce because of the ongoing recession Ė a smaller jobless rate is a positive sign for South Carolina.


These local efforts to spark ingenuity and recruit new businesses should certainly help to keep the areaís jobless rate low, as well.