What does the Horse Creek Valley in Aiken County have to offer?

The inaugural Graniteville Economic Development Expo at USC Aiken on Saturday provided some answers

Businesses, schools and nonprofits from the Valley community had tables at the event.

A student group, Enactus USC Aiken, organized the Graniteville Expo, which was held in a gym in the Student Activities Center.

“Enactus is a entrepreneurial organization focused on three things – social change, economic change and environmental change,” said Brent Hoover, who is a lecturer for the USC Aiken School of Business Administration. “I set up the Enactus chapter here in 2017. My students decide on the projects they want to do, and I’m there to guide them.”

Previously, Enactus had done a couple of other projects related to the Graniteville area.

Hoover, who also is a Sam Walton Fellow locally for Enactus, explained about how the latest undertaking came about: “I was asked the question by my students, ‘Can you name all the businesses and organizations in Granitville?’ I said, ‘No, I can’t,’ so they said, ‘Well, that should be the purpose of our event, giving exposure to these for-profit businesses and nonprofits.'"

The Expo’s co-presenters with Enactus and the participants included the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties, South Carolina Small Business and Development Center, Aiken Technical College and the Aiken County Public School District.

Among the others were AllStar Tents & Events, Megiddo Dream Station, AT&T and the Super Smart Girl’s Club.

The speakers were Hoover, Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Will Williams, Enactus member Colin O’Briant and Dr. Tiffany Hall, principal of Leavelle McCampbell Middle School.

“I’m very proud of my students’ work on this project,” Hoover said. “It’s an inaugural event, so it’s a time to learn and we would like to do it again and see it grow. Graniteville has so much potential,” he continued, “but there have been economic repercussions, even to this day, since the train crash (in 2005). We want to do our part to help Graniteville reach its potential economically. There is networking going on here, so that’s a success for us.”

Mary Callaham, who lives in the Trenton area, attended the Expo.

“I’m here just because I’m curious,” she said. “I heard about it on the television.”

She stopped at the Aiken Technical College table to talk and learn more about the school.

“We’re here because this is a great opportunity to share our different programs and services with the community,” said Nikasha Dicks, Aiken Tech’s director of marketing and communications. “We have information about our programs, how people can come and take a tour of our campus, our financial aid process, some of our special partnerships and continuing education opportunities.”

Visitors to Aiken Tech’s table could pick up water bottles, pens, key chains, sticky notes and microfiber cloths.

Prior to his talk, Williams described Graniteville as a place with “a tremendous amount” of opportunity.

“Look at all the residential growth going on along Bettis Academy Road,” he said. “People also are buying some of the old mill homes and rehabilitating them. The Sage Mill Industrial Park is providing the opportunity for many people in Graniteville to be able to get jobs. This expo is a chance for the Graniteville community to engage and sell itself.”

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.