Sep. 21—As the adage goes, if you're lucky enough to live in Aiken, you're lucky enough. The saying is especially relevant nowadays, as housing across the city is snatched up and a breakneck real estate market shows little sign of slowing or stopping.
"The real estate market has been hot all over the country and Aiken is no exception," Ryan Reynolds, the Aiken Chamber of Commerce's chairman, said at the 16th annual State of Our Community luncheon Tuesday. "I'm sure many of you, like me, have thought about putting your house for sale and living in a camper and counting the money."
The lucrative market is a sign of local health and attractiveness. After all, said Julie Whitesell, the chamber's 2020 chairwoman, real estate "drives the economy."
"Imagine the people that are affected by real estate," she said, standing on stage at the Etherredge Center, addressing businesspeople, elected officials and community leaders gathered for the event. "It is not just the buyer and the seller and the brokerage company and the realtors. There are so many other people affected by real estate."
According to data as recent as June 30, Aiken County has seen year-over-year increases in three major factors pertaining to residential sales: average price per square foot, number of units closed and average sales price.
Aiken is powering forward, Whitesell continued, for a variety of reasons. Everything from geographical relationships to enterprising people have played a part.
"We're thriving from our proximity to the growth of Columbia County; from being at the hub of Cyber Command; the economic vitality initiatives of the Economic Development Partnership; the Chamber of Commerce, local government, thank you; the equestrian community; investors that know that Aiken is the place to be and we love where we live," she said.
Serious public and private investment will be needed to keep Aiken's ball rolling, predicted Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson. He recognized the audience Tuesday as just the right group for the job. Presentations made by Joe Lewis with Security Federal Bank about small business recovery funding and Paul Sauerborn with the Aiken Steeplechase Association about its new facility along Richland Avenue bore the same positive community message.
"To be good stewards, we must look past today and look toward the future," Jameson said. "We cannot be complacent, we cannot rest, and every day we must look toward the future. We need to stand on our tiptoes and look over the horizon to see where Aiken's economy needs to be 25 years from now, 50 years from now."
Staff writer Landon Stamper contributed to this article.