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South Carolina Chamber holds grassroots luncheon in Aiken

Author: Uyen Le

Source: WAGT News 26

September 24, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. - South Carolina's Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon with Aiken and North Augusta's chambers. The purpose was to gather input from the local community to take to state legislatures.

Business owners say the luncheon is an effective way to create an agenda of pressing concerns for the Aiken County area and have policy makers address them.

Tuesday's session is one of 10 planned across the state to help policy makers get local input on what needs to be addressed during the next legislative session. One of the more popular topics was funding for higher education. Representatives from USC-Aiken spoke about the struggles of students to find money to pay for college.

“We're very concerned about the funding for higher education in the state of South Carolina. It's clear that higher levels of educational attainment are very important for increasing the level of economic prosperity,” said Pr. Clifton Jones, USC Aiken Dean of Economics.

Professor Jones said the state has decreased higher education funding by 40 percent since 2008. He says that decrease has caused tuition and fees to go up for every student, making it harder on the average family.

Another big topic of discussion was infrastructure, more specifically, South Carolina's rundown roads.

“We haven't had any real infusion of capital into our roads and bridges since 1987. Our neighboring states, Georgia and North Carolina have put money in their roads. I mean it's not hard to see that when you come across the border of North Carolina and South Carolina…the roads are better kept than in South Carolina, said Otis Rawl, the president and CEO of South Carolina's Chamber of Commerce.

Rawl said infrastructure is the number one issue facing the state:

“There's no question, roads are life blood for businesses. It's all about getting our commerce to our plants and to the retail establishments. It's all about getting our employees to work safely.”

Items discussed at the luncheon, as well as the other sessions across the state, will be compiled together and presented to the South Carolina Chamber Board of Directors. They will then use those policies to create their legislative agenda for 2015.

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