When it comes to business acumen, it’s hard to beat Aiken’s diverse employment climate, which includes a hotbed of international companies and a thriving downtown retail district. Aiken’s proximity to two commercial airports – Augusta Regional Airport in Augusta, Ga., and Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, S.C., – make it a big draw for companies looking to relocate. The city is host to a number of outposts of international companies, including Bridgestone/Firestone South Carolina, Shaw Industries, Advanced Glassfiber Yarn, GlaxoSmithKline, Rieter Automotive Systems North America and Metso Paper USA. Washington Savannah River Company is Aiken County’s biggest employer and one of the largest in the state. The laboratory is part of the U.S. Department of Energy and works on a variety of important matters, such as detecting weapons of mass destruction, the cleanup of contaminated groundwater and soils, and the continuing development of hydrogen as an energy source. They also work on the need for a viable national defense and the safe management of hazardous materials. And because of the strength of the ready-made workforce coming from Aiken Technical College and the University of South Carolina Aiken, employers have their pick of locals to bolster their employment rosters. But it isn’t all big business in Aiken. The charm of downtown is compounded by the variety of locally owned shops. Antique lovers will delight in the number of spots they can browse, such as Aiken Antique Mall, the Antique Emporium and The Iron Pony. The Curiosity Shop is an emporium of food, gifts, décor and other items from the British Isles, while moms looking for the perfect outfit for the little one can head over to Pitter Patter Children’s Boutique. From brides-to-be shopping for the big day to audiophiles looking for new music gear, Aiken’s downtown district gratifies just about everybody.