That’s how Mike Aeiker describes his tenure at the Charleston Area Alliance.
Aeiker, who serves as the vice president of real estate services, will retire from the organization at the end of December. It’s the end of an era for a man who’s been very influential in local economic development.
“I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to work on many projects over the years that have come through the organization; projects that affected many lives throughout the Kanawha Valley,” Aeiker said.
In the early 1990’s, Aeiker worked for a local engineering consulting firm that was retained by Business and Industrial Development Corporation (BIDCO) to perform a land study for a new business park. BIDCO was one of the three groups, along with the Charleston Chamber of Commerce and Charleston Renaissance Corp., which merged to create the Charleston Area Alliance in 2004.
This selected site consisted of several tracts of land totaling over 560 acres. The land adjoined another large tract owned by the Rashid family, who expressed strong interest in developing a new retail center on US 119 (Corridor G). This was a perfect partner for BIDCO to work with and take on such a large development project, now known as Southridge Centre.
During the early years of the Southridge development, Aeiker was directly involved in the purchase of over $2 million dollars in land. He also oversaw various levels of conceptual designs and master planning. It was working on this project with BIDCO that convinced Aeiker to switch careers.
“I was meeting with BIDCO management to discuss the final construction drawings and to inform them of my decision to leave the engineering firm,” Aeiker said. “They quickly stated if you want a change, we will offer you a position here for a year to help us through the construction of phase one of the BIDCO portion of the development.”
That one year became more than two decades with the organization. After overseeing more than $5.6 million dollars in construction, Southridge became home for projects such as the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority, United States Postal Service distribution center, Kanawha County Metro 911 Operations Center and others all totaling more than $10.7 million dollars in land sales. The area also became a retail mecca of big box stores and restaurants, such as Walmart, Cabela’s, The Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
With BIDCO and the Alliance, Aeiker’s work and technical assistance has been key in the recruitment of businesses to the area, such as Toyota, NGK Spark Plug, Capital Area Services Co., Inc. (CASCI), Kureha and many others.
He’s also managed the Alliance’s Small Business Incubator, which helps nurture and grow start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Since its inception in 1986, the incubator has housed over 149 small businesses creating over 380 jobs. Under Aeiker’s guidance, the success rate for incubator tenants is over 75 percent, compared with the national success rate of 25 percent.
“I have taken pride in supporting and managing the facility as if it were my own,” Aeiker said.
During his tenure at BIDCO and the Alliance, Aeiker worked under four presidents and CEOs.
“They all have provided me with the greatest respect and support during my tenure with the organization,” Aeiker said. “Being involved with the organization over the past 22 years has allowed me to further my experience and knowledge while enabling me to meet such great folks.”
Matthew Ballard, the current Alliance president and CEO, said Aeiker will be sorely missed within the organization.
“He has served the Charleston Area Alliance with the goal of creating jobs for our community,” Ballard said. “Most importantly, he served with the utmost focus on sincerity and integrity. He has served our community with his skills and talents and we wish him well in his retirement.”
Bill Goode was the president and CEO of BIDCO and the Charleston Area Alliance from 1994 to 2006. Goode worked closely with Aeiker and said his projects were artfully planned.
“Working with Mike everyday was very rewarding,” Goode said. “He knows so much about areas that I know so little about. Every day was a learning experience and a visit to sites or facilities with him was like going to a classroom. He treated you, and everyone else, with respect and honesty. It made being around him so enjoyable.”
Harry Mills, senior vice president at BIDCO and the Alliance from 1993 to 2006, said Aeiker was always a joy to work with.
“He has been the BIDCO/Alliance ‘secret weapon’ since the day he arrived,” Mills said. “He’s a very talented and modest thinker, doer and economic developer.”
In retirement, Aeiker plans to spend more time with his family. He also wants to travel more with his wife, Brenda. Although he’s looking forward to his departure, Aeiker said he will miss the day-to-day economic development work.
“What I will miss most about my job is assisting small startup businesses and working on large projects that create jobs and investment for the whole region,” Aeiker said. “I have always believed in regional support for all of the Kanawha Valley.”
On Dec. 17, the Alliance will host a retirement open house celebration for Aeiker at its offices at 1116 Smith Street. The event, which is open to the public, will be held from 3-5 p.m. For more information, contact Jeri Adkins at JAdkins@CharlestonAreaAlliance.org.