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In 1997, there were 133 tech firms in the Charleston region employing about 1,300 individuals. In the last 20 years, we have seen those numbers grow exponentially. In 2016, there were 453 tech firms employing almost 10,500 individuals. That is a growth of over 700% in jobs in the tech sector in 10 years. In fact, the Charleston region IT workforce grew three and a half times faster than the U.S. average, making it the #1 mid-size metro for IT job growth.
On Tuesday, August 6, more than 130 Chamber members were able to visit the new Blackbaud facility and hear from a panel of leaders from prestigious local tech powerhouses, two of which are publicly traded companies. The panelists were:
- Tony Boor, Chief Financial Officer, and Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration, Blackbaud
- Jonathan Dussault, Chief Financial Officer, Benefitfocus
- John LaCour, Chief Technology Officer, Phish Labs
Our moderator was none other than our immediate past chair, and no stranger to the tech world himself, Patrick Bryant, who is a partner in Bidr.
The tech industry in the Charleston region is in what our panelists referred to as the third phase of evolution. The companies formed today are the direct result of the companies that were growing in the region twenty years ago. The next generation of tech in the region will grow out of the 453 tech firms that are thriving today, that is, if we can make sure they have a favorable environment.
Our panelists cited many of the same struggles that businesses across our region are facing:
- The need for a skilled labor force
- Attainable housing for that labor force
- The need for infrastructure and transportation options that allow workers to get to and from work
These are all issues that the Chamber and our members are passionate about, and as you can see, it affects very large publicly traded companies as much as it does a small, three-person operation. These issues will require state and local governments to come together to create an environment that is attractive not only for businesses, but for their potential employees. Our panelists relayed the importance of the availability of high quality schools, ease of transportation and housing as deciding factors on whether the talent they are trying to recruit decides to take the job offer or not.
The panel also touched on things that could help continue to bolster the tech industry in the region. They mentioned that more capital invested in tech, more mentors and the ready availability of flexible workspace would help the next generation of tech companies thrive and continue to make the Charleston region an influential player in the tech scene.
Business in your Backyard provides you the opportunity to connect with others doing business in your community while engaging in targeted topics focused on localized community and economic development issues. To find out about these and other events, visit our calendar.