And…we are off! The third and final day of the conference did not disappoint, with the theme surrounding recovery and resiliency, criminal justice reform and the power of collaboration.
We kicked off the final day with a Mayors’ Panel on the State of Our Cities with Stephen K. Benjamin, Mayor of the City of Columbia, John Tecklenburg, Mayor of the City of Charleston, and Knox White, Mayor of the City of Greenville.
At the onset of COVID-19, each Mayor quickly jumped in to restore confidence and establish protocols to ensure their City was the best it could be based on the current environment. For example, Greenville created a platform that provides information about the current state of hospitals and cases, offering an unfiltered look to help their residents stay informed.
Some positives from all three areas:
- We are getting site visits and inquiries from companies wanting to relocate to the East Coast
- We are seeing a second chance in small rural areas (compared to big cities such as Atlanta and Charlotte), offering places like Greenville, Columbia and Charleston great opportunities
- Greenville, Columbia and Charleston are seen as more livable communities
Some things we need to work towards to account for the future influx of businesses and people:
- Housing attainability
- Public transportation
Remember these topics from the other days of the conference? We did this because they are absolutely critical for our regions to provide a great quality of life.
The State of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in South Carolina, led by Bob Quinn, Executive Director with SCRA, highlighted great opportunities to provide a space for our entrepreneurs to be successful in our state. To learn more, visit https://www.scra.org/
Who best to talk about entrepreneurship than an Innovation and Entrepreneurial Panel with Caroline Crowder, Program Director with USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, Patrick Bryant, CEO & Partner with CODE/+/TRUST and serial entrepreneur, Scott Millwood, CEO of Yesflow, moderated by Laura Corder, Managing Director with the SC Department of Commerce Office of Innovation.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are not synonyms – innovation drives entrepreneurship.
Caroline Crowder, USC/Columbia Technology Incubator
Keys to growing entrepreneurship opportunities in our state:
- Connection is key for entrepreneurs. Providing space like the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, Yesflow and the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator are important so entrepreneurs have a place to collaborate, establish mentors and share their ideas
- Financial support opportunities from the state to help entrepreneurs get started (Angel Investor Tax Credit)
- Support entrepreneurial businesses!
We left this robust and passionate discussion to go to the State of the Port, led by arguably one of the most passionate people in the Ports industry, Jim Newsome. As President and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority since the early 2000’s, his passion for the work has never waivered.
Here are the top priorities of the SC Ports Authority:
- Excellence in operations
- Timely and world-class infrastructure and capacity
- Growing their cargo base and altering their focus
- Intermodal rail development
- Thought leadership
- Talented human capital
A few updates that are critical to success of the Ports:
- Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (first greenfield terminal in US since 2009)
- Charleston harbor deepening (once complete, our harbor will be the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet/15.8 meters)
- SC inland port in Greer
- Large companies, like Wal-Mart distribution center, coming to our state ($220 million investment, 1,000 jobs)
As a significant employer in our state, supplying close to 10,000 direct jobs, bigger in size than Boeing and with 30% above average wages, we continue to be thrilled with Jim Newsome’s leadership and commitment to our state’s economy.
In our world today, criminal justice reform continues to be a hot topic of conversation for our region. Senator Tim Scott values this initiative as well as opportunity zones, both critical for the success of our state.
I am thankful for active chambers of commerce across South Carolina. The absolute thing I love about small business is their commitment to making a difference in their community.
Senator Tim Scott
After the conversation with Tim Scott, we moved into a discussion that has been on all of our minds recently…the impact of the election.
We were grateful to Professor Robert Oldendick with the Darla Moore School at USC, who dove into the impact of issues such as COVID-19, national economy and divided government. He also highlighted incremental changes we could see (based on the presidency) surrounding immigration, environment, foreign policy and healthcare, with potential major changes in infrastructure (broadband access), social security and national debt.
Wow – these discussions provided a wealth of knowledge from great leaders.
To wrap up the conference, we ended with a discussion on the power of collaboration with the CEOs of the Columbia, Charleston Metro and Greenville Chambers, Carl Blackstone, Bryan Derreberry and Carlos Phillips.
Highlights on how our Chambers are working together:
- Collaboration is unique to South Carolina and it’s critical to our success
- South Carolina can do anything it chooses to when we come together
- There is an opportunity to highlight and raise awareness for opportunities in our state
- There has been an unprecedented level of commitment to build a diverse and inclusive environment where all can live, learn and earn in our state
- Chamber members all want the same thing – to be a part of the conversation and to make the business community prosperous
Operating with one voice is fabulous! Our chambers represent a great portion of this state and this will be very effective!
Anita Zucker, The InterTech Group
Thank you to our sponsors! We wouldn’t have been able to deliver this conference without you.