The Columbia Regional Competitiveness Workshop series kicked off by mapping a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the Columbia region through an emphasis on entrepreneurship. We had folks like Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre, BB&T President Mike Brenan, COR Executive Director Katherine Swartz, and more. If you couldn't make it, here's a recap of what you saw:George Hutton, Executive Director for EngenuitySC, kicked off the series by highlighting the challenges Columbia faces, the opportunities for economic growth through a focus on competitiveness, and the Columbia Regional Competitiveness Workshop series' goal to bring together key stakeholders to capture opportunities. Hutton laid the groundwork for the goal of the series, its impact on Columbia, and how we stack up quantitatively and qualitatively against peer regions like Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., and Charleston, S.C.
We hosted a fantastic panel of keynote speakers moderated by Bill Kirkland from the new USC Office of Economic Engagement. Speakers and panelists included Dirk Brown from the Faber Center for Entrepreneurship at the Moore School of Business, Greg Clark of SCRA, Greg Hilton from CETi, and Tom Ledbetter from Midlands Technical College. Here are some of the main highlights from their talks:
- We can be more productive when we engage in conversation like this
- We need to strengthen our ecosystem for new ventures and differentiate our offerings
- How do we keep successful startups like RidePost and Watsi in the Midlands?
- We need money, talent, and suppliers/support/anchor customers
- They need resources here to grow here
- Proper economic development can lead to a return on investment
- There is a lot of opportunity in commercializing intellectual property
- Licensing and formation opportunities
- Lack of angel investors and venture capital
- Lack of experienced c-level talent to manage and grow startups through investment periods
- Influx of mentors and retired executives to the area
Greg Hilton/Tom Ledbetter:
- We have interest in really getting something done, not just talking about it
- We are creating our own environment rather than being just like every other city. Embrace our culture and uniqueness!
- Create an environment to grow
- Develop a killer startup environment
- Change the culture to take more risks
- Build better entrepreneurs & talent
- Be able to say "no" to certain startups and nurture the "winners" - It's okay to be selective
Here's some area where you can help - Have a solution? Want to get involved? Drop us a note a firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We need more risk capital flowing through Columbia
- Development and recruitment of local talent is key to our growth and success
- We need the community to come together and want startups to grow and thrive - We have to celebrate our successes!
- Our community should be committed to being the welcoming party for a company visit - We need to own creating a group dedicated to dropping everything to welcome a new company
- We have strategies to accelerate the startup process
- Greg Hilton needs mentors for his incubators companies - people willing to spend a few hours for open office hours
- Investors need to be connected with talent they may not know of
- A unified group of business people is vital
- We need to talk up the future of Columbia and create a buzz
Thank you to all who attended and keep an eye out for our next event in September!