From Lee Bussell, EngenuitySC Board Chair
Dear partners, collaborators, supporters and friends,
With the turn of a new decade, the start of the new year, and on the heels of the most successful Competitiveness Week we’ve ever produced, EngenuitySC is grateful for the incredible role we have in this special region. It is a privilege to get to do what we do: making positive change happen right here at home.
Although we take pride in working behind the scenes — letting our projects and partners stand in the spotlight — we wanted to take a moment to share some of what we are most proud of here at EngenuitySC in 2020.
We’re proud of who we are as an organization. In the early 2000s, important entities across the Columbia, S.C., region were working in a relatively siloed fashion, and a prevailing sentiment was growing for more collaboration between the government, education and business sectors. Research trips conducted by area leaders to cities with advanced economic growth showed that those regions had established connective tissue to aid in collaborations. EngenuitySC was created in 2003 as a neutral third party to provide such connective tissue and to help move regional collaborations forward. To this day, we manage some of the most impactful initiatives in the region, from building the talent pipeline to increasing quality of life and providing an annual, data-driven measurement tool to guide leaders in moving our region forward.
We’re a nonprofit working to make the Columbia region a standout choice for top talent and competitive companies. In partnership with economic development leaders who market our region externally, our role is about building internal capacity to make recruiting great companies and retaining top talent easier by enhancing the quality of life for future and current residents. We strive to complement economic development efforts by making Columbia the best version of itself by working behind the scenes to build a community cultivated for living, working, playing and learning.
We’re proud of our leadership. EngenuitySC’s board is made up of the highest-ranking regional leaders in education, government and business. Through service on the EngenuitySC board, education leaders, local elected officials and business executives work side-by-side. The structure of our board is intentional and was designed to maximize collaboration, presenting a unique and valuable opportunity for diverse regional leadership to convene and connect. Our board members are trusted, respected and seasoned professionals who are committed to the potential of the region.
We’re proud of our project work and partners. An overview of our team’s current work gives a glimpse of the positive impact we are having to help make our region an even better place to live, learn, work, play and visit.
Midlands Business Leadership Group:
The Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG) is a coalition of more than 50 CEOs and senior executives from our region’s largest employers who regularly convene and work on issues that are important to the Midlands. Since 2016, MBLG has been bringing partners together to identify regional challenges, prioritize the biggest opportunities and catalyze action. EngenuitySC serves as the behind-the-scenes engine for their efforts, driving MBLG’s vision for the region and keeping projects moving ahead. Currently, we’re managing 12 transformative projects on MBLG’s behalf, including the following:
- Pushing for pedestrian safety improvement on Assembly Street.
- Drafting new language that residents and leaders alike can use to express what is unique and special about the Columbia region.
- Improving cooperation among our elected officials across Lexington and Richland counties, the Cities of Columbia, West Columbia, and Cayce, and the Town of Springdale.
- Creating a digital hub for entrepreneurs to access the many resources available to them around the region.
- Driving development along our riverfront, including an extension of our greenway system all the way to the Lake Murray Dam.
- Launching a regional Coordinating Council that is creating new partnerships and projects through collaborations between private sector and nonprofit leaders.
- Facilitating conversations around the strategic direction of regional economic development.
- Diversifying nonprofit boards with more people of color and more people under the age of 35.
- Creating a talent retention program focused on summer college interns.
- Working with regional leaders to create a true airport corridor along Highway 302 of which we can all be proud.
Richland County School District One:
Over the past six years, our work in Richland One has focused on supporting the college and career readiness of students through initiatives such as entrepreneurial workshops, field studies with local employers (especially in science and technology fields), the creation of club programs at elementary and middle schools, the Dress to Impress soft skills training program, Girls and Boys Conference programs, whole school STEAM implementation, and the Rubik’s Speedcubing League. We also support the district’s Career and Technical Education Programs by facilitating connections with various businesses to support work-based learning. Additionally, in support of teacher retention and long-term student success, we create and coordinate Teacher Discovery Days, which may be school-specific or content-area specific. Discovery Days connect teachers to employers in our region who may someday employ their students, and also to community-based tools and experiences that can augment their standards-based teaching in the classroom.
Though our work with the district began at Lower Richland High School, we’ve enjoyed working with more schools each year. We manage some school-specific projects, but also projects that are district-wide and/or specific to a grade level, curriculum area or cluster. Just last year, the Dress to Impress career skills training program expanded to every Richland One high school, as well as the Alternative and Evening High School programs, and the Rubik’s League was offered to every middle and high school. EngenuitySC loves working with students and teachers, and we know that the work we’re doing is impactful, valuable and has the potential to be life changing.
Other Notable EngenuitySC Projects:
In addition to the above, at any given time our team is also hard at work on other projects that impact our region and move us all forward, including these:
- Our work with the Midlands Mayors Forum — a collaborative of mayors from across several counties in the Columbia region, focused on camaraderie and on collaborative actions that enhance each of our cities and lead to a stronger, more competitive and prosperous Midlands.
- The Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, our annual publication that scores the Columbia MSA and peer regions on five indicators of competitive communities. First published in 2014, the Competitiveness Report is an important benchmarking tool, inspiring regional leaders to track progress and inform collaborative action. This is the only report of its kind currently being published for Columbia.
- Competitiveness Week, an annual, week-long slate of events that celebrate Columbia’s successes and explore our region’s opportunities. Anchored each year by the launch of the most recent Competitiveness Report, Competitiveness Week events change each year and include anything from teacher discovery days and community panel discussions to live jazz music and brewery tours.
- TEDxUofSC, which highlights our region’s biggest and most challenging ideas — shared by those who are bringing them to life. These talks, combined with video of TED Talks from the past ten years, spark conversation and connections that spur the Midlands forward. TEDxUofSC is an annual event hosted by The University of South Carolina and powered by our team at EngenuitySC.
- Additionally, we’re often found supporting and facilitating strategic planning sessions with our public sector partners and hosting round table events, conversations and trainings to connect leaders around the region.
Finally, we’re proud of our staff, our reliability, and our reputation. You may be surprised to learn that EngenuitySC is doing all of this great work with a team of SIX talented individuals. They are servant leaders who take more pride in the results they produce than the credit they get. They believe in efficiency, they work hard and they use their unique project management system to maximize our efforts. There’s a reason they’re known as the “get stuff done” people.
Top regional leaders consider EngenuitySC a trusted partner. As an organization, we’re good stewards of precious dollars, both public and private, and we’ve continuously adapted to the needs of the region to be sure that our work is relevant and impactful.
For 17 years, we’ve championed collaboration in the region. We look forward to continuing our mission of making the Columbia region a standout choice for top talent and competitive companies, and know that this is only possible through collaboration. There is progress in partnerships, and we’re here for it.
When we think about the state of this region and the state of this organization, we believe our best days are still ahead. We’re making change happen and we’re proud of it.
EngenuitySC Board Chair