EngenuitySC’s 2019 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Week was presented by:

During our second-ever Midlands Regional Competitiveness Week, held Jan. 28-Feb. 1, 2019, EngenuitySC and several community partners hosted events around the region celebrating successes, highlighting areas of opportunity, recognizing booming industries and (literally) toasting regional assets. We could not host such an incredible lineup of events without our presenting sponsor BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and events sponsors Spectrum and Nephron. And of course, a big THANK YOU to all of those who attended one or more of these great events during #CompWeek19!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report Launch

Sponsored by Spectrum

Spectrum logo

What better way to start Competitiveness Week 2019 than our 5th Annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report Launch? On Monday, local leaders throughout the public, private, education and nonprofit sectors gathered at Main Street’s newly renovated Columbia Museum of Art for a night of exciting updates regarding our beloved Midlands region. Speakers included President and CEO of Colliers International | South Carolina John Folsom, Director of Division of Research in Darla Moore School of Business Dr. Doug Woodward, Founder and CEO of ZVerse, Inc. John Carrington, and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, while our own Executive Director Meghan Hickman emceed.

The speakers all acknowledged the Midlands’ strengths and weaknesses that were visible in the latest report, which was distributed after the event and can be viewed online here. While commute time was one of the most noticeable detriments to livability, other factors made huge strides in the region. For example, one of the biggest highlights of the night was the announcement that the region has grown and improved in the entrepreneurial and business environment index – an index that had experienced only minimal fluctuations in past reports.

One tactic for addressing the livability index dip is the launch of the new Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG) Coordinating Council, announced by John Folsom (MBLG Chair and President and CEO of Colliers International | South Carolina) at the event.

The night concluded with a networking cocktail hour, during which attendees celebrated the growth and potential of the Midlands.

Attendees included EngenuitySC board members, members of the Midlands Business Leadership Group, private sector leaders, nonprofit leaders, and individuals interested in learning more about the region’s economic competitiveness.

EngenuitySC board members and Executive Director: Bill Kirkland – The University of South Carolina, Office of Economic Engagement; Steve Benjamin, Founding Co-Chair – Mayor, City of Columbia; Lee Bussell, Chair – Chernoff Newman; Paul Livingston, Secretary/Treasurer – Chair, Richland County Council; John Lumpkin; Dr. Keith Shah – Prisma Health; Scott Graves – BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina; Ted Nissen – First Community Bank; Meghan Hickman –Executive Director, EngenuitySC.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin speaks to the importance of the Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

MBLG Regional Competitiveness Initiative – Report Out Event

After a full year of collaboration and action, the Midlands Business Leadership Group brought partners together to share an update on the progress of their seven priority initiatives aimed at creating a more livable Columbia region and to announce the new MBLG Coordinating Council.

Entrepreneurial Bootcamp Business Pitches

A select cadre of students at Columbia High School spent 11 weeks developing new business ideas under the tutelage of Paul Smith, Professor of entrepreneurship, marketing, and personal finance at Newberry College. At this event, they pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, Shark Tank style, to compete for start-up funding.

Mayor Benjamin’s State of the City Address

On Jan. 29, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin delivered his 9th State of the City Address.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Leveraging Life Sciences in the Midlands: A Panel Discussion

Sponsored by Nephron Pharmaceuticals

Life sciences are booming in the Midlands. On Wednesday, 35 attendees were treated to a presentation at Nephron Pharmaceuticals that covered how the life sciences industry is growing and shaping the region. The panelists included Nephron CIO Hank Jibaja, KPIC representative Alan Spies, Rhythmlink CEO Shawn Regan, and Executive Director of SCCED at Midlands Technical College Chuck Whipple. The panel was moderated by Lindsey Miles, Vice President of Operational Excellence, and featured great questions from the audience as well as lively discussion amongst the panelists. They highlighted four things they believe would supercharge growth in the Midlands: equity capital, tax reform, collaboration and operating systems for small businesses. In addition to these changes, all the panelists placed a heavy importance on utilizing local talent in the workforce. Overall, it was an enlightening discussion in an intimate setting that allowed for discourse between community members and industry leaders.

Nephron’s Lou Kennedy welcomes the Life Sciences event attendees.

Richland One Teacher Discovery Day in the Sciences

On the same day as the Life Sciences Panel Discussion, EngenuitySC introduced 19 Richland One science teachers to local industry leaders in the sciences through Teacher Discovery Day. The goal of the day was to equip teachers with industry connections and insight that they can incorporate in both teaching and advising students interested in pursuing science-related careers. Teachers began the day with a tour of leading medical device company Rhythmlink International, where they heard from CEO Shawn Regan about the intersection of entrepreneurship and biomedical engineering. Rhythmlink engineers also guided teachers through a series of demonstrations highlighting the various applications of the company’s products. Following Rhythmlink, the teachers enjoyed a tour of City Roots farm, complete with a locally sourced lunch by Farm 2 Table Productions. The group then headed to Nephron Pharmaceuticals for a tour of the company’s drug manufacturing facility. Nephron offers a variety of career paths for individuals interested in the life sciences, and teachers ended the visit with a greater understanding of the many paths available to their students. Ultimately, Teacher Discovery Day showcased the value and feasibility of partnering industry leaders with local educators, and EngenuitySC looks forward to seeing the long-term outcomes that come from these connections.

Richland One science teachers tour City Roots, where they enjoyed lunch by Farm 2 Table Productions.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Breweries: Community Catalysts

Thursday night of Competitiveness Week was one for the brewskies. Almost 130 people came out to Steel Hands Brewing in Cayce to hear how the recent growth of breweries is driving economies and connecting communities. Attendees packed into Steel Hands’ brew house to hear from Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, founder and owner of Bristow Beverage Law Brook Bristow, and Steel Hands’ owner Scott Lambert. All of the speakers highlighted how breweries are able to contribute, both economically and socially, to the communities and towns in which they’re located. Lambert gave specifics on how Steel Hands has contributed to the city of Cayce since their opening in December, including 26 new jobs that were created and $4.5 million in investment. He also highlighted how the Steel Hands’ brewing process utilizes locally-sourced ingredients like Loveland Coffee of Irmo for its particularly popular coffee lager. After the speaking, the night wrapped up with most people sitting down to try (at least) one of the signature brews. Cheers!

Steel Hands Brewing in Cayce plays host to the hoppiest event of Competitiveness Week 2019.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Growth and Opportunity in Lexington

On Friday at the Lexington County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, business leaders from around the Midlands gathered to hear about what is happening in Lexington County and the surrounding areas. Chris Farley of Southern Visions Real Estate, Superintendent Greg Little of Lexington School District One, Mayor Steve MacDougall of the Town of Lexington, and past Chair of the Lexington County Council Debbie Summers all shared their thoughts on what has – and will – put Lexington on the map in the coming years. The focus of conversation centered on the innovation of Lexington’s school districts and importance of hiring top-tier teachers, the opportunity for the region to expand its recreational real estate, and the relationships between the cities and towns of Lexington County. What was the takeaway? Mayor MacDougall ensured that the top priorities were unification and managing the unprecedented growth that the region is experiencing. This event was a great way to end #CompWeek19!

Lexington School District One superintendent Greg Little and Lexington County Council member Debbie Summers discuss Lexington’s growth, including innovation in its schools.

EngenuitySC’s 2019 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Week was presented by: