Originally published by The State

I’d like to congratulate the winner of the EngenuitySC Ignite! 2016 Ideas Contest, RumbleLab’s STEM education subscription box for kids — as well as finalists Bonded, and Kitchen Conversations with Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands — for their entrepreneurial spirit, and for taking risks and working hard to move our region forward.

Since moving home and expanding our company’s operations to Lexington County a few years ago, I have been floored (although frankly, not surprised) by how much talent we have in the Midlands. In fact, the educational environment and high level of collaboration between business, government, education and the nonprofit sector — at the highest levels of leadership — are so remarkable that we recently moved our company’s headquarters to the Midlands from out of state. It’s that good here.

I’ve been overwhelmingly pleased with the workforce in our state. It was a team of employees here in South Carolina that developed our formulation software and then went on to invent the incredible software that we used to go paperless, a huge advancement for us. The woman running our quality department is under 30, a brilliant mind in action.

There is no shortage of top performers. Quality of life is so strong in the greater Columbia area that people stay to pursue advanced degrees, priming them for great jobs.

The University of South Carolina sends us phenomenal interns. Midlands Technical College has incredible programs filling the talent pipeline for our company and others. One of our current interns is a chemistry major from Vietnam studying at Columbia College; she is so sharp that she is already helping with product development. Clemson University provides us with remarkable talent. We’re on our third season partnering with the Global Supply Chain and Operations Management program at USC, where a recent cohort of students and professors has built an app for us to improve efficiency.

It’s not just the usual suspects, either. We’ve hired talent from Newberry College, Erskine College and Lander University. We’ve been able to hire from within our region and state for biomedical, chemical and packaging science engineers, as well as marketers and other workers. These folks are part of the team that launched our most recent new product, and they’re making it possible for us to launch an entire new sterile compounding division.

This talent pool, and the ease of accessing it, was not available in our prior location. Furthermore, everyone is so helpful here. I’m on several committees with different business leaders, and we are all supportive of each other, offering referrals and advice instead of being closed-minded and competitive.

Doing business in this state is just such a true delight.

There’s a spirit of collaboration here that is very special, and we intend to foster it. That’s what EngenuitySC is all about, and my husband, Bill, and I are proud to have joined the board of directors this year.

I want to call on business leaders to embrace and support our students and educational institutions. Let’s fuel innovation in local companies, using our vast network of local resources.

Let’s work to grow livability — increasing access to and enjoyment of our rivers, for example, which are such a beautiful asset — to draw and retain talent.

Let’s show off our phenomenal Midlands region and encourage the talent that exists here to grow their careers, make lives and give back.

Lou Kennedy is CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. and an EngenuitySC board member.