Sunday, August 21, 2005

Something is stirring: we're at an inflection point

In the late 1990s, I began to sense that South Carolina was at an inflection point - needing to do different if we were going to continue to be globally competitive. The economic development model of branch manufacturing was running out of stream.

In 2000, I traveled across the state to talk with leaders about the need for a more innovative economy. I talked with Governor Hodges and ex-Governors, with CEOs, university leaders, economic developers, and newspaper editors.

Something was stirring. Shortly thereafter, Jim Barker called a meeting and asked if Clemson were in Greenville how our relationship would be different. George Fletcher continued the conversation, and ultimately the Clemson International Center for Automotive Research was born. Sam Tenenbaum was an early advocate of endowed research chairs, and Governor Hodges sent a small group of people, including me, to Austin to study their model. The SC Centers of Economic Excellence Act occurred shortly thereafter. Darla Moore, who had given tens of millions to the USC Moore Business School, created the Palmetto Institute to begin creating a strategic plan for the state. They engaged Michael Porter, whose advice to develop industry clusters has become orthodoxy. I began Swamp Fox and a series of conferences leading to InnoVenture which were grassroots efforts to build relationships among innovators and entrepreneurs.

We've seen some early experiments go away. The Upstate Coalition for Entrepreneurial Development recently declared victory in seeding several entrepreneurial activities and went out of business. A few other initiatives across the state, like the Supply Chain Coalition, have more quietly faded away.

But boom! Over the past four years, there has been a blooming of innovation in the state.

The early initiatives that gained traction are building momentum. SC BIO, the SC Centers of Excellence Review Board, and the USC Columbia Technology Incubator all report business is booming. The USC research campus is becoming a reality. The SC Health Sciences Initiative has built a coalition among USC, MUSC, Greenville Hospital and Palmetto Health Care. The SC Next Energy Initiative has been barnstorming the state. And InnoVenture has gained traction with major constituents who have gained a sense of ownership in the process.

Now something else is stirring. We’ve reached another inflection point. People across the state and across these initiatives are asking a similar question: how do we convert this activity into wealth creation in South Carolina. The Greenville Chamber is going on an intercity visit to Austin, TX, which in the late 1980s they had a supernova explosion – Dell Computer. When a company in your area creates several billion dollars in market value, and sprinkles some of that back into the local community into the next generation of companies, into the United Way and other community organizations, it alters the landscape of the community forever.

So how do we do that? Seed our Dell Computer that creates enormous wealth here. That is becoming a major focus here as we move forward.


Anonymous said...

John, you're so full of stinky stuff. I do not think that I have ever known a more self serving individual than you. I have listen and read your self lifting ego mainia descriptions of how great your are, is there anyone that has done anything to bring us to where we are today. I am disappointed that I ever suggested you thought of you for the trip to Austin. I have regrete the day that I asked you to go along. John there are dozens of others that have done much more than you and certainly have not broken their arms patting themselves on the their backs, Oh, I am so great, I did this and I did this and me and I, and I and I and did this....get a life John. You have worn out your welcome with me. So long, I will not read your crap any more. I hope that your book is a great sucess so you'll have yet another subject to CROW about. Byyyyyy.

John, I used 16 I's in my note to you, wow that out does out.


Swamp Fox said...

Wow. That's interesting.

It's easy to find many people who have done much more than me. The post mentions quite a few people and initiatives that have been critical to where we are today. Others easily come to mind. Chris Przirembel, without whose tenacious leadership ICAR would not exist, is up on the list. Karl Kelly, who has bulldogged the creation of a life sciences industry in the state, is at another level. Irv Welling cofounded both the Upstate Alliance and InnoVenture. George Fletcher kept the conversation going that led to ICAR, was the champion of Greenville Vision 2025, and is now executive director of the Council on Competitiveness. Senator Jim Ritchie and Speaker Bobby Harrell have been strong leaders in the legislature.

I have been fortunate to be along for the ride for many of these initiatives. It's been a blast.

If you really did have something to do with me going to Austin in 2001, thank you. It was a paradigm changing experience for me.

By the way, you OK?