Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jenny Sanford on her children's education: "I get one shot at it."

A recent story on ABC's 20/20 by John Stossel titled, "Stupid in America," may be one of the most important you will ever watch. A part of the program deals with...
When the Sanford family moved from Charleston to Columbia, S.C., the family had a big concern: Where would the kids go to school? In most places, you must attend the public school in the zone where you live, but the middle school near the Sanford's new home was rated below average.

It turned out, however, that this didn't pose a problem for this family, because the reason the Sanfords moved to Columbia was that Mark Sanford had been elected governor. He and his wife were invited to send their kids to schools in better districts.

Sanford realized how unfair the system was. "If you can buy a $250,000 or $300,000 house, you're gonna get some great public education," Gov. Sanford said. Or if you have political connections.

The Sanfords decided it was unfair to take advantage of their position as "first family" and ended up sending their kids to private school. "It's too important to me to sacrifice their education. I get one shot at it. If I don't pay very close attention to how my boys get educated then I've lost an opportunity to make them the best they can be in this world," Jenny Sanford said.
If you haven't seen the program, click on the link. and watch it. How we create innovation in publicly funded education is the most critical education issue we face across the country.

Not Again! ... a SC brain drain

I've been away for a day, so I'm surfing news of the Internet getting caught up when I see this article that catches my eye "Brain Scans May Be Used As Lie Detectors...".

The story is datelined Charleston, SC, which gets me pretty excited as I start to think this is about a South Carolina technology company. Sure enough the story includes, "Cephos Corp., which Laken founded to commercialize the brain-scanning work being done at the Medical University of South Carolina."

I'm getting more excited. At the bottom of the article are related links, and one is to Cephos Corp.: So I click on it to find out where on King St. or perhaps Daniel Island in Charleston Cephos is located, when ...
Contact Us:
Cephos Corp.
38 Lawrence
Pepperell MA 01463

Not again. Damned. We have got to start growing wealth here instead of places like Massachusetts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Greenville News Op/ed: We're sowing the seeds for a vibrant economy

Original published at The Greenville News
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 6:00 am

By John Warner

Having worked to develop a more innovative economy for many years, I believe one of the best things that happened to the Greenville Chamber of Commerce was the creation of the Greenville Area Development Corp. (GADC). Balloons fell at the Chamber's 2001 annual meeting celebrating $1 billion in primarily manufacturing investments. There was no mention of several hundred million dollars of venture capital invested in telecommunications companies a few blocks down the street, or of the fortune left by John Hollingsworth to Furman and other local community organizations. Creating wealth was not a part of the community's economic development strategy.

Until very recently, we have relied on a "buffalo hunting" strategy of recruiting major manufacturing facilities through cheap land, cheap labor and incentives. Over four years in senior leadership at KEMET, I saw firsthand the weakness of a solo buffalo. With few customers or vendors here, when the global winds raged there was little to anchor KEMET production here, so it blew away. That's the past.

Contrast this with the Michelin Americas Research and Development Corp. (MARC), a 1,000-person corporate R&D facility. MARC scientists recently invented the Tweel, perhaps as revolutionary as the radial tire, also developed by Michelin. The MARC worked with the Clemson Spiro Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership to study commercializing the Tweel, and then hired the leader of the student team, retaining one of Upstate's brightest young talents. This is the future.

Industrial recruiting, now led by the GADC, remains important. Future recruiting must enhance clusters of specialized business, academic and government organizations that add more value together than the participants can alone. We can successfully build globally competitive communities of innovation; in fact, we already are.

BMW, Michelin, Clemson and others partnered to create the International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR), which attracted a pre-eminent scholar, Tom Kurfess, who attracted a company with whom he has a long-term research relationship, Timken. Greenville Hospital partnered with the research universities to create a University Medical Center. USC Upstate worked with Greenville Tech on a major expansion into Greenville. Furman is enhancing the skills of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of S.C. information technology professions.

Freed of its recruiting responsibilities, the Chamber has reinvented itself around fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. The Chamber helped GE recruit top scientists to Greenville. Attendance at small-business programs is up substantially. Greenville Forward was formed to implement the Vision 2025 plan, along with Next to support technology entrepreneurs. The Greenville County School Distinct recognized the Chamber's Carolina First Center of Excellence for enhancing the quality of our public schools.

The Chamber led highly successful intercommunity visits to innovation powerhouses Orlando, Fla., and Austin, Texas, and organized a successful Diversity Conference. A strong partnership of Upstate Chambers is promoting regionalism.

The Chamber helped launch InnoVenture, now in its third year, which will be held March 28 and 29 at the Palmetto Expo Center. The MARC, ICAR, the Savannah River and Oak Ridge National Labs, the Carolinas MicroOptics Triangle and the University of South Carolina will each describe how communities of innovation can be created around these major economic anchors. What kind of talent do they need? What innovative vendors can be recruited around them? What opportunities are there to create high-impact companies to support them?

In addition, over 25 major organizations will have innovation displays, high-impact companies will present to investors, and inventors will seek business partners to commercialize their ideas. The InnoVenture Prism Initiative will identify the best and brightest young talent reflecting the diversity of the community and introduce them to innovators to allow them to build their careers here.

Supporting high-impact companies is critical to a comprehensive economic development strategy. Dell Computer, which started in Austin, Texas, in 1984 and today is worth over $80 billion, changed the economic landscape of its community. Here, 23 emerging companies presented to investors at InnoVenture in 2004 and 2005, but almost none were able to subsequently raise the capital they sought. After this year's conference, InnoVenture will develop an ongoing infrastructure to support emerging high-impact companies that can retain our top talent and create wealth locally that is reinvested back into the community.

It's true that our lagging per capita income and unemployment reflect that we are late to the game of developing a more innovative economy. But we figured that out, and strong collaborations are being created among organizations leading distinctive pieces of the economic development puzzle, sowing the seeds of a vibrant Greenville economy for years to come.

Monday, January 23, 2006

High School, Reinvented!

A story in the Myrtle Beach Sun Times tells of an interesting new high school. A partnership between Horry County Schools and Horry-Georgetown Technical College, the high school is targeted at students in the middle not well served by the status quo; "students who score in the middle range on standardized tests but are capable of better work." The program is designed to meet their special needs. "From day one in the early college program, these youngsters will be inculcated with the notion that they are capable of great work and expected to perform at that level. They'll be immersed in fields of study that make the world of work vivid to them."

Congratulations to Horry County Schools! They segmented their customers, and developed a distinctive program to meet the special needs of a focused group not otherwise well served. This is entrepreneurship 101 in the business world, but a breath of fresh air in public education.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Remember the newly form SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance

In an email to a group of folks in economic development recently, I listed a number of initiatives in South Carolina to enhance the economy.

A colleague wrote back, "John also need to remember the newly formed SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance. This is the group that is working on hydrogen for the whole state. It includes USC, Clemson, SC State, Savannah River National Lab, and the Center for Hydrogen Research."

He's right. The SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance is a very important initiative and a great example of collaboration in the state.

Contact information for more details is on the press release at the SC Department of Commerce.

What's a high impact company? How about Burt's Bees?

Increasing entrepreneurial activity that creates wealth is one of the three legs of a highly innovative economy, along with increasing educational attainment and enhancing innovation capacity.

At InnoVenture, we define the type of entrepreneurial activity we are looking for as a high-impact company. In a meeting yesterday to begin the selection process for emerging companies to present at InnoVenture, the question came up again, "What is a high-impact company?". While many technology-based companies are high-impact, some aren't, and many non-technology companies are.

This morning a press release from a company crossed my desk that is a great example of what I am talking about, "Burt's Bees Names John Replogle as CEO and President." Burt's Bees is definitely a high-impact. Many of us would love to have Burt's Bees as an investment, as a customer, as an employer, or however high-impact is defined from our perspective.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Public infrastructure: the Spallation Neutron Source

Two colleagues and I had a great tour of Oak Ridge National Lab Friday, a very impressive facility that does a billion per year in science-based research. That's more than Clemson, USC, MUSC, the Savannah River National Lab, and the SC Research authority combined.

One of the crown jewels of ORNL is the The Spallation Neutron Source, which will accelerate atoms of hydrogen to 90 percent of the speed of light, strip off the electrons and then smash the protons into mercury to break neutrons free. This stream of neutrons can then to smashed into other materials to change their atomic structure, and thus their fundamental characteristics, such as strength, brittleness, etc. The Spallation Neutron Source cost a cool $1.4 billion, an investment no private concern is likely to make, and it will be a public facility opened to companies and universities that would like to use it in their research.

ORNL is a strong supporter of Tech 2020, an organization to foster high-impact companies spinning out of ORNL and the University of Tennessee in a systematic way. 56 companies have been spun out of Oak Ridge in recent years, and I saw a white board at Tech 2020 listing one with notes about the status and needs of each. That organization and focus was very impressive too.

The longer I am involved in developing an innovative economy, the more convinced I am that a public/private partnership is at the core of any successful strategy. The private sector needs to manage the crafting of technologies into products that customers find useful. But there is public infrastructure that is an essential foundation on which the private sector can work. In traditional industrial recruitment, this was roads and sewers and utilities. In an innovative economy, it is assets like the The Spallation Neutron Source and Tech 2020. Neither the public nor the private sector can create a highly innovative economy alone.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A sustainable surge of entrepreneurial energy

We began planning InnoVenture last summer, and early on set January 9th as the date applications were due from companies and inventors interested in presenting at the conference on March 28th and 29th.

As of the first of January, we had four applications. So we called for a full court press by the extended InnoVenture team of 150 or so Executive Committee and Advisory Board members to pull in interested companies and inventors. We now have 40 applications and are very confident that some will make exceptional presentations.

In prior years, InnoVenture had about the same number of applications, but this year's effort is a more significant accomplishment than it at first seems. In the first two years of InnoVenture, many of the companies that applied were personal contacts of a small, core group of organizers. We asked companies we already knew, and occasionally called in a favor, to get strong group of presenting companies.

In 2004 and 2005, the core InnoVenture group pretty much exhausted the easy targets that we already knew. The 40 companies and investors that applied this year represent the potential of the extended InnoVenture network to fulfill a major objective - to identify "a pipeline of emerging companies with game changing innovations."

This is a very encouraging sign, not only for 2006, but for the long-term sustainability of InnoVenture.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Eric Graben: God uses ordinary sinful men, such as King, to do great things

Below is an editorial written by a friend and originally published in The Greenville News that is a powerful, personal tribute to his dad and Dr. King

By Eric K. Graben

My father went to Birmingham-Southern College in the early 1950s. He was poor, so he rode the bus a lot. Back then, the buses were segregated. The bus company would place a bar across the back of the seats part way back, and the black folks had to sit behind the bar.

Dad told me that sometimes when an elderly black lady carrying a bag of groceries was walking back to the black seats, some bus drivers would take off with a lurch to try to make her spill her groceries. Sometimes the back of the bus filled up, and my dad would get up and move the bar forward a few seats so all the black folks would have a place to sit. Since my dad was white, the bus drivers would only glare at him. Rosa Parks hadn't yet refused to give up her seat to a white man, so the black folks didn't dare move the bar themselves.

Dad didn't think he was making a statement. He wasn't questioning segregation. Segregation was just the way things were -- it didn't occur to him to challenge it. He thought moving the bar so other people, black or white, could have a seat was just the decent thing to do. He couldn't understand why a bus driver would want to make an old lady spill her groceries just because she was black. Hang on to this thought while I talk about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for a little bit.

Some folks wanted to use any means necessary to get the nation that proclaimed that "all men are created equal" to really mean it -- instead of meaning that "all (white) men are created equal." Since white people in America outnumbered black people nine or ten to one at that time, this probably would have resulted in a blood bath of mostly black blood.

So instead the Rev. King fought hatred and bigotry by following Christ. He faced both brutal cruelty and systemic racism with only courage and love. He looked his opponents in the eyes and refused to yield, but he also refused to fight back. I think the reason it worked, is that most white people are like my dad.

When folks like my dad saw the black Rev. King acting like Christ and his white opponents acting like the members of the corrupt theocracy that brutally murdered Christ, it became abundantly clear that black people were not inferior and segregation was wrong. And an overwhelmingly white judiciary, legislature and electorate chose to end legal segregation. Most recently, white Republican businessmen led the final charge to get us a Martin Luther King holiday in Greenville County.

I understand that some folks are reluctant to acknowledge that King was a political saint because in his personal life, he was a sinner. Scholarly biographers, both black and white, have documented that King was unfaithful to his wife and committed plagiarism. These sins are real. They are unfortunate. They detract from King's greatness. But he is still one of the greatest political heroes in American history.

David -- the one in the Bible who slew Goliath -- committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah the Hittite, murdered when he couldn't cover up the affair. (Take a look at II Samuel 11 and 12.) Yet every church and every Christian I know of still teaches their children that David is a biblical hero. And God did not remove David from power as king of Israel nor did he revoke his promise that David would have a descendant to sit on his throne forever. (II Samuel 7: 12-16.)

George Washington is one of my other favorite political heroes. He could perhaps have been like Napoleon and been America's first emperor but instead he chose to be a two-term president. He also owned slaves. He knew it was wrong, and agonized over it, but only set them free in his will when he was dead and didn't need them anymore. He still ranks up there with Winston Churchill.

No one is without sin except Christ, and until the Second Coming, we're going to have to tolerate imperfections, often serious ones, in our heroes. One of the messages of the Bible, demonstrated over and over again, is that ordinary sinful men and women can rise above their imperfections and do great things when they follow Christ -- like King did.

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your servant, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The rest of y'all -- have a happy MLK Day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Three SC colleges on top-value list... yea but

The headline in the Greenville News celebrated the fact that South Carolina has Three state colleges on top-value list, Magazine puts Clemson, USC, Charleston among 100 public schools offering 'stellar' education at reasonable cost. "Clemson ranks 24th and the University of South Carolina ranks 31st on a Kiplinger's Personal Finance list released today of top values in public colleges", while the College of Charleston ranks 56th.

Yea but ... the top of the list is dominated by neighboring southern states:
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. University of Florida
3. University of Virginia
4. College of William and Mary
5. New College of Florida
6. University of Georgia

Improvements in per capita income in South Carolina tracked improvement in North Carolina and Georgia for most of the twentieth century, until about 1980. Then greater enhancements in higher education in our neighbors started to kick in, and per capita income in North Carolina and Georgia has grown faster than South Carolina for the last 25 years.

While it's good that SC's improving, let's appreciate we're still behind. Now's not the time to be talking about cutting back on funding for higher education. Other's aren't treading water while we catch up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wow! Austin... San Francisco... Santa Fe... and Greenville... drawing creatives by the thousands

Many people work very hard over a very long period of time... cultivating... and nurturing... and coaxing. We know we have a great thing going. But it seems no one else does. Then bam.
Consider those living and working in Austin (Dell Computers, South by Southwest festivals) and the San Francisco Bay Area (Google, Cisco, Pixar). Or Santa Fe (highest number of art studios per total population) and Greenville, South Carolina (Peace Center in the Performing Arts, BMW). These cities are drawing creatives by the thousands.
Why Conservatives Must Win the 'Creative Class'
This is better than being highly ranked in some poll, because this just seeped into the conversation as a matter of fact... as if everyone already knew it. This author writes an article, and Greenville is top-of-mind as a creative place along with Austin and San Francisco and Santa Fe. Wow! This is powerful.

I immediately emailed the author and asked how Greenville hit his radar screen. Turns out that he lived in Greenville for a couple of years and so had experienced the city's creative energy first hand. That's even better.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Furman Institute for the Management of IT partnership with Blue Cross

Recently Furman President David Shi was kind enough to host lunch in his office to discuss how InnoVenture could be a benefit to Furman. He was very enthused about Furman's Institute for the Management of Information Technology, managed by the Rushing Center for Teaching and Technology. Through the Institute Furman has a partnership with the largest employer of IT professionals in the South Carolina, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to provide education to enhance the IT management skills of Blue Cross IT professionals.

InnoVenture will have a CIO Roundtable on March 28th, and the Furman/Blue Cross partnership will featured. I'm looking forward to learning more about this interesting partnership, and hopefully you are too.

The supercomputer at the Clemson International Center for Automotive Research

Hopefully you know by now that a wind tunnel is not the major feature of Clemson ICAR. It's really a partnership between Clemson, BMW, Michelin, and others to recruit and retain best in the world talent. The partnership is cemented by Clemson's Campbell Graduate Engineering Center that is a few hundred feet from BMW's IT Research Center. Students that might otherwise have gone to MIT or Stanford can graduate from Clemson and go to work for BMW without having to find a new parking space.

ICAR's research focus will be on systems integration in automobiles and automobile manufacturing. Evan Tishuk at OrangeCoat recently sent me an article about Clemson ICAR "installing a supercomputer that has as part of the first phase a cluster of 1,000 Sun Microsystems servers using dual-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The installation will serve as the heart of the university's Computational Center for Mobility, housed at its International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, S.C."

I didn't know that. Very interesting.

ICAR will make a presentation at InnoVenture on March 28th about creating a Community of Innovation around the facility. This is one more good reason to attend.

InnoVenture's inevitable dilemma

Ok. InnoVenture has reached an inevitable point.

In 2004, many of us on the Executive Committee personally knew high-impact companies in the region and called on them to participate. Nine emerging companies presented at InnoVenture 2004. At InnoVenture 2005, we made a broader call for solicitations and had 15 emerging companies participate. Between 2004 and 2005, we had 50-60 companies apply with 23 companies actually selected to present. (For math majors out there, 9+15=24, but one company presented both years.) So in two years, we've been through the list of obvious companies to call an invite to participate.

Now it gets tougher. For InnoVenture 2006, we have had some strong companies apply to present, but we've been through the low hanging fruit we all know about and the numbers of companies applying to present are down considerably. Last week we called entrepreneurial organizations and professional service providers in Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Asheville, and Charlotte. We had press coverage in newspapers in Columbia, Greenville, and Asheville. And we sent out a Last Call to the Swamp Fox/InnoVenture email database of 8,000.

This means there is a great opportunity for an emerging company that wants to present at InnoVenture 2006. We need you to contact us ASAP, though, so we can get you in the selection and coaching schedule.

The lack of emerging, high-impact companies highlights that in the southeast we have not been planting a lot of seeds for the past few years, so we don't have a bumper crop of high-impact companies. If we want to create wealth that stays here, we need to be proactive about stimulating entrepreneurial activity that converts innovation capacity into wealth.

How do you think we stimulate more emerging, high-impact companies in the region?

The Innovation's Bookshelf: Give us your recommendations like "The 100 Mile Walk"

Jim Roberts, Director, Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council & Blue Ridge Angel Investors Network, has recomended a book for your Innovator's Bookshelf: The 100 Mile Walk: A father and son on a quest to find the essence of leadership The author will be the keynote speaker at the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council meeting on January 17th at 5:30 PM in Asheville.

Earlier we had posted four books we believe are essential volumes for your Innovator's Bookshelf.

Let us know your recommendations of books for The Innovator's Bookshelf, and we’ll post them to the Swamp Fox site too.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Francis Marion: A Patriot's Patriot

This web site is called Swamp Fox, because Francis Marion's career is an outstanding illustration of South Carolina innovation.

Francis Marion was a South Carolina military commander in the American Revolution. Arriving at the American camp in Camden, Colonel Otho Williams observed that Marion was "attended by very few followers distinguished by small leather caps and the wretchedness of their attire. Their number did not exceed 20 men and boys, some white, some black, all mounted, but most miserably equipped."

After American General Horatio Gates' defeat at Camden, Marion was the only American commander standing between the British and victory in the south, which would have cleaved the colonies. In spite of facing one of the best trained and equipped opponents on the planet, the forces of Lord Cornwallis, Marion never suffered a defeat. (He was not at the Battle of Camden.)

Marion had two advantages he skillfully leveraged. He had an innovative technology, rifles, around which he developed novel tactics to frustrate and confuse the enemy. He also knew the terrain intimately well and always chose the battlefield on which to engage his foe. If he had ever fought in the open field where the British were trained and equipped the fight, he would have been annihilated. After unsuccessfully chasing him for days, the British Dragoon commander Banastre Tarleton unwittingly made Marion a legend by nicknaming him the Swamp Fox.

The first American civil war was the American Revolution in the South. A third of all revolutionary war battles were fought in South Carolina, and Marion fought in a third of them. That means, incredibly, that our intrepid Swamp Fox was involved in one of every six battles of the America Revolution.

This came to mind this week because there was a news story about recognizing Francis Marion with a statue in Washington, SC. Now you understand why this would be a just tribute to a patriot's patriot.

What the education judge didn't say

In case you've been out of the state for the holidays, Circuit Judge Thomas W. Cooper Jr. issued a ruling last week in a 13 year old law suit about whether South Carolina provides minimally adequate education to children in impoverished districts.

"We are ecstatic. We won," said Laura Callaway Hart, one of the districts' attorneys. Well, what the plaintiffs were looking for was massive amounts of new money - like billions of dollars - thrown at the problem. That's not what they got.

The judge didn't say the solution was brick and mortar. He ruled that facilities in the poor counties were adequate. The judge didn't say the solution is throwing more money at the problem. "Although the plaintiff districts have received 'substantial amounts of monies' in response to poor academic performance of certain schools, the funds have been 'largely ineffective because they come too late,' Cooper wrote."

The judge did rule that, "Children in eight of the state's poorest school districts aren't receiving the opportunity for a minimally adequate education because of the state's failure to adequately fund early childhood intervention programs." Many legislators have already gotten there, with proposals in this upcoming session to extend 4 year old kindergarten. This ruling gives those proposals more momentum.

The question we must address is how education is delivered. If we continue to deliver it the way we have traditionally delivered it, we can't expect substantially different results. The problems of educating children in poverty are difficult, multi-faceted and sometimes seemingly intractable.

Usually the debate about school choice is framed from the demand side - giving parents more choices. Too often, the teachers come off as the bad guys, making teachers, and even parents that like their children's teachers, very defensive.

School choice gives the best and brightest teachers more options too. A prior post was about two educational entrepreneurs, Tammi Sutton and Caleb Dolan, who targeted an area "where poverty rates are high and expectations are often low" and "decided to build their own high school. Sutton and Dolan weren't trained in a traditional college of education and don't spend much time worrying about the way schools are supposed to operate." Their kids have among the best test scores in North Carolina.

We need an education system that encourages and supports the passionate and creative Tammis and Calebs to develop innvative solutions to a broad array of problems. Educational entrepreneurs like them really are our last best hope.