Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Innovation in SC

I continue to be impressed with the steps that SC is taking in the area of ED. I was in the state last week doing a talk to their Association of Regional Councils, ten regional groups for the 46 counties in the state set up in 1967.

Camden, SC (population 6,682), a town that I’d visited earlier in the year and that we are in the process of making a substantial investment, recently set up a Wi-Fi mesh network over the entire town and each high school student has been given a laptop computer. Alfred Mae Drakeford, a city council member told me, “The school did a special deal with Hewlett-Packard, paying $9 million over a four year period. The city council helped set it up, hoping that it would attract more business to the town. It is already attracting new business to Camden. People are coming in and saying, WOW!!!”

George Fletcher, Executive Director of the new SC Council on Competitiveness, was on a panel with me and talked about the growing importance of the automotive sector on the state as it diversifies away from textiles, “We now have 340 auto parts manufacturers in the state, but only 50 of them are BMW suppliers. 201 of them have over 50 employees and the rest are smaller suppliers. The textile companies that survive are going to be very strong.”

James Clyburn, the third ranking Democrat in the new US Congress, from rural Sumter, SC (population 39,643), commented on the importance of rural America to the new Congress, “The national security of this country is dependent upon the rural revitalization of it. We’ve got to get rid of our dependence upon foreign oil with alternative sources to fossil fuels growing them on the farms of this country.” He sees great potential in SC with soybeans, sweet potatoes, switchgrass and even kudzu.

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