From left to right: former Sen. John Matthews, Dr. Barbara Adams, President James E. Clark, Sen. Vernon Stephens
Center will serve new and growing businesses in the Orangeburg region
ORANGEBURG, S.C.- Downtown Orangeburg will boast the upcoming Orangeburg Regional Innovation Center, thanks to a collaboration between the city’s institutions of higher education, along with city and county officials. The center will be the organizing force for startup companies specializing in technology innovation and other high growth areas in the Orangeburg region. South Carolina State University, Claflin University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College will join other community organizations to bring the center to life.
At the new center, startups will be provided access to education, mentorship, counseling and assistance with finding funding sources so that they can become financially viable and contribute to the economic growth of the region and state. Businesses will have access to marketing resources and services geared toward recruitment and retention. The center will also serve as a hub to connect new and growing companies with business and workforce development support.
Through the efforts of retired state Senator John Matthews, SC State University was awarded $225,000 by the state government to help fund the project. Matthews and his successor, Senator Vernon Stephens, presented the check to SC State during a private check presentation on Thursday, December 17.
Matthews has spent many years dedicated to developing the Orangeburg community’s economy.
“We’ve been trying to find ways to grow the economy in this community,” Matthews said. “One of the thoughts we had is that other major colleges had put together similar programs for economic development, utilizing their skills and their capacity for intellectual capital to create a one-stop-shop to grow our economy. We can no longer depend on ‘big boxes’ and development commissions alone to grow these opportunities. We thought these three colleges would be a good group to move the project forward.”
In addition to SC State University, Claflin University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, other entities involved in the project are: The Regional Small Business Development Center, the Palmetto Enterprise Center Incubator, the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, the Orangeburg County Partnership, One Orangeburg County Initiative and the Orangeburg County Development Commission.
The overall goal of the center is to energize and elevate Orangeburg’s economy and encourage entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in the region. The parties involved aim to accomplish this by creating a cohesive network of economic development organizations and educational institutions to efficiently position new and existing companies for success. The center will provide various services, including business planning, education and training, funding and special programs to help startups innovate and grow.
SC State’s College of Business, in collaboration with its Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Small Business Development Center, the 1890 Community Development Program and Claflin University, will provide expertise in writing business plans and the development of prototypes. Faculty, staff and students will join in business planning efforts.
“The Innovation Center will allow us to enhance our outreach to the community and be a catalyst in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Orangeburg region,” said Dr. Barbara Adams, dean of SC State’s College of Business.
SC State will also collaborate with Claflin University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College to provide workshops and seminars for local entrepreneurs.
In addition to helping businesses succeed, the center will facilitate job creation on each fundamental level of the project.
“Businesses of all sizes play a major role in our community, economy and our society as a whole,” said SC State University President James E. Clark. “The Innovation Center will contribute to the growth of Orangeburg and surrounding areas, and SC State University is honored to be a part of that growth. The amount of collaboration from so many organizations within our community is momentous. We would like to thank retired Senator Matthews and everyone for their support as we continue to promote prosperity in the region.”
The project is scheduled to be implemented by April 1 of 2021, and will include key activities, such as identifying and hiring staff and consultants, hosting training workshops, obtaining internships for students, hosting community events and coordinating funding sources.
The center is expected to grow at a reasonable pace while giving the attention and assistance needed for new startups and existing businesses to maintain longevity. It is expected that the growth of the innovation community in the Orangeburg region will strengthen relationships among existing business development organizations and educational institutions.
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