Director of Economic Development Initiatives
CTC Public Benefit Corporation
New Carolina’s High Impact Entrepreneurship conference was held on April 7. About 125 participants from both urban and rural counties throughout the state met to have a conversation on how we can work together to build a stronger base of homegrown firms.
Our goals for the conference were to:
- Learn more about the types of homegrown firms that are creating most of the jobs and wealth in the state.
- Understand the factors that can help high impact firms expand in our state.
- Obtain information about the entrepreneurship strategies that work in other regions of the country.
- Discuss some specific steps that we can take in South Carolina to promote high impact entrepreneurship.
Research presented by USC professor Dr. Doug Woodward indicated that:
- Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are creating a disproportionately large share of South Carolina’s jobs.
- In any four-year period during the last 10 years, 2.5 percent of all South Carolina-based “high impact” firms created almost all of the net new jobs in the state.
- “High impact” firms are spread across industry sectors.
- High-impact firms are highly urban.
- About half are in traded sectors of the economy.
- South Carolina is not growing as many small firms into big firms as our neighboring states.
Based on interviews with South Carolina’s high growth firms and economic developers in the state, six of the most critical constraints to growth fall into the following categories:
- Lack of Access to Affordable Financing
- Lack of High-level Management Talent
- High Business-related Taxes in Some Areas
- Need for more Collaboration Related to Innovation
- A Less than Robust Entrepreneurial Culture
- Difficulties in Attracting and Retaining High-level Professional and Technical Workers.
Kurt Dassell with the Monitor Group, a global economic development consulting firm, indicated that many regions have difficulties implementing entrepreneurship strategies because: (1) they try and fail to become the next Silicon Valley, and (2) they do not understand their particular region’s strengths and weaknesses and - consequently - they do not pursue solutions that are tailored to their regions. He recommended that South Carolina should focus on a small number of initiatives designed to increase the base of management talent and to improve access to financing.
4. What are the Next Steps?
In collaboration with the economic development community and the organizations that provide services to entrepreneurs, New Carolina has pledged to identify three or four recommendations on strategies that can help to build a stronger base of homegrown firms. Stay tuned. We are still digesting the information from the conference.
There was one clear message from conference participants, though. They identified a strong need for a highly visible statewide “portal” that is recognized as the one place that entrepreneurs and service providers can go to find resources and information. That is an idea that will be explored further.
5. One Other Success Story
During the conference, representatives from the organizations that currently operate or plan to open an incubator met to form the South Carolina Incubator Association. Thanks to Joel Stevenson, the Executive Director of the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, for taking the lead on this initiative.