Thursday, July 21, 2011

Midlands Clusters

by George Fletcher

Congratulations to Amy Love, who has already been promoted from Senior Manager of Global Business Development to Marketing and Communications Director at the SC Department of Commerce. In that role, she will be in constant contact with the Governor, the Secretary of Commerce and his senior staff. I know she will do a great job.

I have not used this blog as I should have. In the post Amy world of New Carolina communications, I will try to improve.

On Tuesday, July 19, I attended a meeting of the Midlands Cluster Oversight Committee. This group is Chaired by Cathy Novinger and has approximately 20 members. Staffing is being provided by Neil McLean and Sagacious Partners. This is an excellent model for regional clusters, especially when Cathy and Neil provide the leadership.

The committee has identified four cluster areas: Clean Energy (specifically Fuel Cells and Nuclear), Insurance and Health Care Technology, Health Care/Health Sciences. With nuclear, they are taking our multi-state approach and finding niches that can be specifically applied to the Midlands.

Many people believe that the next big thing in Nuclear will be Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s). There was a conference in Columbia this spring on SMR’s and nearly 300 people from all over the country paid $2000 to attend a two day conference. These 250 MW units could potentially replace coal plants in the US or provide power to some of the planet’s remotest places. Alaska, for example, has a huge interest in SMR’s. Senior nuclear people at SCANA and the Savannah River Site think that research, testing and manufacturing of these units could and should take place in SC. Congress is considering appropriating $400 million or more to this purpose. One manufacture believes that exports could hit $100 billion by 2030. To put that number in perspective, BMW currently ships 700 cars per day though the Port of Charleston and that amounts to $4.2 billion.

The Midlands Nuclear Cluster group is called NuHub and it demonstrates exactly the kind of private sector driven economic development that is the hallmark of successful cluster strategies.

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