SCBIZ Magazine - Nov/Dec 2023

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RUNNING THE BUSINESS OF TOURISM Behind South Carolina’s $29 billion tourism industry

50 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE INNOVISION AWARDS A supplement to Charleston Regional Business Journal, Columbia Regional Business Report and GSA Business Report

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South Carolina, where every day can be a vacation


s a relatively new resident of South Carolina’s Upstate I feel like I’m on a bit of a vacation. Only if it wasn’t for these pesky deadlines.

One of my favorite things to do is hop on my bike at Unity Park and pedal up the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Travelers Rest. There I’ll stop at The Community Tap or Swamp Rabbit Brewery & Taproom for a cold one. On my way back to Greenville I might just have to stop at the Swamp Rabbit Café for a smoothie and some stecca bread. If it’s a family outing along the trail replace the brew stops for a picnic at Swan Lake on the campus of Furman University. (We try to resist feeding the geese and turtles). Another favorite family trip is heading over to Cartright Food Hall in downtown Greer, and then strolling beneath the criss-cross lights along Trade Street with full bellies. We also recently discovered the crystal-clear waters of Lake Jocassee as we paddled our kayaks while taking in the natural beauty of Pickens and Oconee counties. Tourism is a huge draw for the Palmetto State. So is the resulting economic impact, estimated at $29 million annually. As the focus of this issue of SCBIZ Magazine, you’ll find features inside on the Upstate’s burgeoning appeal, Lake Murray riding the wave

of tourism momentum and the impact of the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. Not to mention an Industry Perspective from Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism and a 5 Questions With feature on Beth Paul, general manager of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It’s also a very special issue of SCBIZ Mag. Inside we recognize our inaugural class of 50 Most Influential honorees, as well as featuring a special section on the annual InnoVision Awards winners. Now, back to my vacation… Jason Thomas is the executive editor of SC Biz News. Reach him via email at


EXHIBIT EXPERIENCE 864-558-8647 Skyline salutes all of the winners and nominees who are dedicated to creating great places to work and strong brands.




$29 BILLION estimated annual economic impact of South Carolina’s tourism industry

1 IN 10 That’s how many South

Carolinian’s the state’s tourism industry employs

$965 The amount that

South Carolina tourism reduced the tax burden on South Carolina residents every year Table Rock State Park at dusk in autumn. (PHOTO/Sepavone)



South Carolina’s economy and culture are steeped in hospitality By Duane Parrish


oliday traditions – like visiting a seasonal

performance by calculating rental revenue divided

their trip to South Carolina spend an additional $1.1

attraction, making an annual pilgrimage to

by rental nights available, was up 12% for hotels and

billion off-course on food, lodging, shopping, and

see loved ones, or booking a special vaca-

35% for vacation rentals compared to pre-pandemic


tion to celebrate the season – are steeped in hospital-

levels. Rental Nights Sold were also up in the same

If golf is the comeback kid of the sporting

ity. It’s the warm welcomes, the cozy comforts, and

period, with a 4% growth for hotels and an incredible

world, outdoor recreation is their hiking-short-clad

the thoughtful details that turn interactions into expe-

68% growth for vacation rentals. Driven by strong

sidekick. As the director of the South Carolina De-

riences, and moments into memories. In the Palmetto

consumer demand, this success reflects our growing

partment of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, I have

State – regardless of the season – hospitality is our

popularity as a destination and positively impacts

to conclude with the latest on our state parks. Our

specialty, served up warm and generously to friends,

both our economy and our quality of life.

park roots go back to the Great Depression and the

We can’t talk about success in the tourism indus-

1930s, when FDR’s New Deal created the Civilian

From the mountains to the coast, South Carolina

try without talking about golf – the comeback kid of

Conservation Corps, putting men around the coun-

is blessed with an abundance of natural and man-

the sporting world. Home to more than 350 courses,

try back to work doing a number of things, includ-

made gifts, from our historic cities and charming

the annual RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island,

ing building state parks. Today, we’re in the middle

small towns to our pristine beaches, challenging golf

and the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYN-

of the biggest expansion our parks have seen in

courses, and unspoiled acres of public lands. Com-

NEX Corporation in Greenville, South Carolina has

decades. Over the next few years, we’ll welcome

bine those gifts with our rich tradition of hospitality,

a long and rich golf tradition. In recent years, we’ve

six new parks to our existing family of 47. You can

sprinkle in our fresh farm-to-table flavors, and add a

played host to a series of significant tournaments, in-

explore at least one of those new parks today, May

dash of our year-round vacation-ready climate, and

cluding the 2021 PGA Championship at the famed

Forest State Park at Fort Johnson on James Island.

you’ve got an award-winning recipe for a successful

Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the

The timing of these new park acquisitions – while

tourism industry.

2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree (which

unexpected – couldn’t be better. For many, the pan-

neighbors, and visitors from around the world.

Over time, South Carolina has blossomed from

replaced the canceled RBC Canadian Open on the

demic renewed a love for the great outdoors, and

a seasonal, summertime getaway, into a world-class

PGA TOUR), and THE CJ CUP in South Carolina in

we’ve seen a huge increase in visitation as folks

destination that welcomes visitors all year long. Our

2022. This year, Discover South Carolina, our state’s

seek a tranquil escape in some of the state’s most

restaurants, hotels, islands, and cities dominate na-

official tourism marketing brand, inked a multi-year

historically, culturally, and environmentally signifi-

tionwide rankings on sought-after lists from the likes

deal with the PGA TOUR that makes us an official

cant places. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to

of Southern Living and Condé Nast Traveler. The

tourism sponsor of the TOUR. Next year, the Myrtle

protect and share more of those places as our Park

accolades reflect what our communities around the

Beach Classic will debut on the PGA TOUR, wel-

Service grows.

state feel – tourism is pumping billions of dollars into

coming players and viewers to our iconic and golf-

our economy – an estimated $29 billion in fact. The

loving Grand Strand.

This holiday season, and all year long, I challenge you to spend some of your free time road-trip-

industry employs one in 10 South Carolinians and

This unprecedented stream of South Caro-

ping on South Carolina’s highways and backroads.

reduces the South Carolina resident tax burden by

lina backdrops on golf’s biggest stages has inspired

Take in the fall color change from one of our state

nearly $1,000 every year.

countless Palmetto State vacations, contributing to

parks. Warm up with a heaping plate of barbecue

In the years following the pandemic, we’ve

more feet on the state’s fairways as the sport’s popu-

from a roadside pit master. Do some holiday shop-

confronted new challenges seemingly every month

larity continues its historic resurgence. This isn’t just

ping along a quaint Main Street in a town you’ve

– from unstable gas prices and inflation to labor

good news for golf fans – it’s good news for all of

never visited. Whether you were born and raised here

shortages and supply chain issues – and tourism has

us. Golf generates more income than any other sin-

or you’re a transplant, there’s always something new

continued to fight forward. In the 2023 fiscal year

gle entertainment or recreation activity in the state.

to discover in South Carolina. Seasons greetings, and

which closed in June, our hotels and vacation rentals

In 2021, golf had an estimated $3.3 billion impact

happy travels.

saw record revenues. Revenue Per Available Room,

on the state’s economy and contributed to 38,000

the industry’s gold standard for measuring top-line

jobs. Not to mention, visitors who play golf during


Duane Parrish is director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

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Crowds gather from far and wide to attend Fall for Greenville. (Photo/Provided)

UPWARD TRAJECTORY Behind the record tourism numbers happening across the Upstate

By Krys Merryman


ot only has South Carolina seen all-time high hospitality and tourism growth, but specifically the Upstate has witnessed a staggering economic impact locally in fiscal year 2023. From July 2022 through June 2023, approximately seven million people visited Greenville, spending $1.5 billion in hotels, restaurants, shops, and other local businesses — a record high. Heath Dillard, president and CEO of VisitGreenvilleSC said, “When people show up here they realize it’s not just a great place to visit but also a great place to live and becomes an opportunity to attract talent in a wide variety of spaces. A great place to live is a great place to work and when we have a great place to work


it’s a place that businesses will have to be. If it’s a place that businesses have to be, that will generate travel and tourism.” When asked if he thinks Greenville is on track this year to surpass last year’s economic impact, Dillard said “absolutely.” Hotel room demand through August in Greenville County was 2.7 million rooms booked, which is a 3.9% increase from where the county was this time last year. To maintain this growth rate, the county would see about 105,000 more rooms sold by the end of 2023. “For a market of this size, Greenville has incredible cultural aspects, great locally owned restaurants that are unique to the city,” said Dillard. “We have found is what people fall in love with here that differs from a city like New York is you still have all the excitement and energy but here you can get great art, food, great talent and acts in arenas and theaters

without sacrificing its natural beauty. You have a slower pace, outdoor scenery, trails, hiking, and really get to experience nature in a way that’s hard to do in bigger cities.” Greenville has fully recovered from pandemic So, where does Dillard see Greenville’s tourism industry heading over the next decade? Continued growth, he said. While there are quite a few markets that are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dillard, Greenville has not only fully recovered but the economic impact has surpassed post-pandemic expectations by 29% — meaning more hotel rooms booked, restaurants, attractions, other types of shows and concerts, more amenities. “We have seen visitors respond to that and continue to grow,” said Dillard. “Tourism is important to local communities when we have


Wine tasting at the Fall for Greenville event. (Photo/Provided)

this visitor spending. Between all the taxes and revenue, the community really gets to invest in themselves in large part due by money spent by tourists.” The more tourists are spending, the more amenities residents will get to enjoy in the future, he added. “We get to experience a higher quality of life because of this cycle,” said Dillard. Here are some data points from fiscal year 2023 shared by VisitGreenvilleSC: • Accommodations tax revenue collected locally: $14.3M • Hospitality tax revenue collected locally: $28.6M • Tourism tax revenue generated: $42.9M • 51,400 jobs in leisure and hospitality industry, nearly 1-in-9 jobs in the Upstate, which is up 8.4% year-overyear • $29B an all-time high tourism industry impact in the state • 213,000 engaged social media followers across all platforms | #yeahthatgreenville hashtag has been used more than 2.8M times on Instagram alone “The role that tourism plays in a community is creating a sense of place,” said Dillard. “Greenville is stronger than it ever has been.” What else is happening in the Upstate

City of Greer Tourism Specialist Lindsey Shaffer said Greer recently established its tourism division last summer, while Discover Greer serves as its tourism brand. In 2019, the city renovated its downtown streetscape. Trade Street has pavers and streetlights, and even though these seem like minor changes, they set up the downtown as more of a destination, said Shaffer. “We are focused on bringing people in through events and weddings,” said Shaffer. “But what changed a lot was this streetscape project, as we’ve seen an increase in visitors and hotel stays.” Greer hosts more than 700 events a year in its rental facilities, whether its weddings, baby showers, or conferences. “We continue on a controlled growth scale, being mindful to continue serving our residents but also welcome new visitors,” said Shaffer. One thing the city is continuing to expand is its facilities to accommodate larger groups. The city purchased what was formerly Greer Country Club, which is now a public golf course, and they are working on renovating the club house and event space on that property, said Shaffer. “Events such as our three-day international convention at city hall brings in a lot of people in commerce and business, which in turn helps

us grow as a city,” said Shaffer. “Tier 3 manufacturers looking at Greer for its headquarters, and there needs to be things for them to do when they come in. So, in terms of tourism, we look back to that as a measure of the growth we have here.” Upstate places emphasis on sports tourism growth Sports tourism has been a main factor in the growth of the tourism industry in the Upstate. Spartanburg has more than 160 events annually, said Billy Dunlap, OneSpartanburg Inc.’s chief tourism development officer. The Spartanburg City Council approved the first reading of a development agreement for a planned $425 million downtown baseball stadium development at its September meeting. The project — known as Project Core — is a master plan for the next district of downtown Spartanburg. Combined with improvements underway along W. Main Street, according to the city, Project Core will transform the downtown’s western gateway, an area that has become increasingly attractive to mixed-use development. The project will be “significant” to the economic development of the city moving forward, said Dunlap. In addition to a 3,500-seat stadium, the development area will include 200,000 square feet of office space, more than 375 apartment units, a 150-room hotel, parking facilities to house at least 1,500 vehicles, and a large public plaza and event space. Construction on the project will take place in phases, with the stadium and first parking structure expected to be completed by spring of 2025 and subsequent phases to be completed over several years, according to the city of Spartanburg. “The concept will be similar to Greenville’s West End,” said Dunlap. “I really think this development and Morgan Square will be the center of downtown when completed, the hub of activity for downtown. It’s a project that’s been years in the making, with a lot of partners involved in this project bringing this development here and could not be more excited for this to be open.” Dunlap said the state was vital with support and funding for this project and can be seen as the “anchor” for downtown Spartanburg.



Greenville Center for Creative Arts Annual Showcase Member Show. (Photo/Provided)

“It shows how important collaboration is when a city and county and state can all work together and work toward the same goal that will revolutionize downtown,” he added. Some cities in the Upstate like Spartanburg’s growth have come with some challenges due to it being a historically small textile-driven town, said Dunlap. “People that live in the Upstate, for some that’s still their impression of Spartanburg,” he added. “Through strong marketing efforts we are letting more people know what we have to offer, things to do, beautiful downtown area, great restaurants, arts scene, live music, murals, symphony, anything on the humanities side but changing the mindset has been a challenge. “There has been an emphasis on getting people downtown so they really understand what the city has to offer. Although a challenge, it’s still a great opportunity to really showcase what we have to offer regardless of age and where you’re from.” Like Spartanburg, Anderson has also


directed its vision for the county on sports tourism. That includes the marketing, advertising, recruiting events as well as the continued development of facilities and the overall growth of the product to include more hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc., said Neil Paul, executive director of Visit Anderson. Of that facility development, none have been more important than Green Pond Landing and Event Center on Lake Hartwell, he said. “Lake Hartwell is arguable our greatest asset in Anderson County, and Green Pond Landing and Event Center has been the glue that put the community and the resource together,” said Paul. Since opening in Dec. 2014, the economic impact of Green Pond Landing to the Upstate exceeds $100 million, as Green Pond Landing, Anderson County, and Visit Anderson have hosted local, regional, national, and international tournaments and events, he added. The pandemic created a need for outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism, and

Anderson County was among the few counties in the state to thrive during the pandemic from a tourism perspective, said Paul. “Tourism has long been a powerful sector in the Upstate economic activity and growth, a positive trajectory for some time,” said Lauren Duffy, associate professor for the Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management. Taking a swing at sports tourism Duffy also has noticed sports tourism being a significant trend in the Upstate, with the uptick in sporting events. In addition to arts and culture events in Greenville like Fall for Greenville, the city’s biggest event of the year, Artisphere, and Euphoria, tournaments like Bassmaster and BMW Charity Pro-Am are becoming consistent within the region and continuing to become larger in attendance, said Duffy. “Sports tourism at all levels has really taken off,” she added. “I think the intersection of tourism working with local parks and recs and

FOCUS being able to provide facilities that support that is crucial.” For example, looking at minor league sports in mid-size markets often creates this unique community vibe, said Duffy. “These events are a lot more accessible for families and young professionals,” she said. “And then people are going to restaurants right after or before the sporting events. They get people out on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. Even sports tournaments at the youth level such as baseball in Easley make a huge impact in these areas that otherwise don’t have minor league teams and such. As sports become more privatized, it makes a difference in smaller communities.” Shaffer said Greer is looking more into the sports tourism sector also. For example, the city hosts rugby tournaments from seven states. Duffy said at the end of the day when city officials make decisions around tourism development, residents need to be in mind and how they are impacted, their quality of life. “When we lose sight of that for the sake of development, that’s when we price out locals and gentrification happen,” she added. “A lot of development in Greenville is now focused on affordable housing, and you have to approach tourism this way, to support the industry in the sense that the residents who work in the hospitality and tourism industry have to be able to afford to live where they work. It’s a balanced effort, and no matter the decisions that are made, your people must have a voice at the table.”

Live music at Fall for Greenville festival. (Photo/Provided)

Wildcat Falls offers a get-a-way into nature. (Photo/ Provided)



The next wave of runners heading out at the 2023 Cooper River Bridge Run. (Photo/Provided).

BRIDGING TOURISM Annual Cooper River Bridge Run an economic driver for Charleston region By Brooke Strickland


Contributing writer

hen the Cooper River Bridge Run was founded by Dr. Marcus Newberry in 1978, it was evident that it would become a fun – and important – way to welcome people to experience the beauty and hospitality of South Carolina. What began with just 766 people, the event has now grown to become the third largest 10K in the United States. Mark Cellars, deputy race director for CRBR, shares that the bridge run was voted the top tourism event in the state in 2019 and numbers continue to grow. Many individuals and families make this a yearly tradition and in the running industry, the bridge run is considered a “bucket


list” event, with many people traveling from around the world to participate. “While the race is capped at 40,000 participants, we average about 75,000 people a year when you add in the friends, family and the spectators that take part in the race week festivities,” he Cellars said. “The event has an economic impact of over $35 million on the community. We promote at events all over the U.S. and people are constantly looking for an excuse to travel to Charleston.” The Cooper River Bridge Run relies heavily on corporate sponsors to produce the world-class event, with approximately 100 companies that are either sponsors or vendors. Recently, the CRBR team created a corporate challenge that encourages companies of all sizes to promote health and wellness among employees, encouraging them to

get involved in the event. To do this, they offer volunteer opportunities at the event, and corporations can also get discounts for race registrations. Charitable involvement Part of the event’s mission is to promote continuous physical activity and a healthy lifestyle through education and opportunity. To do this, the CRBR supports the Lowcountry in various ways. First, there is an annual Cooper River Bridge Run for kids that encourages youth to get out and get active. There is also a grant program that helps promote health wellness within the community, by providing other non-profits grants that introduce health and wellness education and activities within their organizations. So far, they have part-


Commercial real estate for real impact Value through innovation. Driven by data. Powered by people. The Cooper River Bridge Run has become the third largest 10K in the country, with 40,000 entrants. (Photo/Provided)

nered with 12 additional charities and assist them with fundraising for their cause. Cellars said, “Participants can register and give directly to the charity during this process. These charities raise thousands of dollars via the registration process. Participants are also able to fundraise and provided the means to solicit additional funding from their personal network. Lastly, the Cooper River Bridge Run provides additional funding and support for these charities throughout the year.” John Fortson, president and CEO at Ingevity says that his company supports CRBR because of its direct contributions to local nonprofits and TriCounty businesses. “The CRBR’s philosophy of giving to help those in need in our area aligns with Ingevity’s mission to make a positive difference in our communities,” he said. Danna Robinson, director of corporate affairs for Harris Teeter, affirms CRBR’s involvement in the community. “By supporting this renowned event, we are proud to partner with the Cooper River Bridge Run in their mission and to strengthen our deeprooted commitment to our Lowcountry communities as we work to empower individuals to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle, fostering a

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Get your message in front of the top decision-makers in the Lowcountry as they stay up-to-date on the people and businesses making moves in the Lowcountry. For advertising information, contact Ryan Downing at Athanas Kioko of Kenya was first to break the tape in the 2023 Cooper River Bridge Run, crossing the line in just over 29:01. (Photo/Provided)


FOCUS sense of fulfillment and enriching their lives,” she said. “We are honored to be part of this enduring tradition that positively impacts the community, brings people together, celebrates achievement and embodies the spirit of the Lowcountry.” Keeping things fresh Part of keeping the event new and exciting means being creative. Cellars shares that the bridge run is well known for its unique race swag. While most events provide participants with just a T-shirt, CRBR includes a bag, a towel, and an impressive ‘finishers’ medal that drives both old and new participants to add to their collection. They also offer one of the largest health and wellness expos in the country. “We have partners like Fleet Feet that make sure we bring the latest and greatest products when it comes to fitness and apparel,” Cellars said. “Our presenting sponsor Harris Teeter makes sure we have the latest health foods at the event.” The countdown is already on for the next Cooper River Bridge Run on Saturday, April 6, 2024. Cellars also said that after a successful 40th anniversary celebration, they are now working on planning ways to celebrate the race’s 50th anniversary. “We are beyond thankful for our loyal sponsors, participants, volunteers, and the community for their support of the event,” Cellars said. “It is breathtaking to witness the sea of people at the start line and bridge covered with participants from one end to the other. Being a Charleston native, I love showcasing our city and knowing how important tourism is to our local community and economy.”

Attracting 75,000 when volunteers and spectators are added in, the race has a $35 million economic impact.

After the ceremonies, runners started making plans for April 6, 2024, next year’s run. (Photo/Provided)

The annual race over the river has been going on for 40 years. (Photo/Provided)


The run operates with the support of about 100 companies, either as vendors or sponsors. (Photo/Provided)

FOCUS Participants from around the globe come to run the Bridge Run. (Photo/Provided)



Lake Murray is home to 12 species of game fish, particularly largemouth and striped bass. In recent years, thousands of people have visited the lake for fishing tournaments. (Photo/Provided)

FEELING THE ENERGY Lake Murray, originally created to generate electricity, evolves into tourism destination By Christina Lee Knauss


Contributing Writer

ake Murray is a magnet for thousands of South Carolina residents – especially from the Midlands – as a convenient site for boating, fishing, family outings and enjoying nature. Many locals who hang out there regularly may not realize that they’re sharing their beloved waters with visitors from all over the world who are rapidly turning the 94-year-old lake into one of the hottest tourism destinations in South Carolina – and the Southeast. For proof, look no further than statistics released in late August by the Capital City/Lake Murray Country (CCLMC) Regional Tourism Board, which promotes tourism and economic development in Richland, Lexington, Newberry and Saluda counties – the four counties


with shoreline along the lake. In 2022-23, more than 170,000 room nights were booked at short-term rentals located around the lake, generating more than $37 million in revenue through bookings at vacation homes and area hotels. Stats also showed more travelers booked short-term rentals at the lake in June 2023 than any other on record. Demand nights rose more than 14% year over year and revenue increased by $1 million. How does this make Lake Murray stack up against other lakes in the Carolinas? Stays in June alone generated $4.6 million in revenue, equal to quadruple the rentals at popular Lakes Marion and Moultrie in southeastern South Carolina and Lake Norman north of Charlotte, N.C. The increased numbers are also evident just from checking out action at CCLMC’s offices off Lake Drive in Columbia. In 2022-23, a re-

cord 132,242 people visited there to get more information about what the lake has to offer. “When we first started out, we might have 10 or 15 families a day, and now we have record-breaking numbers walking in our doors,” said Miriam Atria, president and CEO of CCLMC. “We are getting more business, we’ve had to increase our staff and add onto our building. Lakes are growing as popular tourism attractions, and we’re seeing that here.” Built for energy When the idea of Lake Murray was first conceived in the 1920s, attracting tourists was the last thing its creators had on their minds. They wanted electricity. The lake takes its name from William S. Murray, an engineer involved in the design and creation of the lake’s dam, which was built by the Lexington Water Power Co. to generate

FOCUS electricity for the area’s growing population. (That company later became South Carolina Electric and Gas, which was subsequently taken over by Dominion Energy). Land was purchased from more than 5,000 families in the area to build the lake, and dozens of area communities, as well as six schools, three churches and 193 graveyards had to be moved, according to a published history of the lake. Stories are still told in the region about graves that still remain under the lake because families chose not to move them. The reservoir for the lake started filling on Aug. 31, 1929, and 94 years later the lake is still fulfilling its original purpose – water from the hydroelectric plant there generates 245,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, enough to power more than 22,000 homes. Lake Murray covers about 50,000 acres of land and 650 miles of shoreline. The massive body of water is 41 miles long, 14 miles wide and 190 feet deep at its deepest point, and stores about 763 billion gallons of water, according to information from CCLMC. “Water attracts” The lake has always been a popular draw for people from around the Southeast, but the recent surge in visitors is due to a wide variety of factors, Atria said, with two standing out – promotion and the pandemic. Atria’s marketing organization has made a huge investment in recent years in getting word about the region out to a wider audience. Its national TV ads air all across the U.S. and went international earlier in 2023 through reruns of the XVI World Bass Championship which was held at the lake. The ad recently received a 2023 communicator award from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. CCLMC efforts also have resulted in more than 200 articles in regional and national publications including Garden & Gun and National Geographic Traveler. Statistics show a rapid increase in social media impressions about the lake, 17 million Google Search impressions and more interest from Gen X and millennial travelers, according to Micah Decker, vice president of marketing and communications for CCLMC. COVID-19, meanwhile, made people think differently about what they wanted from

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FOCUS a vacation spot. Lake Murray benefited. During COVID, Atria said, many people were attracted to the area’s large number of vacation homes because they wanted to escape lockdowns through travel, but not stay in hotels. “During the pandemic, we never closed our building down – we greeted visitors from behind the door,” she said. The pandemic caused a nationwide surge in interest in outdoor sports and activities, she said, and Lake Murray didn’t suffer from government restrictions on outdoor activity like some other areas did. “You could still get out and play golf, get into a boat,” Atria said. “I really think people discovered new activities during the pandemic and that interest has carried on. Lakes in general are generating more interest from tourists because water attracts, and this region is full of water. We have the lake and three area rivers.” Lake Murray offers something for all types of outdoor loves, from fishing, boating, kayaking and golf to enjoyment of the area’s unique natural beauty, including the annual influx of purple martins, a bird that nests in the millions on the lake’s Bomb Island each summer. Visitors on boats can view the huge flocks of birds as they swarm above the island from boats. “The birds themselves draw between 20 to 30,000 people a summer easily,” Atria said. Food and fishing Two areas in particular are growing in interest and drawing people to the Lake Murray

Camping on Dreher Island is a favorite activity on Lake Murray. (Photo/Provided)

region – food competitions and fishing. Atria said her organization has made an effort in recent years to promote local chefs and restaurants, particularly after many area eateries suffered during the pandemic. The organization sponsors a Team Lake Murray Country featuring local chefs which competes at the annual World Food Championship. The chefs have been selected by popular vote at the annual Taste of Lake Murray

Although it has a growing reputation as a bass fishery, the lake is still a hot spot for recreation. (Photo/Provided)


event. In late September, the CCLMC hosted a “Grilling on the Lake” steak cookoff at the Lexington Lake Murray Dam Public Park which was a sanctioned qualifying event for the Steak Cookoff Associatin’s World Championships. Chefs from around the U.S. gathered for the two-day event which was part of the grilling challenge series created by “Bama-Q,” a TV show dedicated to the world of “food sports.” CCLMC also announced earlier this year that they will be hosting the Southeastern BBQ Showdown on June 24 at Segra Park in downtown Columbia. The event might be in Columbia, but it is designed as a way to attract more visitors to the entire region, Atria said. Atria said the idea for the event came about because of a trifecta of food success stories in 2022: three South Carolina teams making it to the World Food Championships, the region hosting a WFC Table Event, and Food and Travel naming the Lake Murray area as a “Top Southern Summer Destination” because of the many eclectic restaurants and food styles available. The lake is home to 12 species of game fish, particularly largemouth and striped bass.

FOCUS In recent years, thousands of people have visited the lake for fishing tournaments that have drawn anglers from all over the world. The 2022 Black Bass World Championship drew participants from 25 countries across four continents. In 2023, the lake will have hosted Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series, with an estimated economic impact of $6 million. The lake’s appeal as a fishing mecca was recently reinforced when Bassmater named Lake Murray the “Best Bass Lake” in the southeast and the fourth best in the nation in its 2023 “100 Best Bass Lakes Revealed” list. And more lines will keep hitting the lake’s waters in the next year with more major fishing tournaments recently announced. Lake Murray will be a stop on the Bassmaster College Series Tournament Trail on Jan. 26-27, 2024 and the Bassmaster Elite Series will return in 2024, the tenth time the series has visited the lake since 1991. Atria believes the increase in tourism is going to continue for this inland aquatic jewel, despite the lack of a major hotel along the lake’s shores, an idea that has been floated several times over the years but never materialized. “Not having a hotel hasn’t stopped us from bringing what we wanted to bring to the area or stopped us from the levels of growth we’re seeing and will continue to see,” she said. “Maybe we’ll eventually get one, but until then we are going to be out beating the bushes and bringing the business here.”

Fishing tournaments have become a big boon to Lake Murray tourism. (Photo/ Provided)

Fishing is a popular activity on Lake Murray, which has been the site of several national tournaments over the past few years. (Photo/Provided)

In 2023, the lake will have hosted Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series, with an estimated economic impact of $6 million. (Photo/Provided)






eet the inaugural class of the 50 Most Influential business leaders in South Carolina. Reading through these bios made me feel pretty insignificant and unaccomplished. But hey I’m only 50, and as a journalist, I’ll probably have to work until I drop dead, so there’s time. All joking aside (was I joking?), the 50 executives on the following pages are why South Carolina’s economic engine is humming and why people are flocking here to live, work and play. Quick note: These selections are not scientific by any means, and were chosen by SC Biz News editorial staff. You’ll meet leaders from a wide array of industries, from manufacturing to education to real estate, and everything in between. Because that’s what it takes to be the envy of many states across the republic. Our honorees reveal what is South Carolina’s biggest strength, as well as its biggest challenge, and how it can continue its positive economic momentum. One common denominator I saw in most every response about The Palmetto’s State’s biggest strength was…its people. And our leaders are a humble bunch when it comes to owing up to the reason behind their success. That’s certainly something to write about. Congratulations to all honorees in our inaugural 50 Most Influential class.


Michele Abraham Title:State Director Company/organization: SC Small Business Development Centers ( SC SBDC) Years at your current position:13.5 Years What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? From the standpoint of small business, South Carolina leadership and the economic development community have done a stellar job of coming together to expand resources and create opportunities for our smaller companies to grow. We continue to improve collaborative efforts that leverage our collective capabilities, maximizing the assistance we are able to provide that will lead to even greater economic growth. One of our biggest challenges is the fact that we are unable to keep pace with workforce needs, both in terms of skills and sheer numbers. This is not unique to South Carolina, but is more exaggerated here, in part because much of our rapid population growth is retirees who are not contributing to our workforce. Both large and small companies are struggling to maintain and grow their revenues because of this limitation. We need to continue efforts to educate and retain our brightest graduates, augment specialized training programs and explore other ways to support our workforce needs. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if …we continue to work as a team to create and nurture an ecosystem that both enables small and large businesses to thrive and also maintains the culture and lifestyle environment that make our state an ideal place to live.

Ernest Andrade Title: Director Company/organization: Charleston Digital Corridor What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Successfully developing the necessary infrastructure in support of Charleston’s tech economy. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Making a series of targeted investments based on input from the tech companies operating in SC. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The CDC operates with three objectives: Raise per capita wages, create good jobs for SC graduates and diversify Charleston’s economy The results The average wage at tech companies is over two times that of all other industries. There are more jobs available for SC grads and the Charleston region is more economically diverse than ever. SC will continue its positive economic momentum if... they are successful with optimizing workforce and training programs for the jobs of the future.


Michael Amiridis Title: President Company/organization: University of South Carolina Years at your current position: 1 (started July 1, 2022) What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I am proud of the role I have played as a faculty member entrusted with teaching and supervising the research of undergraduate and graduate students. Their successes make a lasting impact through their contributions in their fields of expertise and in their communities. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? My favorite quote from South Carolina author Pat Conroy is, “South Carolina is a state of constant surprise … a state that on occasion can rise up and steal your soul with a magical moment.” Conroy was referring to the state’s natural beauty, but we also have a robust business climate, excellent opportunities in higher education, and overall, an attractive environment in which to live, learn and work. The challenge before us is to leverage these resources to secure South Carolina’s place in a globally competitive market for talent and to become a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … … the state’s business community, public and private sectors, civic leaders, and educational institutions work together to advance the strong assets of the state and its most pressing needs.

Tod Augsburger Title: President and CEO Company/organization: Lexington Medical Center Years at your current position: 8 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Helping lead our healthcare system through the uncertainties and tribulations of the worst pandemic in more than 100 years. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? Our biggest strength is the people of South Carolina. Our resilience, a cando approach, and strong relationships serve us well. Our biggest challenge is keeping our small-state, unique culture, while becoming one of the fastest growing states in the nation. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? No State, community, organization, or person can reach its true potential without good health. We have done our best to help improve the health of our communities, thereby helping all of our neighbors achieve great things. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if ...we challenge ourselves to think bigger. Our potential is only limited by our capacity to dream.

50 MOST INFLUENTIAL At Lexington Medical Center, the unwavering dedication of our physicians, clinicians and staff to delivering exceptional care to our friends, families and neighbors throughout the Midlands builds on our legacy of service and quality. That legacy continues with the leadership of our President and CEO Tod Augsburger.

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor.

Greg Ayers, DMD Title: CEO Company/organization: ProGrin Dental Years at your current position: 40 years

Jonathan Brashier Title: Vice President – Meetings, Conventions & Events Company/organization: VisitGreenvilleSC Years at your current position: 2 Years

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement has been cofounding and growing a thriving dental group alongside my son and business partner, Brent. Together, we’ve cultivated a dedicated team that shares our commitment to delivering “The Perfect Patient Experience” and making a positive difference in the communities we serve. This accomplishment represents not only professional success but also the fulfillment of a shared vision and the opportunity to impact people’s lives through quality dental care. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? I think South Carolina’s greatest strength is its rich history, affordable living, beautiful natural landscapes and the economic diversity. As a South Carolinian, I feel extremely blessed to practice in a state that is business friendly and experiencing rapid growth. What is its biggest challenge? All great things have their challenges, so I think SC’s biggest challenge is handling the tremendous growth and new people moving to our areas. Ensuring we have the roads, infrastructure and affordable housing is critical to our continued growth. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? For over 30 years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to improve the oral health of thousands of South Carolina residents. Being a dentist has also provided me the opportunity to give back to the SC communities by offering free dental care to those who cannot afford it. I also feel very blessed to be able to provide employment opportunities to nearly 200 hardworking South Carolinians.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? Tourism is the No. 1 industry in South Carolina, and we literally have something for everyone. Our people, especially in Greenville, are our greatest strength. People choose to live and work here and love the community we live in. Our biggest challenge is the rapid growth. We are constantly having to evolve to meet the needs of our communities and make sure quality of life for residents is a focal point in all strategic planning. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? As a proud South Carolinian, I feel like I have been a walking, talking billboard for more than two decades. Whether welcoming endless numbers of guests into my hotels through the years or showcasing all of Greenville County to meeting planners and visitors from across the country, my passion for bringing visitors to our beautiful state is embedded in my native DNA. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … We continue to surpass expectations. Tourism is often the catalyst for broader community economic development. If we can get a visitor here for them to see not only why we’re a great place to visit, but also then consider us as a great place to live, work or open a business, it opens so much more possibility. Once a visitor comes to South Carolina or Greenville specifically, it’s imperative we exceed their expectations. We also need to demonstrate that South Carolina is a place where all are welcome.

Jody Bryson

Andy Carr

Title: President Company/organization: President & CEO Company/organization: SC Technology & Aviation Center (SCTAC) Years at your current position: 16 Greatest Career Achievement/accomplishment: Helping South Carolina earn the distinction as the “Global Home of the Lockheed Martin F-16.” From Day One, SCTAC and our economic development allies worked tirelessly to secure the future of Lockheed Martin in Greenville. We successfully developed key partnerships with local, state and federal officials while advocating in conjunction with, and on behalf of, Lockheed Martin. Despite numerous setbacks along the way, we celebrated with pride as Lockheed Martin rolled the first F-16 off the assembly line at its Greenville Operations Center located at SCTAC. On the heels of that generational accomplishment came news that the Lockheed Martin F-16 was voted “Coolest Thing Made in South Carolina” in a people’s choice competition hosted by the SC Manufacturers Alliance. SCTAC is the only location in the world where F-16 sustainment and production occur at the same site. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our highly-skilled workforce — a lasting legacy from our reign as the textile manufacturing capital of the world — makes anything and everything, and we do it extremely well. South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we continue to work together at all levels of government, in partnership with the private sector, to protect our pro-business climate—which is critical to our sizzling job creation and economic growth.


Title: President/CEO Company/organization: South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) Years at your current position: 1.5 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I have been privileged to work at SCMEP serving the state’s small and medium sized manufacturers for over 25 years. I’m truly passionate about manufacturing in South Carolina as you can probably tell from the rest of my answers! Being asked in February 2022 to assume leadership of this organization and the fantastic group of people that make up the SCMEP team remains the very pinnacle of my career. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? South Carolina has grown to be a manufacturing powerhouse thanks to a dynamic, fast-paced business-friendly climate, in which business, state, local governments, and our educational establishments work hand in hand. What is the biggest challenge? As a state, we must ensure that we are able to provide a resilient pipeline of skilled and qualified workers. We must be able to increase the skills of our citizens during childhood, secondary, and post-secondary education, and work to meet the demands of high wage, growth, demand, and mobility/retention jobs within our state. We must also work to ensure that we have sufficient capacity to continue to deliver competitively priced utilities. In addition, we must ensure that South Carolina is a state where the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies is embraced, actively encouraged, and ultimately rewarded.

Wes Carter Title: President Company/organization: Atlantic Packaging Years in your current position: 8 years

James Chappel Title: President & CEO Organization: SCbio Years at your current position: 2 years

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina has a rich history of conservation. Our natural resources, beautiful places and commitment to preserve them are a source of great pride in our state. Further, I believe we are positioned to create a new story around environmental ethics and professional responsibility. The supply chain must create solutions to better mitigate environmental impact, which is not in conflict with economic prosperity because material innovation will drive this evolution. The best innovators will always be rewarded with prosperity. We can become a state that exemplifies conservation and commerce and illustrates that those dynamics can, and must be, in balance. This begins with creating a more circular materials economy through business partnerships and government participation as well as rewarding businesses that prioritize sustainability. We must invest in statewide infrastructure which is lacking today – we have one of the lowest recycling rates in the country, for instance. We must upgrade to high-tech recycling centers; deploy industrial composting; consider a statewide beverage container return system and packaging EPR legislation to secure waste materials as valuable resources; and create tax incentives for businesses to invest in circularity. The problems of pollution, litter, and contamination won’t fix themselves. It is our responsibility as businesses and citizens.

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I am writing the story of my greatest accomplishment now. SCbio and our members are helping South Carolina become a new hotspot for life sciences, growing faster here than in any other state in the Southeast. If we continue our momentum, when we look back in 5-10 years, we will be very proud of the success we achieved in putting South Carolina’s life sciences ecosystem prominently on the map. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its people. I have lived in multiple states, and no one collaborates better than South Carolina. Our biggest challenge is changing the narrative — ensuring people know about South Carolina’s tremendous universities, world-class companies, and robust growth and innovation in the life sciences industry. We are making progress on this front but still have much work to do. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? SCbio and our partners are creating a foundation for the life sciences industry to flourish in South Carolina. This growth results in high-paying careers in our state, and improved health and quality of life for millions of South Carolinians. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … stakeholders continue to work together, are intentional with strategy and policy, and make some ‘big bets’ on the industry.

Roslyn Clark Artis

Bryan S. Derreberry

Title: President Company/organization: Benedict College Years at your current position: 6 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I mark my career by individual student successes. Each of my students is unique and special. When they achieve their goals - academically, socially, athletically, economically or spiritually, I win! What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? South Carolina has a vibrant and diverse higher education ecosystem that includes two major research universities, a strong community and technical college system, renowned private institutions, small and medium-sized public institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and universities. Our diverse array of institutions ensures a highly skilled workforce to support the continued growth of our state. What is its biggest challenge? Keeping the talent we produce in our worldclass higher education system in South Carolina! How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? We are minority suppliers — we educate a diverse student body for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if our K12 education system reflects a continuing commitment to our professional educators and school staff, funds our schools equitably, and ensures that every school-aged child in SC has an opportunity to receive a world-class education.

Title: President & CEO Company/organization: Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Years at your current position: 12 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Being able to understand a metro area’s greatest possibilities and most significant challenges and rallying diverse mixes of stakeholders to address both. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our state’s greatest strength is its capacity to seize opportunities by working collaboratively across a geographic footprint that allows us to be nimble and coordinated. What is its biggest challenge? Thinking bigger and acting more boldly in making future-oriented strategic investments. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Positioning our Chamber as a “sane” center to bring multiple sectors, together, to define the Lowcountry’s problems, decide on strategy, and act. We prize our ability to execute concrete results. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if it puts people first by asking them to be civic entrepreneurs in building South Carolina’s best possible future.


James P. Clements Title: President Company/organization: Clemson University Years at your current position: 10 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement as President of two universities would be shaking the hands of 83,000 students as they walked across the stage at commencement, earning their degrees. And out of 83,000 total graduates, more than 61,000 are Clemson graduates, representing more than one-third of Clemson’s living alumni. Think about what that represents. That is 83,000 people who received a higher education. And each of those students has an impact on the lives of their families and their communities. As a first-generation college student, I always knew education was the key to a better life. So, when a student walks across the stage, shakes my hand and receives their diploma, I know that not only is that student’s life changed but society is also changed for the better. And knowing that I have an opportunity to be a part of that through the life changing power of education is incredible. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… South Carolina has very positive economic momentum. We are doing great things in South Carolina, and we will continue to have positive economic momentum as long as we remember our why – impacting and transforming people’s lives by creating a path to economic prosperity. Breaking records, powerful performance indicators and strong metrics are critical, but the real focus is on people and making a difference in their lives.


David N. Edwards Jr. Title: President/CEO Company/organization: Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District Years at your current position: 14+ What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I will always point to the ongoing development of the next generation of leaders in the airport industry as my greatest accomplishment and generally leaving things better than when I found them. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Its desirability for business and individual relocations. What is its biggest challenge? Population Growth/Developing and Maintaining Infrastructure How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I can point to the growth of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and its overall annual economic impact of $2.9 billion. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if …it meets the infrastructure needs of a growing population.

The Value of the Paw — A Decade of Leadership At Clemson University, ‘Best is the Standard,’ and under President Clements’ leadership, the value of the Tiger Paw has never been higher. Clemson is committed to elevating the lives of people across South Carolina and beyond.


151M $ 263M $


——— to ———

Jim Clements President, Clemson University



102M $ 217M


——— to ———


18,604 60,182 ——— to ———

*According to Wall Street Journal (WSJ)

Bill Ellen Title: President and CEO Company/organization: Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism / Experence Columbia SC Years at your current position: 10

Robert Engelhorn Title: President and CEO Company/organization: BMW Manufacturing Co. Years at your current position: 2 years (12 years with the BMW Group)

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Leading the convention center through the pandemic and continue to book business and manage events through that time. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? Our state’s biggest strength is our people and our geographic location. Our state’s biggest challenge is being one of the smallest states in terms of population. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? My staff and I have brought visitors to the state that make an economic impact as well as the visitors spread awareness of how great our state is. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … our state leaders continue to promote the state in a positive manner and recognize the factors that are generating revenue for our state.

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Achievement is all about teamwork. In the recent years, I was first proud to contribute to the conversion of Plant Munich in the heart of the city to become a fully electric plant for the Neue Klasse. Now, here at Plant Spartanburg, we are working together to shape our electric future by investing $1.7 billion to transform the lead X Plant to build fully electric vehicles in the future. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Over the past three decades, BMW Manufacturing has created great jobs, both directly and indirectly, for thousands of residents. Our annual economic impact totals about $26.7 billion, according to a recent study by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. BMW has a great vision for the future with our recent investment announcement of $1.7 billion to transition toward fully electric vehicles. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we continue to invest in our people, particularly in workforce development. It is important to develop a skilled workforce to meet the demands of the future, expand economic opportunity,and advance our state’s competitiveness.

Alexis Garcin

David Ginn

Title: President and CEO Company: Michelin North America, Inc. Years in your current position: 4 (since

June 2019)

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? When Francois Michelin was looking for a location for North American manufacturing facilities 50 years ago, the people here were the main driver. He recognized the great promise, strength and talent of South Carolinians who could transition from the evolving textile industry to the automotive industry. I see two challenges for this wonderful state in the decade to come. The first is making sure we attract people to support economic development. We already feel the tensions on the labor market today. Secondly, I believe we need to make a special effort to care for the natural environment around us. As South Carolina enjoys dynamic economic development, and we need to make sure it does not come at the expense of the natural environment. Reducing emissions is just one example of what could be done and there are many others. My point is to say, the sooner we start this journey, the smoother the transition will be. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we continue investing in the workforce of the future. Partnerships with technical schools, major universities and educational programs in the STEM field are crucial to ensuring the workforce continues to grow with the industry.


Title: President and CEO Company/organization: Charleston Regional Development Alliance Years at your current position: 23 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Serving as an economic development ambassador for the Charleston three-county region for the past 30 years. (Since April 1, 1993) What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? The Port of Charleston. If not for the port, our region and state would not have successfully competed for Boeing, Mercedes Benz Vans, Volvo Cars, and Robert Bosch, among many other world-class companies. What is its biggest challenge? With so much economic development success in our state over the past 25-30 years, avoiding complacency and staying focused on continuous improvement, in all aspects, will serve our state well. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? My hope is that our regional economic development team, throughout the Charleston region, including our elected officials, academic leaders and business leaders, has leveraged and complimented the quality growth and healthy development throughout our state. SC will continue its positive economic momentum if... we continue to value our relationships and remain strategically aligned around the common theme of working to raise everyone up, and their families, throughout our entire state.

Jon Good Title: CEO Company/organization: NAI Earle Furman, LLC Years at your current position: 12 years as CEO What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Expanded our business across multiple markets with dozens of Shareholders What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? The work-ethic of South Carolinians is our greatest strength. Our greatest challenge is complacency. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I believe our firm has been a positive influence on the recruitment of new industry to our state. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … SC will continue it’s positive economic momentum if we ignore the mainstream myopic story line of (the world is falling apart and everyone hates each other) and focus on doing the right things for the right reasons.

Tim Hardee Title: President Company/organization: SC Technical College System Years at your current position: 7 years What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s greatest asset is undoubtedly its people. Rooted in a heritage of hard work and determination, South Carolinians take pride in getting the job done and getting it done right. This work ethic, combined with their warm hospitality, makes South Carolina a sought-after destination for those seeking a welcoming place to call home and thrive. South Carolina’s most significant challenge lies in maintaining flexibility and adaptability. Our state has a very diversified economic landscape with a wide range of industries, such as automotive, tire, aerospace, and healthcare. What’s more, this list is continually evolving. Building and sustaining a skilled talent pipeline capable of meeting the dynamic needs of these sectors is an ongoing and critical challenge. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I have spent the majority of my career expanding opportunities for South Carolinians through affordable and accessible higher education. Today, accessing a quality education at one of the System’s 16 colleges is more affordable than ever before. I hope this enhanced accessibility will help open doors for South Carolinians, putting them on a path to a brighter future and better quality of life.

Mike Gula, AAE Title: President/CEO Company/organization: Columbia Metropolitan Airport Years at your current position: 6 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Having served in the aviation industry for over 20 years and striving to be a leader in the industry and the communities I’ve served. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? The ability to continue to attract businesses to the great state of South Carolina. The biggest challenge from an aviation perspective is keeping our dollars in the state as opposed to losing local dollars to North Carolina. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Being able to lead one of the largest economic driving entities in the Midlands of South Carolina. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if... we continue to build continuity amongst all residents and constituents for the betterment of the entire state.

Marilyn L. Hemingway Title: CEO/Founding President Company/organization: Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and Gullah Geechee Chamber Foundation inc Years at your current position: 5 years and 8 months What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? The founding of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and the Gullah Geechee Chamber Foundation, sister organizations focused on economic resilience and generational wealth creation through innovation South and North Carolina, Georgia and Florida What is its biggest challenge? Overcoming the persistent racism and sexism in this state because regardless of race, ethnicity and gender...Ignorance and hate continue to dampen the economic and educational progress of all people. We continually play this hypocritical “winking game” with racism and sexism while the proverbial foot on the neck of Blacks and Women does nothing to move our state forward. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if our government, chambers, business associations, education system, financial institutions and corporations become serious about the Gullah Geechee community and culture as an asset to our holistic economy and become intentional and deliberate regarding real investment in our small and micro businesses. This includes our creators, artisans, and professional services that need real investment and entrepreneurial education that will make measurable and impactful progress towards increasing incomes and generational wealth.


Helen T. Hill Title: President and CEO Company/organization: Explore Charleston Years at your current position: 34 South Carolina’s Biggest Strength? Biggest Challenge? Our biggest strength is and has always been our citizens. We have a great history of people who are industrious and friendly. Thanks to our incredible people, natural attributes and business-friendly environment, the Palmetto State is an increasingly popular place to live, work and visit, Our greatest challenge is to ensure our growth is responsible and sustainable from environmental, cultural and economic perspectives. How has our work benefited SC? Our goal has always been to promote and protect all that is special about our Lowcountry community and the state of South Carolina. For decades, Explore Charleston has been telling the authentic story of our state through our history, food, architecture, cultural arts, and special natural spaces, including our world-class beaches and islands. Tourism remains one of our state’s largest industries. It generated $12.8 billion in economic impact and employed over 51,000 residents last year in the Charleston area alone. One of the greatest successes of our work is its significance in economic diversification across the state. It all starts with a visit. South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if we acknowledge that the ideas and ways of thinking that brought us success the last several decades are not what will lead to our future success. Most importantly, we must trust in the inherent goodness and intelligence of our citizens. Our people are what make us special.

Dean Hybl Title: Executive Director Company/organization: Ten at the Top (TATT) Years at your current position: 14 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Working with the TATT board and funding partners to turn the idea of having an organization focused on regional collaboration & capacity building into a respected and impactful non-profit that has spent nearly 15 years working with many other organizations, businesses & local governments to make the Upstate a leading place to live, learn, do business & raise a family. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? It is now popular to say that we are “Stronger Together”, but the leaders who established Ten at the Top understood that concept 20 years ago, which is why the organization was created. By fostering the development of partnerships across sectors and geographic areas, Ten at the Top has helped many businesses, organizations and communities grow their individual and collective capacity in ways that may not have happened or may have taken longer to achieve if TATT was not cultivating opportunities for collaboration and regional partnerships. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if …leaders at the local, regional, and state level continue to work together across sectors and geographic boundaries while also increasing investments in physical and social infrastructure throughout the entire state.

Andrew Hsu, Ph.D. Title: President Company/organization: College of Charleston Years at your current position: 4 (since May 2019) What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Before moving into academia, I worked for more than a decade for private industry in aeronautical engineering. It wasn’t until I went into teaching that I really found my passion in life – helping students attain their academic goals. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s strength highlights its biggest challenge. Our state has so many economic opportunities right now produced by the legions of hightech entrepreneurs and international companies moving here, but our state doesn’t have the workforce to fully meet and maximize those opportunities. My hope is that my university – the College of Charleston – can play a role in meeting that challenge head on. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The College of Charleston is the oldest institution of higher education in the state, so that means it has seen a lot. And it has survived a lot, too. Ultimately, we are in the business of attracting talent to the state and preparing that talent to make a difference in the workforce, whatever industry that might be. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we continue to have and invest in an educated, career-ready workforce.


On behalf of over 51,000 Charleston area hospitality and tourism employees, Explore Charleston extends our appreciation and congratulations on this well-deserved recognition. Thank you for your vision and leadership in unifying and strengthening our industry, region and state.



Merle Johnson

Danny Joyner

Title: Executive Director Company/organization: Orangeburg County Development Commission Years at your current position: 1 Year

Title: President & CEO Company/organization: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices C. Dan Joyner, REALTORS Years at your current position: 14

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our biggest strength lies in the pro-business climate fostered by a combination of factors, including strategic tax incentives, robust infrastructure, and supportive regulatory policies. This environment promotes collaboration and teamwork, with everyone from the Governor to local Mayors working together seamlessly to propel the success of businesses across our state. What is South Carolina’s biggest challenge? Our most pressing challenge is the workforce shortage. However, with the initiation of the new Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act, we are taking significant strides to address this challenge. By aligning workforce development efforts statewide, we aim to create a unified plan that strategically addresses the specific needs of our workforce, ensuring a skilled and adaptable labor pool for South Carolina’s economic growth.” Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if we collectively work as a team to advance the entire state for every citizen. This means fostering an environment where innovation and investment thrive, ensuring sustainable growth that leads to meaningful careers for all. Success will be realized when every citizen has not just a job but a fulfilling career, contributing to the overall prosperity of our great state.

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I cannot point to any one accomplishment. I am blessed to be able to work alongside the most wonderful people everyday. Giving back to the community is a core value for C. Dan Joyner Co. and that is about as rewarding as anything. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? I believe that South Carolina is one of the most beautiful states in the country. We have so many natural amenities with the ocean, mountains and beautiful lakes and that contributes to a wonderful quality of life. We are also blessed with wonderful people in our state. What is its biggest challenge? Being able to educate and provide a quality workforce to serve all of the new industries coming into our state. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Owning a home is the American dream. We are fortunate to have been able to assist hundreds of thousands of people in South Carolina realize their homeownership dreams. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if... As I said earlier, it is vital that we are able to provide the workforce necessary to support incoming industries to our state. We also desperately need to fix our road systems.

Lou Kennedy

Douglas W. Kim

Title: President, CEO and Owner Company/organization: Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation Years at your current position: 20 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? There is nothing more important than the opportunity I have to mentor the next generation of leaders, and there is nothing I take more pride in tha n seeing them succeed. A wonderful friend of mine once told a group of us how important it is to lift people up as we climb. I keep that front of mind whenever new talent walks through our doors. While my responsibility to patients is delivering life-saving medications, my responsibility to my team is to train them to lead the workforce of the future. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its people. They amaze me every single day. Whether we are working together to overcome the challenges of a once-in-a-century pandemic, responding to natural disasters or wrapping our arms around new companies and employees, the spirit, energy and ingenuity of South Carolinians is second to none - and I will never pass up the opportunity to invest in them. Our biggest challenge is removing roadblocks of the past - and we can do that by turning toward each other, and uniting around the many things that we have in common, rather than focusing on things that drive us apart.


Title: Managing Member & Attorney Company/organization: Kim, Lahey & Killough Law Firm Years at your current position: Managing Member and Founder of law firm, 5 years; attorney, 25 years How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I have been told that I am a serial networker and connector. These relationships allow me to see potential connections and opportunities between clients, companies and organizations that promote collaboration and business. For example, I am involved with multiple entrepreneurship programs, business organizations and professional organizations. I revived and now chair the SC Bar Intellectual Property and Innovation Committee. For 10 years, I chaired the InnoVision Awards, a program that has honored innovative companies for 25 years. One awardee said that the exposure InnoVision provided motivated and propelled his business to the next level. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … It continues to stay focused on maintaining a business friendly environment, focusing on the workforce from the high school level and upward, continues to produce high quality STEM education from academic instruction such as Clemson USC and MUSC (and their research foundations) and continues to translate that southern hospitality into “the client comes first” so that we take care of our existing businesses and individuals.

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Leighton Lord Title: President and Chief Strategy Officer Company/organization: Maynard Nexsen Years at your current position: 12 years as Chairman of Nexsen Pruet, 1 year as President and Chief Strategy Officer of Maynard Nexsen What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? As a lawyer, helping companies grow in South Carolina so they can hire people and expand the tax base to support cities, counties and the state. As a law firm manager, helping young professionals grow and develop. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s overall friendliness to new business and growth is our greatest strength. South Carolina needs to strengthen its education system at all levels and its work force development. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? By helping new and existing companies grow and prosper in South Carolina. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … South Carolina stays committed to constant improvement in all things.

Tonya Matthews

John H. Lummus Title: President/CEO Company/organization: Upstate SC Alliance Years at your current position: 9 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest achievement was recruiting the Walgreens Distribution Center to Anderson, in 2004 when I was the Anderson County Economic Development Director. Walgreens hired 40% of its workforce for the facility from the disabled population, and this made this project particularly rewarding to work on. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its people, and particularly its skilled workforce. We are able to make the best products in the world hereBMW’s, Michelin tires, Lockheed Martin F-16’s, Boeing airliners, etc. and that is because of our hard working people. Our biggest chalenge is staying competitive in an ever changing world. We must embrace innovation and technology, and educate our people to be competitive in this new world. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Hopefully, I have had a part in creating jobs for people in the Upstate by recruiting new companies here. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we embrace change.

Barbara L. Melvin

Title: President and CEO Company/organization: International African American Museum Years at your current position: @ 3 years (2 years, 8 months)

Title: President and CEO Company/organization: South Carolina Ports Years at your current position: I have been with SC Ports for more than 25 years. I became President and CEO in July 2022.

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplish ment? I have the privilege of several great pivots in my career that have allowed me to be at the forefront of building great institutions and initiatives – so it is very difficult to rank them. Two experiences are clearly tied for most memorable achievement: Taking the Michigan Science Center from city-wide museum to statewide STEM education leader and stewarding the International African American Museum from unbricked construction-site to record-breaking national launch. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? South Carolina’s greatest strength is a culture that values history and storytelling — so much so that we center and cultivate history as business and the business of history. From agribusiness to tourism the previous “season” matters. Our challenge is that we must work hard to avoid being so rooted in history that we become entrenched, that we miss opportunities to grow, to innovate, and to learn. Our work at the International African American Museum is an intentional commitment to expanding the stories we tell – and in doing so, we increase the community’s ability to leverage all of our assets, including our history. An inclusive community is a more resilient, attractive community; and an inclusive economy is a bigger, stronger economy. IAAM is a contributing motivator for both.

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement is leading the 1,000-person team at South Carolina Ports. I am always in awe of their dedication and skillset. They consistently find creative solutions in a challenging, dynamic industry. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its people. At the end of the day, we all strive for the same things — economic opportunities and strong communities to support our families, whether that is through businessfriendly policies passed by our elected officials or with the tremendous companies that started or located within our state. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Our port operations have a substantial positive impact on our state. SC Ports supports 1 in 10 jobs throughout South Carolina, making a $63.4 billion annual economic impact on our state. By investing in port infrastructure and running efficient operations, we keep goods moving through the supply chain to support businesses and communities. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we continue to invest in workforce development programs that create pathways into thriving industries and build adequate infrastructure to support our growth.


Capacity for your supply chain




Stephen Navarro Title: President and CEO Company/organization: The Furman Co., Inc. Years at your current position: 40 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? When I (we) chose to move to South Carolina we did so because we wanted to raise a family in a place that matched our values…but near the mountains, having grown up on the west coast beaches. Professionals in the real estate and economic development arena influence change and are faced with choices and have a responsibility to recognize the positive and negative consequences of the growth we facilitate. What I am most proud of comes not from the projects, developments, or industries we have helped position to grow, but in maintaining a steadfast perspective of what makes our state great, remembering why I chose to come here, and then to help us grow with purpose, by choice and not by chance so future generations might do the same. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina is balanced; progressive in commerce and its economic values, holding quality of life and family first. South Carolina is empathetic to industry, both in procurement and retention for the employer and the employee. South Carolina’s biggest challenges lie with growing forces of influence and change, and with our collective recognition of what makes us great and what can tear us down. So, when we seek economic growth, we should anticipate change to follow. What emerges is our greatest challenge.

Mark O’Halla Title: President and CEO Organization: Prisma Health Years at your current position: 4 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement is navigating the state’s largest health system through the most significant public health crisis of the last century. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Prisma Health has treated nearly 25,000 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, providing care to more patients than any other health system in the state. In the height of the pandemic, many organizations faced critical shortages of personal protective equipment. Prisma Health was able to obtain and donate more than $107,000 of personal protective equipment to other hospitals and organizations throughout the state, which was only possible by leveraging our size and scale. Prisma Health led the charge in combatting the spread of the disease by standing up two of the largest vaccination clinics in the state. Our incredible team members administered nearly 800,000 COVID-19 tests and provided over 510,000 vaccinations to patients across our communities – but we didn’t stop there. Prisma Health deployed six mobile vans to dispense vaccinations to residents in rural and underserved areas. I could not be prouder of the nearly 30,000 Prisma Health team members who stepped up to the challenge of serving our state and our patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Honor well deserved Congratulations to Mark O’Halla, Prisma Health President and Chief Executive Officer, for leading our efforts to create a better state of health in the communities we serve in the Midlands and Upstate, now and in the future. This includes advancing patient safety and quality care, innovation and research, and training the next generation of physicians and health care professionals. All of which makes us the area’s most trusted choice for health care. Thank you for setting a vision that challenges us daily to live up to Prisma Health’s purpose: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference.

Leader named to 50 Most Influential list

Mark O’Halla Prisma Health President and Chief Executive Officer



Title: General Manager Company/organization: Bon Secours Wellness Arena Years at your current position: 8 How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Bon Secours Wellness Arena is a state-ofthe-art venue that people from across the state and beyond continue to enjoy, whether to see their favorite musician, attend a family show, sporting event, or even a community event. Our venue is an accessible alternative to driving to another market out of state, such as Charlotte or Atlanta. We are proud that more than 500,000 people walk through the arena’s doors annually, leading to a more than $70 million impact on the Greenville metro area. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we emphasize sustainable development, finding a balance between supporting residents, infrastructure and tourism, while meeting the needs of those from all backgrounds and walks of life. What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, I consider being a part of the continued success of Bon Secours Wellness Arena my greatest career achievement—from helping increase operating revenues and profits to securing notable acts and elevating the diversity of our annual events. Our success has been and continues to be a true team effort. As part of this, I also consider a great achievement to be our community outreach program, which bridges the power of live entertainment with the critical needs of Upstate.

You’ve Earned it.

B now romote it! P A

Carlos Phillips Title: President/CEO Company/organization: Greenville Chamber Years at your current position: 7 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Much has been accomplished over the past few years. We moved our office to Greenville’s central business district, helped businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, achieved 5-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber, co-founded the Grenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission, and led the statewide expansion of the Minority Business Accelerator, among so many other key accomplishments. Our greatest achievement may be our role in the 2018 passage of H 3209, workforce legislation that gives formerly incarcerated individuals a “second chance” to pursue their dreams. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s greatest strength is unquestionably her people. Millions of our residents really want to see the entirety of South Carolina advance and enjoy continued and shared prosperity. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The Greenville Chamber envisions a globally competitive regional economy where businesses succeed and people prosper, and I think that could be a shared vision for South Carolina. Advocating for policies that improve our business climate and economy and delivering programs that foster business growth is good for our community and benefits the entire state.

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Title: President and CEO Company: Paradime Construction Inc. Years in the home building industry: 24.5



Beth Paul

Floyd Lee Locums

Top local executive: Matt Floyd and Natasha Lee Product or service: Health care staffing Year founded locally: 2017 Brief company bio: Designed to be a boutique concierge experience, Floyd Lee Locums helps place physicians of all specialties and advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurse anesthetists in hospitals and health care facilities nationwide—as well as support the multiple staffing needs of those facilities. What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how Title: CEO are you reacting to them? Company: The Flyway Companies The most prominent change occurring in the health care staffTitle: CEO Title: President and CEO ing industry is adjusting to the “new normal” of a perpetual Company: 14 The Flyway Companies Company: Paradime Construction Inc. Years in the home building industry: pandemic. While COVID is still present, we see our partners and Years in the home building industry: 14 Years in the home building industry: 24.5 healthcare at-large trying to return to business-as-usual. This requires getting care and treatment back to the patients andSCBIZNEWS.COM How have you adapted to the supply chain communities that need it most. For us, that means now helping What has been the biggest change in How have you adapted to the supply chain NOVEMBER 2022 health care facilities staff up disciplines and specialties that may home design due to the pandemic? shortage affecting your industry? shortage affecting your industry? 20 Large Companies with have not beenarchitects, the focus these Most common answer would be home office and duel home Better planning and coordination with owners, sub-past couple years.




What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic? Most common answer would be home office and duel home Better planning and coordination with owners, architects, suboffices. This shift to being forced and able to work from home has contractors and suppliers. The sooner we can insert ourselves in offices. This shift to being forced and able to work from home has contractors and suppliers. Th e sooner we can insert ourselves in changed many peoples lives. Spaces in the home that can be quite the process the better. Many owners wait until design is finished changed many peoples lives. Spaces in the home be quite the process the better. until design is finished awaythat fromcan the noise is a must. Also, multigenerational homes are Manytoowners bring in await contractor. We discourage this in order to better away from the noise is a must. Also, multigenerational homes are to bring in a contractor. Weassist discourage infororder to better becoming even more prevalent. the projectthis team a successful build. The earlier we can be brought inbuild. the moreTh value we canwe add.can becoming even more prevalent. assist the project team for a successful e earlier What do you think the new home sales market will look like in be brought in the more valueWhat we can add. five years? will new home sales market will look like in five years? What do you think the new home sales market will say look like I would a little lessin tame than what we have seen in the last 2 New homes sale will be rebounding from the downturn we are years but still brisk. With the southeast What being a magnet for the rest ofsales market entering.will The look lag in market from the current interest rate five years? will new home like intiming five years? the country, should market for a while. bumps will befrom felt over next 12-24 months. I would say a little less tame than what we have seen inwethe lastremain 2 in a good housing New homes sale will be rebounding thethedownturn we are years but still brisk. With the southeast being aWhat magnet for the rest of entering. The lag in market What timing from the current interest rate room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why? is the hottest trend in home building right now? the country, we should remain in a good housingMymarket while. bumps be on felta deover the next 12-24 months. garage. Ifor amanot one to sit and read a bookwill or play Homeowners are leaning into their own specific tastes for vice. In my down time, I like to turn some wrenches or tinker with

finishes. They are gravitating towards a bolder approach rather

building something (small, not a home). “playing it safe” with a more timeless look. What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why? What is the hottest trend inthan home building right now? My garage. I am not one to sit and read a book or play on a deHomeowners are leaning into their own specific tastes for 2 Center Park Homes Brief company bio: Built with superior materials and advanced vice. In my down time, I like to turn some wrenches or tinker with finishes. They are gravitating towards a bolder approach rather building techniques, houses constructed by Center Park Homes building something (small, not a home). than “playing it safe” with a more timeless look. far exceed state code requirements, giving customers a better MICHAEL RABY SUSAN L. FORD

built home that will last for generations. The company has forged

Title: President relationships with trade partners and together deliver a home that is simply built better. The people at Center Park never stop looking for Company: Raby Construction Co. Years in the home building industry: 25 ways to improve the homes they deliver, and with better materials and better systems than they used yesterday.



Title: Principal since 2009 Company: Bennett Hofford Construction Charleston LLC Years in the home building industry: 46

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry? How have you adapted to the supply Title: President By focusing on long range planning and adapting to and implechain shortage affecting your industry? Company: Co. menting quick schedule changes around the available materials, We order earlier than in previous years based on Raby marketConstruction supdeliveries,25 and long lead items ply, generally starting with window/door packages, Years in thetrusses, homesteel building industry: beams, appliances, cabinetry as soon as we initiate contracts. What will the new home sales48 market will look like in five years? The housing market will continue to look different in the What has been the biggest change in How home design due to the have you adapted to the supply chain regional market. Specifically in our region, the demand for lots is pandemic? shortage affecting your industry? How have you adapted to the supply thriving. The regional disparities may become more significant. The challenge of creating beautiful multi-function spaces to By focusing on long range planning and adapting to and implechain shortage affecting your industry? meet needs for working from home with families. Additionally, menting schedule the available materials, We order earlier than in previous years based on market adjusting plans to supmanage supply chain shortages quick with revisions or changes Whataround is the hottest trend in home building right now? alternative products. Multi-family seems to be a major upward trend in the Carolideliveries, and long lead items ply, generally starting with window/door packages, trusses, steel nas. The number of units has increased dramatically. beams, appliances, cabinetry as soon as we initiate contracts. What is the hottest trend in home building in South Carolina What will the new home sales market will look like in five years? right now? What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why? e housing market will continue tokitchen, look diff erent in the What has been the biggest change in home design due tospaces the with connection Th Outdoor living to interior kitchen/livThe open dining, family room layout that is centrally ing; dining on a more elevated scale. regional market. Specifically located. is a greatthe gathering placefor for lots family in our Itregion, demand isand guests. pandemic?

Title: Principal since 2009 Company: Bennett Hofford Construction Charleston LLC Years in the home building industry: 46

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The challenge of creating beautiful multi-function spaces to 45 meet needs for working from home with families. Additionally, adjusting plans to manage supply chain shortages with revisions or alternative products. What is the hottest trend in home building in South Carolina right now? Outdoor living spaces with connection to interior kitchen/living; dining on a more elevated scale.


2022 Growth Highest Revenue

thriving. The regional disparities may become more significant.


National Land Realty

Number of local employees: 16 Top local executive: Jason Walter Product or service: Real Estate Year founded locally: 2007 Brief company bio: National Land Realty offers the finest farm, ranch, plantation, timber and recreational land for sale across the United States. What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them? Technology and data and the key to our industry and we are extending our lead in this category every single day. How do you build your team? Very selectively and very aggressively. We are constantly looking to add team members, but we have to meet with a lot of people to find the ones that are a cultural fit.


What is the hottest trend in home building right now? Multi-family seems to be a major upward trend in the Carolinas. The number of units has increased dramatically. What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why? The open kitchen, dining, family room layout that is centrally located. It is a great gathering place for family and guests.

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DJ Rama

Joseph F. Rice

Title: President and CEO Company/organization: Auro Hotels Years at your current position: since 2012 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Being part of the Greenville growth story, carrying forward the vision of our forefathers like Max Heller. Through our visionary downtown development projects beginning with Hyatt Regency and continuing with the Residence Inn/SpringHill Suites and AC Hotel, we have helped shape the Greenville that people know and love. And, as part of that, creating a dynamic outreach arm of our company, Auro O.N.E. that gives back to support non-profits across our state is a key element of our success. Being able to support Unity Park with the Auro Bridge, is a great example of how we love to support our local communities. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? The overall quality of life here; the friendly and collaborative people here; and the nature here that provides a vast playground for outdoor activities, recreation, and leisure. Forests, mountains, and oceans offer opportunities for exercise, adventure, and relaxation. What is its biggest challenge? In the face of incredible growth and urban expansion, safeguarding our greenspace and natural landscapes is imperative. As our cities expand, and the pace of life gets more hectic, greenspaces offer a refuge. We always want to have a place where children can discover the wonder of nature, where families create lasting memories, and where communities can come together.

Title: Co-Founding Member of Motley Rice LLC Company: Motley Rice LLC Years at your current position: 20 What is your greatest career achievement and accomplishment? The Motley Rice Law Firm and the attorneys and staff that make it what it is today. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Its people. What is South Carolina’s biggest challenge? Education How do you think your work has benefitted South Carolina? I was born in South Carolina but in the late 50s and 60s, as the son of a textile worker, I moved around a lot. That allowed me to relocate four or five times before graduating college. I got the opportunity to meet a lot of people throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. I believe that shaped my belief in the people of South Carolina and my commitment to their causes, not just their legal cases. I have been blessed to be with lawyers who continue to put their clients first and allow us to not only represent thousands of clients in individual cases, but to make a difference in the future of our country – differences in our country’s safety through the Asbestos Litigation, its health with the Tobacco and Opioid Litigations, its climate with the Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Defective Device Litigation, its natural resources in the BP Oil Spill Litigation, and now in children’s mental health through the Social Media Harm Litigation.

Allen C. Smith 2021 U.S. Chamber of the Year

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Title: President/CEO Company/organization: OneSpartanburg, Inc. (Carolinas’ only consolidated model of business, tourism, and economic development) Years at your current position: 9 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Directly or indirectly hiring the team members we have today. Their experience and qualifications are unmatched, but beyond those attributes, they are good people. The Spartanburg team in and outside our office is driving unprecedented momentum. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Coming from NC with a population nearly double South Carolina’s, I have really grown to appreciate how our size enables us to forge close and meaningful relationships. The challenges facing our great state require relationship. I’d argue, more than any state, those relationships position us to meet many of our challenges in an effective and united fashion. What is its biggest challenge? Almost every indicator leads back to education, and we must improve. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Spartanburg’s public and private partners have recruited a state leading $10.7B in new investment and 15,861 new jobs since 2016. Those are massive results, but the true benefit of the work is the economic opportunity provided to countless people and their families. That’s what matters.

A 50 Year Family Legacy For more than 50 years, Auro Hotels has been a locally-owned and operated family business creating people-centric experiences designed to inspire the imagination and unlock the potential of our people, places, and communities. Our nearly 40 hotels stand as a testament to the power of humanity in hospitality.

Residence Inn/Springhill Suites | Greenville, SC

Congratulations to our CEO and President, DJ Rama, for being named one of “South Carolina’s 50 Most Influential” North Charleston Marriott | North Charleston, SC

AC Hotel | Greenville, SC

Hyatt Regency | Greenville, SC

Jeff Ruble

Brad and Ron Smith

Title: Director of Economic Development Company/organization: Richland County Economic Development Years at your current position: 7 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Leading a manufacturing renaissance in Columbia, South Carolina. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our workforce. They’re hardworking, passionate and loyal. Columbia is only thriving because of its people. It’s home to more than 750,000, including more than 50,000 college students and two major military transition centers. What is its biggest challenge? Complacency. for years, Columbia has had a reputation as a government hub and university-town. In the past decade, more emphasis has been placed on the amazing and diversified private businesses employing thousands. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Over the course of my 30-year career, I’ve been the lead recruiter for countless new companies that now call South Carolina home. Thousands of South Carolinians work in those facilities. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if ... it continues to invest in its quality workforce and maintains a business-friendly environment.

Title: Founding Principal Company/organization: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture Years at your current position: 30 Brad Smith

Title: Founding Principal Company/organization: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture Years at your current position: 36

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Our firm’s work in the areas of civic, comRon Smith mercial, education, health care, manufacturing and workforce development directly contributes to the health of our economy and creates new opportunities for the people who live here. Our team has served our state and the communities in which we live, both professionally and personally. We have volunteered our time and resources for the benefit of our local communities in South Carolina. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … our citizens continue to endorse our state by supporting the leaders and organizations that contribute to the positive momentum we have earned through smart planning, design excellence and hard work. In addition, we must maintain the sense of family and community that has made our state great.



“It has been an honor to participate in the growth and vitality of our communities in South Carolina.”


SPARTANBURG HIGH SCHOOL | ideas taking shape


Carl Sobocinski Title: President Company/organization: Table 301 Restaurant Group Years at your current position: 26 years Greatest Achievement/Accomplishment: Since 2019, I’ve turned over 4 restaurants to employees through a process where the potential owner and I work together with an established restaurant concept to stabilize it and arrange a buy-out. Jorge Baralles Sr, who started as a dishwasher for Soby’s back in 1997 became sole owner Papi’s Tacos in 2019. His second location just opened this week. In 2020, Michael Kramer became chef/owner of Jianna after opening the modern Italian kitchen as Chef/Partner under the Table 301 restaurant group in March 2017. Kramer is an industry veteran of more than 30 years- but this is the first time he has a restaurant of his own. Passerelle Bistro’s GM Mike Minelli and his wife, Executive Chef Jen Rogers took over Passerelle Bistro in January 2021. www. And last month the fourth deal became official, making Olivia Esquivel the outright owner of Southern Pressed Juicery, a cold-pressed juice bar we opened in 2015. It’s not about retirement — but leaving a legacy and helping the next generation. South Carolinas biggest challenge: Focusing too much on our successes and not paying attention to the real issues of poverty, childhood hunger, homelessness, food deserts, access to childcare, transportation, education, and health services.

Stanfield Gray Title: Founder & CEO Company/organization: Dig South Years at your current position: 12 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Helping to build and grow the South’s tech economy into a sustainable ecosystem so that our kids will have a greater shot than my generation did at founding a scalable business headquartered within the region. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strengths are natural beauty, mild climate, a dedicated workforce and a proven history of success in advanced manufacturing. Its biggest challenge is the urgent need to continuously improve and expand educational opportunities that prepare our students for a rapidly evolving, tech-driven economy. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? For the last 12 years, Dig South has connected startups and midmarket companies from across the country to the content, contacts and capital opportunities they need to succeed in the region. We continue to work very closely with CRDA, SCRA, Charleston County Economic Development, SC Department of Commerce and other groups to give scalable companies in the region a platform to showcase their expertise and help grow South Carolina’s innovation economy. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if... we continue to collaborate statewide while welcoming national and international partners, keep an eye on new technological trends and maintain a growth mindset – our future is bright!

Mary Thornley Title: President Company: Trident Technical College Years at your current position: 32 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest achievement has been working over 50 years at a community college that completely immerses itself in this mission: “Educate the individual. Accelerate the economy. Inspire the future.” What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our biggest strength is our committed, productive workforce. What is its biggest challenge? To be most productive, we need to provide relevant training that meets future workforce demands and offers greater opportunities for the citizens of South Carolina. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? For 50 years, my life has been committed to developing students to their full potential. At Trident Tech, we prepare students for South Carolina’s workforce, a clear benefit for our state. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … the state will significantly support a technical college system whose sole reason to exist is workforce development.




Meg Terry

Nate Tomforde

Title: Principal | CMO Company/organization: DP3 Architects, Ltd. Years at your current position: 12 years at current position (19 years total with firm) Greatest career achievement: My greatest career achievement is being able to be involved with awesome people and helping to create places that they spend their lives in. The state of South Carolina has always shown a sense of resilience and ease. South Carolinians make things look easy with our commitment to partnership and our entrepreneurial spirit. Education and workforce training are themes that will continue to be a challenge. I hope that our work has benefited South Carolina in a positive way. It is important that we create places that encourage a sense of community which is the ultimate goal for anything we do. South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if it continues to create opportunities for public-private partnerships, economic development, and creation of affordable living situations for all.

Title: COO of Crafted Community Concepts + Owner of Southernside Brewing Co. Company/organization: Crafted Community Concepts ( Southernside Brewing Co. ( Years at your current position: 20 years as an entrepreneur. 10+ in the craft beer/ hospitality industry

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? By creating concepts that are unique to each community we serve, we are bringing people together and providing gathering spots for fellowship and enjoying time with family and friends. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … it continues to look for ways to support business owners, keep regulations and taxes low, and provide a smooth business environment in which to operate. What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? The greatest accomplishment of my career has been creating concepts that enhance communities by providing places for people to gather together and enjoy food, drinks, music, and entertainment. There’s no better feeling than being able to see my family, friends, and neighbors (and even complete strangers!) enjoy those spots on a regular basis. And each time we come up with a new concept, customized to fill a need in that particular community, that sense of accomplishment grows. I’m extremely grateful for every one of those opportunities.

MOST INFLUENTIAL SC BIZ NEWS “Serving the communities of South Carolina gives our firm purpose.”




THE CONTINUUM | ideas taking shape


Eric Weissmann

Stuart D. Whiteside, PE

Title: Executive Director Company/organization: NEXT Years at your current position: 2 What is its biggest challenge? To be intentional about the growth our state is experiencing. In our sphere at NEXT (startups and high-growth companies) it’s about attracting and retaining talent - that’s the fuel for entire economies. Greenville is on practically every top ten list - best cities with a waterfall, top destinations for foodies, weekend getaways, etc. The challenge is for us to be more than just a Thursday through Sunday town. We want to be a Sunday through Sunday town where you can grow and scale a business in a place you love to live. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? At NEXT we’re dedicated to helping entrepreneurs grow by moving them (and their teams) forward. I think a renewed approach on metrics, measurables and outcomes will be valuable across the State. While it’s true that the measure of our (economic development) success will come 20 years from now, someone needs to be the ‘fitbit of the ecosystem’ and that’s a perspective I’m fully behind: what’s working, what’s not, where do people get lost in the ecosystem, where do they enter, where are the gaps/overlaps, etc. South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … We continue to look at growth as a positive influence on our state. Imagine if the opposite were true. Imagine if our net migration were negative - that people were leaving our borders and never looking back. That’s a universally bad sign. Growth is good. Now we need to stay ahead of that curve and ensure there’s prosperity for all.

Sharon Pearce Wilson Title: President and Co-Founder Company: Wilson Associates Real Estate Years at your current position: 38 What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina has so many strengths – our climate, our beautiful natural environment, our people, our thriving economy – but it all boils down to one thing: our greatest strength is that people want to come here to visit or to build a life for themselves and their families. I’m proud to play a role in helping people do just that. South Carolina’s biggest challenge is definitely managing our growth in a controlled and strategic way. It’s OK to slow down at times if it means a better outcome. Growth also comes with responsibility in terms of making sure infrastructure can support growth, maintaining affordable housing options, ensuring that we have well-trained and desirable work force, maintaining green spaces, and carefully considering our economic and community development. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if …we grow in a smart and focused way. We must be vigilant in our efforts to remain a place people want to come to by maintaining our state’s natural beauty, continuing to be a business friendly state, investing in our infrastructure, and supporting education and our schools. We must also welcome new people and ideas and foster innovation and entrepreneurship while holding on to important traditions and the sense of community that makes this such a special place.

Title: Principal in Charge, Co-Founder Company/organization: Seamon Whiteside Years at your current position: 38 years What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Greatest career achievement is to partner with Kenny Seamon to form Seamon Whiteside 38 years ago. We were one of the first design firms in the state to provide both civil engineering and landscape architecture services in house. What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength has been the balance of promoting its quality of life and probusiness stance. It’s biggest challenge is not to be a victim of its own success. Maintaining the balance will be key to the future of the state. How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Seamon Whiteside has designed the communities in which SC residents live, work and play. It is extremely rewarding to observe the countless projects we have designed and their positive influence on the state. Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if we maintain the balance of quality of life and growth, and continue attracting and retaining the talent to provide the needed workforce for our growing economy.


Power Surge is on the fast track to Why South Carolina ‘Battery Belt’ being the electric vehicle

Junior Achievement Hall of Fame honorees 5 Questions With GADC’s Mark Farris

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The crucial role of innovation in South Carolina

nnovation stands as the cornerstone of South Carolina’s economic vitality, breathing life into its industries and propelling it forward in a rapidly evolving global market. This southern state has witnessed a remarkable transformation, shifting from traditional sectors to cutting-edge industries. Here’s why celebrating innovation is not just an option, but a necessity for South Carolina’s Cian Robinson continued growth. Economic Resilience: Innovation diversifies South Carolina’s economic landscape, reducing dependency on a single industry. This resilience cushions the state against economic shocks, ensuring a stable and


prosperous future. Job Creation: Innovations spawn highskilled, high-paying jobs, attracting a skilled workforce and driving down unemployment rates. This not only bolsters the economy but also enhances the standard of living for South Carolinians. Competitive Edge: In a global market, stagnation is not an option. Innovators lead the way, ensuring that businesses remain at the forefront of their respective industries, securing market share and profitability. Sustainability and Growth: Forwardthinking solutions pave the way for sustainable practices, safeguarding the environment while nurturing economic expansion. South Carolina’s commitment to eco-conscious practices lays the foundation for a brighter, greener future.

Education and Research: A culture of innovation cultivates a robust ecosystem of education and research. This investment in knowledge pays dividends, creating a skilled talent pool and cutting-edge expertise that fuels further innovation. As InnoVision Awards celebrates innovation in South Carolina, we embark on a journey of progress, prosperity, and possibility. Through awards, competitions, and collaborative events, like InnoVision Awards, we honor those who are shaping our future. Let us champion policies that support innovation and establish hubs where creativity flourishes. Together, we forge a path towards a thriving and sustainable South Carolina. Cian Robinson, Chair, InnoVision Awards, President, Robinson Ventures LLC


WINNER Open Broadband LLC Website:

Open Broadband uses a hybrid mix of technologies to get affordable broadband service to underserved areas in South Carolina, primarily rural. 1) deployment of broadband north of Greenville into the foothills including the Pickens and Travelers Rest rural areas. Service is provided from our Greenville data center, to Paris Mountain tower site using fixed-wireless technology, and then fixed-wireless connectivity to the home. 2) we completed a project with Allen University to provide broadband to an area in Fairfax County SC. This utilized a hybrid mix of cellular and CBRS fixed-wireless technology to serve an AME church and the residents in the community. 3) Open Broadband was awarded a Fiber-tothe-Home grant from the SC Broadband Infrastructure office to service residents in the Woodruff area of southern Spartanburg County. This project is a hybrid mix of fiber optic circuits from the Greenville data center to water towers in Woodruff, next-gen fixed-wireless from the Woodruff

water towers to utility poles in the neighborhoods, and then fiber from the poles to the homes. Each of these initiatives involved a creative mix of technologies to get broadband delivered to underserved residents in remote areas at a price point the customer could afford while also being profitable for the business.

open doors to opportunity through dynamic, innovative programs that fuel South Carolina’s workplace pipeline. DISCOVER MORE! CONVERSE.EDU




Just Bee

Health Evolve Technologies, LLC

RUNNER UP Website:

RUNNER UP Website:

Just Bee offers an online autism sensitivity-training workshop featuring a proprietary curriculum developed by Dr. Diane Cullinane, a leading developmental pediatrician. This interactive online workshop will guide you and your team through a process of learning and reflection. Just Bee also offers a specialized workshop just for first responders. In this workshop, you will learn best practices for communicating with people on the spectrum – including those who are non-verbal – in emergency situations so that you can respond safely and effectively. Once businesses have been trained they will be uploaded onto the Just Bee APP connecting this autistic and neurodivergent community to sensory-friendly and welcoming establishments.

Health Evolve builds patient-centered technologies at the intersection of care and culture. Global health equity is its primary focus. It believes that the rise of patient partners is our greatest opportunity to close the health equity gap. Its comprehensive and simple tools equip patients as partners and position providers with clinical insights needed for a personalized experience. Nearly half of Americans (122 million people) have hypertension. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from a pregnancy related problem, and hypertension is a major risk factor. The top three reasons for these disparities are: • Racial bias — leading to distrust • Trouble navigating the system — causing gaps in care • Economic barriers — making it hard to access care or make healthy decisions.


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WINNER Notey Inc.

Website: Quote: “The Notey’s World team is thrilled to be included as an InnoVision Award finalist. We’ve been hard at work exploring what the future of guitar education and mobile gaming could look like and this has been a very motivating milestone for the whole team as we keep building ahead.” Notey is building a mobile music education game to solve the 90% retention issue in music learning. Its mobile music education game is powered by our proprietary ML software, which can turn any acoustic instrument or voice into a game controller. Its automatic level generator enables it to quickly generate lesson content, and offer users an opportunity to create their own gaming experiences with their own songs and exercises. The marriage of music education and gaming, fueled by the power of rewards, has the potential to revolutionize the way we learn and engage with music, according to a Notey Inc. blog. By leveraging gamification princi-

ples, educators and developers can create immersive experiences that inspire learners to embrace their musical passions and develop their skills. Through progress-based rewards, skill-based challenges, virtual currencies, and social interactions, students can experience the joy of music while embarking on a journey of self-improvement and self-expression.



Converse University

Richland Two Institute of Innovation

Data Science is an ever-growing field that touches practically every business or industry in some manner. Converse University has stepped up to the plate to create initiatives to train the next generation of the workforce with these skills, with internships, and with connections to practitioners in the workforce. Through the relatively new Data Science minor and through courses like Data Literacy and Introduction to Statistics, Converse students are interacting more with data, data methods, and the ethics surrounding data practices. To bolster this work, Dr. Mangum and Dr. Sorrells of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department also started a new initiative: Data Science and Cybersecurity Week. This weeklong event is scheduled again for October 2023 and will feature Dr. Melissa Ngamini, lead data scientist at ADP.

The Richland Two Student Innovation Center’s Moonshot Education Model allows for students to learn at their own pace while allowing them to pursue individual passions connected to their learning, earn multiple credits towards graduation, and partner with local organizations to help make the world a better place through their innovations. The Richland Two Student Innovation Center (R2i2) opened to students in 2016. R2i2 was established as a learning and innovation center for high school students that work closely with businesses to provide course work that meets the demand of a changing economic environment. R2i2 is an innovation-oriented institute where entrepreneurship and leadership are themes. R2i2 supports the existing five high schools in Richland Two by providing additional classes and programming not available elsewhere in the district.

RUNNER UP Website:

RUNNER UP Website:




Website: Quote: “Being a finalist for the SC InnoVision Award is extremely rewarding for BagValet. It reflects on the execution of our vision in creating an industry first solution to an on-going problem plaguing our communities, ‘The Luggage Struggle.’” BagValet is Charleston’s original mobile luggage storage solution. The company aims to assist travelers to bridge the gap between lodging accommodations and flight times by providing daily luggage storage with the convenience of door-to-door service, ultimately taking the “lug” out of “luggage.” This allows for more time in the city and less time at the airport. It believes that all of our customers deserve the highest level of service & we are committed to providing just that. So whether you’re arriving early, or leaving late, BagValet allows you to spend the day your way.



Maelstrom Propellers

Southeast IP Group LLC

RUNNER UP Website:

RUNNER UP Location: Chapin

Quote: “Our world is confronted with numerous challenges, but when we see the collective efforts of these remarkable companies, we are filled with hope —a well-founded hope that, together, we can not only thrive but also drive meaningful transformations in our respective industries. We continue to be committed to leading innovation efforts that will positively impact this state, our nation and the world, one innovation at a time.” Maelstrom’s engineering team developed a patent-pending boat propeller with an innovative new fluid technology we call Eddy Vortex Technology (EVT). The Eddy is a drop-in replacement for the 200-year-old propeller technology found on Earth’s 35 million vessels, and it instantly improves every performance measure across the board.


The invention is a rescue drone, primarily for use in water rescue situations. There are several embodiments, including one this is essentially a flying life ring that is guided by a GPS enabled laser pointer. For use, person simply launches the flying life ring and points the laser pointer at the swimmer in distress, and the flying life ring follows the laser dot to the swimmer. Other embodiments include a rescue drone that includes an EPIRB radio beacon, and can fly the swimmer in distress to safety. A third embodiment is essentially an unmanned lifeboat that can fly to swimmers in distress, and once aboard, the propellers rotate by 90 degrees to propel the boat on the water surface to safety, similarly to a fanboat.


WINNER Carolina Seed Systems Inc.

Website: Carolina Seed Systems Inc. is an agricultural technology company focusing on providing locally adaptable and sustainable food, feed and bio-industrial crops for the southeastern United States. Carolina Seed Systems’ technology improves the profitability of row-crop agricultural and reduce the carbon footprint of crops developed from its advanced systems approach to crop improvement. Combining its proprietary genomic prediction pipeline and highthroughput phenotyping and analysis platform, the team at Carolina Seed Systems has invented and commercialized several non-GMO sorghum (aka milo) hybrids specifically adapted to the southeastern U.S. Its sorghum hybrids improve the profitability of local farms while reducing the carbon intensity of food and feed production. To date, its technology has been planted on nearly 40,000 acres from Pennsylvania to Mississippi.



Gravity Driven Technologies

Living Carbon



Gravity is an innovative green energy technology that converts bumps in the road into 100% emission free, renewable energy any time the vehicle is in motion. Gravity has the potential to augment and drastically transform our national power grid by essentially having miniature hydroelectric power plants on every vehicle on the road. This not only will produce thousands of Gigawatts of green energy each year, but the decentralized nature of the technology will protect our electrical grid from catastrophic acts of terror and hackers.

Living Carbon is a public benefit company with a mission to responsibly balance the planet’s carbon cycle using the inherent power of plants. Starting with photosynthesis-enhanced trees, the company is demonstrating the promise of advanced biotechnology to restore ecosystems, improve biodiversity, and enhance the ability of photosynthetic organisms to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere. Living Carbon is motivated by the urgency of the climate crisis. It moves with precision, thoughtfulness and a sense of responsibility for the limited resource of time. Now is the launch window for large-scale carbon removal solutions. We already are seeing the effects of our climate crisis — water scarcity, catastrophic fires, once-in-a-century storms every year. Living Carbon operates every day from a purpose-driven mindset which is necessary to reverse the current warming trajectory.





WINNER Pensievision

Website: Quote: “We are excited that Pensievision’s technology is a finalist for the 2023 InnoVision award. We feel honored to be counted among the amazing organizations, leaders, and educators whose achievements have been recognized over the 25-year history of the program.” Pensievision is developing innovative, medical-grade, three-dimensional (3D) imaging technologies using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and imaging techniques previously used in NASA space telescopes. Using this innovation, Pensievision created CervImage — the world’s first portable colposcope able to produce high-resolution 3D images/ mappings to assist in early-stage detection and analysis of pre-cancer cervical lesions. This medical grade 3D imaging technology can be applied to numerous applications, including telemedicine, selfdiagnostics, 3D face recognition, robotic vision and more. In order to prove its technology, which could be used for many ap-

plications in consumer electronics, smartphones, medical devices and telemedicine, Pensievision aimed at a very complex medical application and developed a single lens portable colposcope for point of care, early-stage detection and analysis of cervical cancers. The device is favorable over other screening methods due to ease of use, accessibility, and low cost.




Kiyatec Inc.



The proprietary GlycoTyper assay is designed to classify how glycans, or sugars on the cell surface, change during the development and progression of various disease states. For decades, the role of glycans and glycoproteins have been studied to elucidate their biological functions and implicate alterations in these functions in disease establishment and advancement. Despite many years of study, the clinical relevance of these studies has been limited due to a lack of clinical assays. To address this, GlycoPath has pursued two different initiatives: first, develop a research-based kit that would allow researchers to utilize its methodology in their research; second, develop an assay that would create a direct clinical impact, The GlycoTyper assay.

Kiyatec is disrupting the future of cancer care by accurately predicting patient-specific response and non-response before treatment begins. Its 3D Predict™ Glioma test provides confidence to physicians selecting effective treatments for their brain cancer patients as quickly as possible — making true personalized medicine a reality. Kiyatec is disrupting cancer care by providing oncologists with a functional precision assay that accurately predicts patient–specific therapeutic response and non–response before treatment begins. Kiyatec is a leader in functional precision oncology. Kiyatec utilizes proprietary platforms across multiple solid tumor types, based on robust science that scores greater than the 95th percentile in peer reviewed journals.





WINNER SpheroFill

Website: SpheroFill, a South Carolina start-up biotech company, is pioneering a breakthrough in drug delivery. Its innovative Porous Wall Hollow Glass Microsphere (PWHGM) technology employs tiny glass bubbles with nano-porous shells engineered to encapsulate and precisely control the release of various medical cargos, including gases, liquids, or solids. This groundbreaking innovation’s capabilities have earned it an endorsement from the U.S. National Science Foundation, highlighting its vast potential to impact pharmaceutical markets. SpheroFill’s drug delivery platform promises to address significant pharmaceutical challenges such as enabling programmed/extended release, preventing rapid drug degradation, extending drug shelf-life, and overcoming unpleasant taste by providing a protective cocoon for drugs. Additional benefits include the capability to convert injectable medications into more patient-friendly oral forms, making treat-

ments like RNA vaccines and peptide/protein-based drugs more accessible. Furthermore, the PWHGM platform creates opportunities for off-patent drugs by enabling them to be reformulated into superior versions with novel and improved delivery characteristics.



Builder Rocket

Zylo Therapeutics Inc. Website:

Builder Rocket is a Software as a Service for the construction industry. Builder Rocket helps general contractors spec out every detail of a construction project, and it can do it in 15 minutes. Builders and their clients alike see an image of every detail in their project and customers must sign off on the selections they have made. The Builder Rocket storyboard and estimating Doug Henjes template share information between the builder, homeowner and supplier. Once the custom homeowner approves everything, contractors and suppliers are notified and trade partners see the exact items they will deliver and install.

Zylö licensed an topical drug delivery system from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2017 and has spent years advancing the technology to its current ready-to-commercialize state. The system, based on silica-derived microparticles called Z-pods, overcomes certain “bolus effects” — including short duration of action, irritation, instability, and short half-life — that severely limit the effectiveness of many topical active ingredients. Yuva Bio, another start-up, has developed molecules that mitigate and reverse the mitochondrial dysfunction that, in turn, lead to hair loss and other agingrelated issues. Yuva approached Zylö a year ago to see if Zylö could load Yuva’s lead candidate, Y100, into Z-pods. Zylö and Yuva have spent a year collaborating to optimize this new technology. By encapsulating Yuva Bio’s Y100 molecules into Z-pods®, Yuva Bio and Zylö have developed an innovative, effective, and superior approach to mitigating hair loss.

RUNNER UP Website:




INNOVATOR AWARD Brett Nilsen, CEO and co-founder, Copyt Sean Powers, COO and founder, Copyt Location: Columbia Website: Copyt is an inventory management and sales channel automation tool for the $700 billion domestic and multi-trillion dollar global Recommerce market (secondary market for consumer goods). Brett Nilsen is a recent graduate from the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business with a degree in finance and business management with experience in real estate, investing, marketing, and accounting. Sean Powers is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina, with a degree in business administration, graduating magna cum laude. His major was operations and supply chain and marketing.

Brett Nilsen

Sean Powers


INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Amy Robichaud Amy Robichaud is a member of the board of executives of the InnoVision Awards and is a former managing director at Deloitte, where she retired from with more than 35 years’ experience across a number of roles. Robichaud began her career with Deloitte in audit, conducting audits, M&A due diligence, litigation support, tax provision accounting and controls assessment services. She also provided consulting services within finance and accounting while working with our consulting practice. She retired as a managing director in Deloitte’s Industrial Products & Services Practice and served multinational companies within that sector. In addition to working with teams serving her clients, Robichaud designed and facilitated Client Excellence Labs for teams serving clients other than her own. These labs served as a launch for building a highly collaborative, communicative, cross-functional global team aligned and focused on helping their client achieve their strategic


goals. She also facilitated Transition Labs for CXOs assuming a position new to them or a position in a company new to them. In retirement, Robichaud is enjoying family, friends, gardening and travel, as well as working with several local community organizations focused on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.



Beth Paul

on ‘The Well’s’ 25th anniversary What has been the key to success for the past 25 years, and what lessons can businesses take from it? Working as a team and leveraging everyone’s unique strengths has played a big part in the success of Bon Secours Wellness Arena – it may sound cliché but could not be more true. I am lucky to work with a team of more than 400 as well as many talented vendors. They all have a passion for the industry and work very hard to make the arena successful. On the business side, we prioritize keeping in mind that finance and operations have a reciprocal relationship. You have to be in a strong financial position to maintain the resources to run an operation of this size. We have also been fortunate to be in a position that allows us to continually reinvest. Diversifying our programming also continues to be important and play a role in our success. We are continually evaluating how to reach new and diverse audiences and how to add new forms of programming, such as sporting and community events. The arena also continues to have great support from community partners and sponsors, the City of Greenville, Greenville County, and many others. Our partners have supported our need to pivot when required while focusing on sustainable growth, which I also consider a critical part of the success of any business operation. What has been the biggest post-pandemic challenge you’ve had to overcome, and what did you learn from it? We work in an industry that brings people together, so the pandemic naturally created many immediate challenges. We found ways to safely host events and produced a number of events that were socially distant. We also adopted new touchless technology throughout the venue, including security measures and ticketing systems. Being forced to quickly automate our systems resulted in many benefits and lessons learned. One of the greatest lessons was that removing many of the tactical responsibilities of our team allowed us to serve people in new, more personal ways such as being greeters or offering assistance to patrons. This level of personal touch cannot be replaced and is so important in running a successful entertainment venue. How do you think The Well would benefit from

the proposed Gracie Plaza at the Arena District redevelopment project? The proposed Gateway project, also known as Gracie Plaza, would inject new life into what many consider to be an emerging entertainment district in downtown Greenville. The current design offers a walkable, connecting link between Bon Secours Wellness Arena and downtown, as well as space for residential apartments, commercial businesses, restaurants and creative studios. The design is well-planned and would create only positive implications for the arena and surrounding area. Gracie Plaza would also provide an ongoing “sense of place” for the arena that is not solely driven by our events schedule. What is The Well’s role in boosting the Upstate’s tourism industry? Our team is humbled to play a part in boosting the upstate’s tourism industry. Increasingly, we have been able to secure truly notable concerts, sporting, and other events that help drive more visitors to the upstate. We are proud that more than 500,000 people walk through the arena’s doors annually, leading to a more than $70 million impact on the Greenville metro area. Bon Secours Wellness Arena is also lucky to have the upstate as its backdrop – it’s an amazing place to visit and our tourism continues to be fueled by VisitGreenville, which continues to be among the most productive economic development organizations in our region. What is your dream act to perform at The Well? If they’ve already visited, who was it? There have been many amazing shows over the arena’s past 25 years of entertaining the upstate. One personal favorite was Tina Turner in October 2000. I’ve truly never seen anyone like her perform! As far as dream acts go, there really isn’t a particular artist or band that stands out. Rather, I hope that each event we produce delivers an amazing experience. Our team also prioritizes continuing to provide experiences for diverse audiences; we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the power of live entertainment. At the end of the day, any artist or band that will positively impact the upstate is a win in my book. Beth Paul is general manager of Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville.


“The ever-changing, seasonal menus at FIG and The Ordinary are labors of love. We celebrate local producers - farmers, fishermen, and purveyors - whose products inspire and define our work. Supporting our community and telling these producers’ stories has given our work a deeper meaning and the dedicated team at SouthState Bank has been with us every step of the way, ensuring that we are able to continue sharing these stories and even create new ones. SouthState’s outstanding customer service and sound financial advice has been key to our success, and we are proud to have SouthState as a financial partner.”

Mike Lata

Chef/Owner | FIG, The Ordinary

SouthState Bank takes great pride in serving local businesses, ensuring they have the tools, guidance and security they need to reach their unique goals.

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