Big Thinking Fuels SC Economy

Could the region soon lead the nation in number of PhD-packing residents?

The Charleston region received cheering trendlines this week, during two statewide gatherings.

One occurred when University of South Carolina economists announced the state’s economy is on the upswing, and the Lowcountry is a chief driver of that surge.

Reported by researcher Doug Woodward, over the past decade, our region has outpaced every metro area in the nation for growth in the the share of adults armed with four-year degrees (32% locally compared to 28 % nationally). And diploma-packing talent is pouring their energy into our region’s growing creative class, start-up ventures, and R&D functions.

Wednesday’s USC seminar was an interesting complement to the week’s SmartState seminar, which featured an address by MUSC President Ray Greenberg, among others.

The SmartState program enables MUSC, USC and Clemson to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence. Those centers are linked directly to the priorities set forth by SC Commerce, and regional allies like the CRDA, and actively connect research and scholarly talent to the state’s greatest opportunities.

Since it began in 2002, the SmartState program has created 41 endowed chairs, filed 37 patents, created 17 startup companies, employed 500 people in universities and drove nearly 1,100 job relocations, Greenberg said.

Greenberg and his colleagues called for solid state funding to ensure continued SmartState success in five areas:  a long-term vision, flexibility, putting money into places other than endowments, investing in young talent, and linking to the state Department of Commerce’s priorities.

At this rate, we could be in the race to lead the world in residents with Ph.D.s?!

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