Entrepreneur says Charleston’s No. 1 need is talent

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Liz Segrist
November 7, 2013

Charleston needs its own comprehensive research university and better education for all residents, said serial entrepreneur Robert Tercek during the Charleston Regional Development Alliance’s annual luncheon on Wednesday.

Tercek said the region is growing at the same rate as an Asian country, and its industry and government leaders need to be looking ahead to continue growth.

When asked how to replicate Silicon Valley’s growth and entrepreneurial activity in other parts of the world, Tercek said a region needs to have finance, talent, partners, customers and exit opportunities. Of those, the No. 1 asset a region needs is talent, including the ability to both attract talent and grow its own.

“You need a research university here,” said Tercek noting that the Medical University of South Carolina’s biotech and medical research campus is a great asset for a potential comprehensive research university geared toward multiple industries.

“Every successful technology hub, every area that has great leadership in the world, has a research university,” said Tercek, a technology consultant, public speaker and co-founder of five startup ventures. “You have some of the components of that here, but I think that’s the hole in the doughnut you’re missing.”

Companies in Charleston often recruit outside of the region and the state, especially for high-skilled manufacturing positions, engineers and tech field jobs, such as programmers and developers. Tercek said the area needs to focus on improving K-12 education.

“This region needs great schools for everybody,” Tercek said. “No matter what race or background or gender, make them available to everybody, so that you can take the human capital you already have and elevate it and improve it.”

The region already has quality of life attractors. Recruits also want affordable housing options, great schools for their kids to attend and good universities where they can recruit talent for their companies, Tercek said.

“Figure out what makes you unreasonably great. There’s been a lot of progress here,” Tercek said, noting how the collaboration between government, academia and private industry has spurred major growth. “But you can’t stop there, because you know if you stop, some other city, state or place in the world will pass you up.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist.

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