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ANNOUNCING: Meet the 50 Most Influential in South Carolina honorees

Jason Thomas //December 4, 2023//

ANNOUNCING: Meet the 50 Most Influential in South Carolina honorees

Jason Thomas //December 4, 2023//

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Meet the inaugural class of the 50 Most Influential business leaders in South Carolina.

The 50 executives below are why South Carolina’s economic engine is humming and why people are flocking here to live, work and play.

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 most important 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: 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.

Jason Thomas, executive editor, SC Biz News


Alexis Garcin

Title: President and CEO

Company: Michelin North America, Inc.

Years in your current position: 4 (since June 2019)

What is your greatest career achievement or accomplishment? I am getting used to saying that the success of my teams is my greatest source of accomplishment. The people at Michelin are what energize me. In the past few years, we’ve worked hard to be an Employer of Choice and a company that has a positive impact in the communities in which we operate. This builds on our rich history of dedication in South Carolina where we’ve positively contributed to the state for the past 50 years. In February, Michelin North America was named the No. 1 employer in the automotive category on the 2023 Forbes America’s Best Large Employers list for the second year in a row. This achievement highlights our commitment to our employees and the work we’re doing to get better and better. In our most recent annual survey, we reached the highest level of engagement among our employees. So, you see, our people are at the core of what we do because they are the ones who make Michelin every day.

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.

How do you think your work has benefitted South Carolina? Michelin is one of the largest manufacturing companies in South Carolina, with 14 sites and 8,000 employees. We take our responsibility to our employees and communities very seriously, and I’m very proud of the work the Michelin team accomplishes in this state.

Michelin has partnerships across educational institutions, businesses and state agencies to drive workforce development and economic opportunity from the Upstate to the Lowcountry. In 2020, we announced a $175 million investment plan between our Spartanburg and Greenville facilities. In June 2022, we announced a partnership with Benore Logistic Systems to test an all-electric Class 8 truck at one of our facilities to validate capabilities of electric vehicles in the last-mile delivery industry. We can also proudly say that Michelin is the fifth largest shipper in the Port of Charleston, shipping more than 50,000 twenty-foot container units each year. We have been named the lead contributor at United Way of Greenville for three consecutive years. So, we have a lot to be proud of. At the same time, I think it is our duty to act as great citizens for our communities.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we continue investing in the workforce of the future. Michelin partners with the 16-school technical college system to support the evolution of roles in manufacturing so students and companies in the area are ready for the jobs of tomorrow. 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.

And we must collectively take care of our great state of South Carolina, its natural environment and its diverse communities. All of this is inseparable – it’s what makes South Carolina what it is today, a state that we have enjoyed calling home for 50 years.


Allen C. Smith

Title: President/CEO

Company/organization: OneSpartanburg, Inc.

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 $10.7 billion 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.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we continue to play to our manufacturing strengths but also commit to economic diversification. North Carolina has 13 Fortune 500 companies while Georgia has 18. Depending on the year, we have one or zero. Aggressively pursuing and landing corporate
headquarters/regional offices and knowledge-based jobs will ensure higher per capita
incomes and improve retention/attraction rates of college graduates.


Andrew Hsu

Title: President

Company/organization: College of Charleston

Years at your current position: 4

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 high-tech 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.


Andy Carr

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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? We help keep South Carolina’s small and medium sized manufacturers competitive. In 2022, SCMEP worked with 516 companies. Our clients reported a total economic impact of $3.3B, 2,396 new jobs created, and 3,669 jobs retained.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… public, private sectors, and the educational community continue to work together to make our state a simply outstanding choice where manufacturers want to do business and expand or locate their facilities.


Barbara L. Melvin

Title: President and CEO

Company/organization: South Carolina Ports

Years at your current position: 1.5

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? After more than 20 years with SC Ports, 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 business-friendly 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 9 jobs throughout South Carolina, making an $87 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.


Beth Paul

Title: General Manager

Company/organization: Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Years at your current position: 8

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 South Carolina through the thoughtful and intentional donation of our time and resources to those groups and causes who need it most. Another accomplishment has been the way we continue to enhance the Arena to make it more enjoyable and accessible for all patrons.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? One of our biggest strengths is our people – there is so much talent across South Carolina, and we  continue to remain an attractive destination for many people to live and visit. With that, properly managing growth does continue to be a challenge in some areas. A continued, thoughtful approach  built on collaboration from the private and public sectors will be necessary for our metro and surrounding areas to continue to thrive.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Bon Secours Wellness Arena is a state-of-the-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.


Bill Ellen

Title: President and CEO

Company/organization: Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism / Experience Columbia SC

Years at your current position: 10

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.


Brad B. Smith

Title: Founding Principal

Company/organization: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture

Years at your current position: 30

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? It has been an honor to be one of the founders of an architectural firm that started with a core team of community-driven designers in 1993 and has since grown to over 300 full-time professionals in eight studios across the Southeast. While our firm’s footprint has expanded considerably since those humble beginnings, our core values remain firmly embedded in improving the communities we serve.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its Southeastern location with a pro-business attitude from
our government and business leaders. We welcome foreign and domestic investment, have a
strong work ethic and friendly people. The benefits of living and doing business here don’t come
without challenges. It’s important to be able to keep pace with the growth in the state by
investing in workforce development, infrastructure upgrades and needed improvements, so that
everyone has the opportunity for an improved quality of life.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? McMillan Pazdan Smith creates meaningful and lasting impact by constantly striving to produce work with design excellence that is long-lasting and fits within the fabric and context of the communities and campuses we serve. Whether bringing new services and opportunities to a community through creative redevelopment, helping an educational institution train and retain its population with state-of-the-art facilities, or assisting a business in an expansion that will bring many more jobs to the area, we are committed to always improving and reimagining what’s possible.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we work together to manage our growth and continue to invest in improving our schools and infrastructure, while developing talent that will remain in our state to benefit our communities.


Bryan S. Derreberry

Title: President & CEO

Company/organization: Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce

Years at your current position: 12

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 opportuniBes by working collaboraBvely across a geographic footprint that allows us to be
nimble and coordinated.

What is its biggest challenge? Thinking bigger and acBng 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.


Carl Sobocinski

Title: President

Company: Table 301 Restaurant Group

Years at current position: 26 years

Greatest achievement/accomplishment: Since 2019, I’ve turned over four 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 buyout. 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.

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.

And recently 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 strength: Our people and our ability to collaborate and work
together for the better good of all South Carolinians.

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.

How has our work benefited South Carolina: We’ve created hundreds of jobs over the years; we currently employ more than 500 full and part time associates. Our restaurants and
euphoria festival have played a large part in promoting tourism and bringing attention to
the culinary scene.

South Carolina will continue it’s positive economic momentum if… elected officials and business leaders work together for the good of all the people and put aside their own
self gain.


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 HB 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.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we continue to look through the proverbial windshield to position South Carolina for future growth and prosperity.


Danny Joyner

Title: President & CEO

Company/organization: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices C. Dan Joyner, REALTORS

Years at your current position: 14

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.


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.


David Ginn

Title: President and CEO

Organization: Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Years at 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.

South Carolina 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.


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.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Due to great foresight, leadership, and investment at the local, regional, and state levels, South Carolina has created a multi-faceted economy that has the ability to keep expanding the economic power of the state for years to come.

What is its biggest challenge? While South Carolina is having economic success, the benefits have not been experienced by all parts of the state or social-economic groups. In addition, investments in both the physical and social infrastructure needed to maintain and grow success often have been inconsistent and limited.

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.


DJ Rama

Title: President and CEO

Company/organization: Auro Hotels

Years at your current position: 11

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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? We have ten excellent hotels in South Carolina (Greenville and Charleston), and have created over 1000 jobs here. Our
dedicated hotel associates serve as ambassadors of our state’s southern hospitality. They are
the first smiles that welcome weary travelers, the knowledgeable guides who recommend
hidden gems and local flavors, and the attentive caretakers who ensure every guest feels like a
friend. They understand that hospitality in South Carolina is not just about providing a place to
rest; it’s about creating an authentic, unforgettable experience deeply rooted in our rich history
and southern charm.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if we establish a strong ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) strategy to attract great people to live, work and play here.


Douglas W. Kim

Title: Managing Member & Attorney

Company/organization: Kim, Lahey & Killough Law Firm

Years at your current position: 5

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Most importantly, I am so thankful for the relationships in my life. I am grateful for family, friends, clients, and collaborators and I realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by such quality people. I am also very proud that I’ve been able to make one of my dreams a reality, which is starting a law firm that is based upon modern business principals to service our clients, while also providing a working environment for other attorneys and staff so that they themselves can be successful is quite rewarding. Seeing these attorneys and staff grow and succeed is quite fulfilling.

As for external wins, one with some of the most impact was hailed as a big win for the photography industry. The 2-year battle revolved around a company’s attempt to enforce a software patent, contending it owned exclusive rights to a data processing system for grouping photographs together.

In fall of 2018, Snapizzi, a Washington state corporation, began contacting ImageQuix, a Greenville-based software company, about its patented image tagging technology (U.S. Patent 8,794,506). ImageQuix had just released Blueprint, its latest photography workflow software that also included image tagging to sort and organize large volumes of images.

From the beginning, we believed the Snapizzi patent was invalid and that its claims were in violation of the Alice ruling, which covers “abstract ideas” that are therefore ineligible for patent protection. We’re happy both the District Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? South Carolina has a pro-business climate that fosters growth. There are entrepreneur ecosystems, networks of resource partners, across the state that help attract and grow innovative entrepreneurs as well as international companies.

What is South Carolina’s biggest challenge? In order to keep high growth businesses in the Palmetto State (when they’re actively being recruited by our neighbors), we must shift from the regional mentality that’s currently in the Upstate, the Midlands and the Lowcountry to more of a unified state-wide effort of inclusivity. If Myrtle Beach is launching an entrepreneur ecosystem, for example, there’s no need for our neighbors to recreate the wheel. We all benefit from sharing ideas – what works, what doesn’t work. The challenge is how to make that happen when we are, as a state, so regionalized.

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 (e.g., the South Carolina Governor’s School of Science  and Mathematics – for which I sit on the foundation), 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 – including those that are here enjoying this great state and those that are soon to come.


Roslyn Clark Artis

Title: President

Company/organization: Benedict College

Years at your current position: 6

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 world-class 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.


Eric Weissmann

 Title: Executive Director

 Company/organization: NEXT

 Years at your current position: 2

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I think my career has been a good tapestry of experiences each building on and dependent on the other; it’s tough to call any single one out. But what we were able to do at Cintrifuse and the creation of the #StartupCincy community brand was very fulfilling. We leveraged the work of others before us and established a new, stronger foundation to build from. The lasting impact of that work has been transformative and to be part of that early-stage work was incredibly gratifying.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? I think the State’s biggest strength is that people from all over the country are choosing to move here. In droves. And why not, right? Mountains, lakes, trails and beaches. Other cities I’ve lived in would celebrate when net migration simply wasn’t negative and here it’s 20,000/year (people moving into Greenville County alone). This dramatic influx of talent must be viewed as a positive and it’s up to us to harness that momentum for mutual benefit.

What is its biggest challenge? To me, the challenge is 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.

Finish this sentence: 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.


Ernest Andrade

Title: Director

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 South Carolina.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The CDC operates with three objectives: Raise per capita wages, create good jobs for South Carolina 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.

South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… they are successful with optimizingworkforce and training programs for the jobs of the future.


Greg Ayers, DMD

Title: CEO, ProGrin Dental

Years at your current position: 40

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement has been co-founding 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 it’s 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 South Carolina’s 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 did 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 South Carolina 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.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… it continues to support and provide opportunities to businesses of all sizes.


Helen T. Hill

Title: President and CEO

Organization: Explore Charleston

Years at Current Position: 34

What is your greatest career achievement? Building an organization of servant leaders who are curious, engaged and focused on the long-term sustainability and success of our community.

What is South Carolina’s Biggest strength? Its biggest challenge? Our biggest strength is and has always been our citizens. We have a great history of people who are industrious and
friendly. We carry hospitality in our soul! 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 South Carolina? 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 inthe 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. We need to embrace new ways of thinking and
operating. Most importantly, we must trust in the inherent goodness and intelligence of
our citizens. Our people are what make us special.


James Chappell

Title: President & CEO

Organization: SCbio

Years at your current position: 2

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 if stakeholders continue to work together, are intentional with strategy and policy, and make some ‘big bets’ on the industry. There has been tremendous growth already — it is the fastest-growing industry in our state since 2017 — but we have much more work to do to fully realize the opportunity in front of us.


James P. Clements

Title: President

Company/Organization: Clemson University

Years at your current position: 10

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, not just for me but for society as a whole. 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.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? One of South Carolina’s biggest strengths is our people. And our amazing culture that gives us the ability to work together, for example, to recruit industry to our state. Our state’s recruitment efforts have continued to grow in recent years, with Clemson serving a significant role in working with industry regarding research and workforce development talent to ensure their success. Our state is attracting new companies to the region, and Clemson is working with many of our industry partners to create hands-on experiences for our students and research partnerships with faculty. As a result, the economy is being boosted with more career paths, our students are more prepared to enter the workforce and our faculty are engaging in industry-relevant research that is impacting the state of South
Carolina and beyond.

What is its biggest challenge? One of South Carolina’s biggest challenges is determining how to make our state even more attractive to companies to locate their headquarters, research and development, and entrepreneurship efforts in our state. South Carolina needs more companies headquartered here so we can make an even greater impact on our communities. The word is out that South Carolina is a great place to live and work, so how do we continue to support the efforts of existing industry and our ongoing success of attracting manufacturing to the state while also focusing on supporting the needed investments to foster an innovation economy? Clemson University is here to partner with industry and create a win-win for everyone, including recruiting and retaining top talent in South Carolina.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I have always been on a mission – to change lives through the power of education. My focus has been to take Clemson from where it was, which was already a great place when I arrived 10 years ago and elevate Clemson even further. And today, the value of the Tiger Paw has never been higher. We are continuing to break records in pretty much any metric you look at: applications, enrollment, retention rates, graduation rates, research, fundraising, diversity, facilities, extension, innovation campuses and athletics, to name just a few. And through continuing to elevate Clemson, we are impacting and benefiting the state of South Carolina.

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.


Jeff Ruble

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. They͛re hardworking, passionate and loyal. Columbia is only thriving because of its people. It͛s 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. &or years, Columbia has had a reputation as a
government hub and university-town. In the past decade, more emphasis has been placed on the amanjing 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 its quality workforce and maintains a business-friendly environment.


Jody Bryson

Title: President & CEO

Company/organization: SC Technology & Aviation Center (SCTAC)

Years at current position: 16

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Helping South Carolina earn the unique 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. Very cool!

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? Our highly-skilled and dedicated 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. As a result, world-class companies
from around the world continue to invest in South Carolina.

What is South Carolina’s biggest challenge? Our record-breaking efforts in recruiting new companies has led to record-setting growth in our state. Effectively managing that growth
presents a tremendous challenge — as well as an exceptional opportunity.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I understand first-hand the value of the jobs that SCTAC companies provide to the citizens of South Carolina. In 1970, my father accepted a position with a large carbon fiber company at SCTAC, a job he held until
his retirement in 1993. That job provided for our family, enabling me and my sister to
graduate from Clemson University as first-generation college students. I pray that my work
will ensure even greater opportunities for economic prosperity to future generations of South
Carolina families.

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.


Jospeh F. Rice

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.

South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… it focuses on its youth, their personal health, their mental health, and their education, while at the same time protecting the natural resources that the state of South Carolina has that make it such a great place to live.


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, SC 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 here — BMW’s, Michelin tires, Lockheed Martin F-16’s, Boeing airliners, etc. and that is because of our hard working people. Our biggest challenge 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.


Jon Good

Title: CEO

Company/organization: NAI Earle Furman, LLC

Years at your current position: 12

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 … 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.


Jonathan Brashier

Title:  Vice President – Meetings, Conventions & Events

Company/organization: VisitGreenvilleSC

Years at your current position: 2

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? From an overall career perspective, having the opportunity to impact the lives of others is probably what I am most proud of. During my 25 years leading hotel sales and operations, the people I have had the privilege to work with have always been what mattered most.  I believe a great leader works hard to make certain that those around them can have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

One specific project in my current role that I am most proud of is the work we did to bring the Public Relations Society of America’s 2024 Travel & Tourism Conference to Greenville next summer.  Many cities were among consideration and our team rolled out the red carpet for the win.  The impact on Greenville and South Carolina will be immeasurable as this event receives unprecedented national media and PR coverage for our destination.

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. In 3 short hours you can go from the beautiful coast to hiking through the Blue Ridge mountains. 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.


Leighton Lord

Title: President and Chief Strategy Officer

Company: Maynard Nexsen

Years at your current position: 1

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.


Lou Kennedy

Title: President, CEO and Owner

Company/organization: Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp.

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 than 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. What everyone I talk to wants is the chance to leave their family and community better than they found it. When we challenge ourselves to work together with a common purpose on good, business-friendly policy, we can do just that.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I have been incredibly blessed to be able to move a company I love back to the community I love — the community that raised me and made me who I am — and give back, providing the people who take pride in Lexington County, the Midlands and our great state with the opportunity build on the incredible momentum around us.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we recognize riverfront development for being the gamechanger it is and make it a reality.


Marilyn L. Hemingway

Title: CEO/founding president

Company/organization: Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce

Years at current position: 5.8

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 South Carolina’s biggest strength? South Carolina’s biggest strength is its climate and diverse geography (from the Lowcountry, foothills and mountains) within two hours you can be in a different climate. This diversity of geography has impacted our people, history and will continue to impact our future.

What is South Carolina’s 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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I never considered my work would benefit South Carolina. My vision was to benefit our Gullah Geechee community but the more I work towards this vision…the more I realize “real change” takes work and “innovative thinking” about our cultural, economic and educational problems. Barriers can be addressed with innovation and consistent work. I believe everyone in the room can bring something to the table but all too often certain people are not brought into the room. I hope my work has benefited South Carolina by planting seeds of “out of the box thinking” with individuals I am honored to meet and interact with on many levels.

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.


Mark O’Halla

Title: President & CEO

Company/Organization: Prisma Health

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.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? South Carolina’s greatest strength is its people. Our state’s beautiful geography, favorable climate, relatively low cost of living and economic momentum has provided us with a diverse range of wonderful people who are proud to call South Carolina home.

Prisma Health is committed to improving the quality of life in South Carolina by improving both the health outcomes and economic vitality of the communities we serve. Healthy communities have healthy economies, and we are proud to support both of these facets. We provide excellent health care to over 25% of the state’s population and are a major contributor to South Carolina’s economic prosperity, with an annual impact of $9 billion per year.

As South Carolina continues to expand in the coming years, Prisma Health will be at the forefront of this growth – providing quality health care for our residents and visitors, good paying and rewarding careers to our citizens, and collaborating with our educational partners to train and retain highly talented health care professionals so that South Carolina can continue to be one of the leading states for economic growth.

What is its biggest challenge? In South Carolina, the total population is expected to reach more than 6.35 million by the year 2040, with the share of the population over the age of 65 expected to continue to rise which is driving huge demand for the health care services.

As the state’s population and workforce ages, there will be both a decline in the available health care labor force combined with this increased demand for health care. This is probably the greatest challenge for Prisma Health, and for South Carolina.

Prisma Health is proactively addressing these workforce challenges by partnering with a variety of educational institutions across the state, the SC legislature, state agencies and other South Carolina-based organizations to invest in workforce development and training programs that attract, prepare and retain talent for health care careers to align with our state’s workforce needs.

Over 8,000 learners a year train in our clinical environment, which spans the territory from Sumter to Seneca. This includes more than 60 physician residency and fellowship programs across departments that train over 700 physicians in any given year.

We can make meaningful advances in improving public health and supporting the state’s economic climate by working alongside our partners who are stepping up with us to solve these challenges.

Working alongside our partners, we can leverage our collective resources to overcome these challenges and make meaningful advances in improving public health and supporting the state’s economic climate.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The dedicated physicians, nurses and team members of Prisma Health are moving the needle on health outcomes for our patients and for South Carolina. Last year, our state’s national health ranking improved from 45 to 41, and we continue to gain momentum!

Within the past 12 months, we have achieved breakthrough levels of clinical outcomes and patient experience across our organization that has benefitted people in the communities we serve.

Nationally, Prisma Health Medical Group has achieved top-quartile performance for patient experience, ranking as one of the top large medical groups in the country. In FY23, our hospitals achieved top-decile performance in overall mortality and sepsis mortality outcomes. We are among the best in the country at saving lives. These results are due to the tremendous efforts of our team members who are unwavering in their commitment to providing the best patient care and service imaginable.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we prioritize collaborative workforce development and training programs that create a sustainable and successful pipeline of health care workers to transform the state of health of our citizens, fostering a vibrant and prosperous future for generations to come.


Mary Thornley

Title: President

Company/organization: Trident Technical College

Years at your current position: 32

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

Title: Principal | CMO

Company/organization: DP3 Architects, Ltd.

Years at your current position: 12

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? My greatest career achievement is being able to be involved with awesome people and helping to create places that they spend their lives in.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? 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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? 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.

Finish this sentence: 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.


Merle Johnson

Title: Executive Director

Company/Organization: Orangeburg County Development Commission

Years at your current position 1

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? Working with the Greenville Area Development Corporation (GADC), South Carolina Department of Commerce, and Hughes Development to relocate Kiyatec from the County onto Main Street in Downtown Greenville. Kiyatec moved their headquarters and research facility, picking Greenville over several other larger bio-tech cities. It was a true public-private partnership that helped create 91 new jobs, which continued the trend of transforming downtown Greenville. Kiyatec is developing transformative solutions for cancer patients using functional precision oncology.

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.”

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I believe that every local economic development professional in South Carolina works to see the betterment of their community. We all believe that ‘a rising tide floats all boats.’ We want everyone in our community to be able to live, work, and play in our own backyards.

Finish this sentence: 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.


Michael Amiridis

Title: President

Company/Organization: University of South Carolina

Years at current position: 1

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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? It is too early in my tenure to assess the impact of many initiatives we are just starting. As president of the state’s flagship university, I lead an institution that is committed to making a difference for years to come by equipping our students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the 21st-century workforce and by conducting transformative, cutting-edge research. To help build a well-educated and diverse workforce for South Carolina, we are providing specialized certificate programs that emphasize digital and leadership skills, offering financial incentives for students to take in-state internships in critical fields, and guaranteeing admission for the state’s top students.

We are finalizing plans to build a state-of-the-art, 16-acre health sciences campus that will advance research and answer the critical need for medical care across our state. And we are playing a major role with academic and business partners to position South Carolina as a sustainable energy technology hub. We continue to find ways to prioritize higher education affordability for all South Carolinians, having held in-state tuition at the same level for the past five years.

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.


Michael Abraham

Title: State director

Company/organization: SC Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC)

Years at your current position: 13.5

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I have been fortunate to have opportunities throughout my career that allowed me to achieve exciting and rewarding outcomes. Entrepreneurship was modeled by my parents and has been part of my DNA; so in recent years, the fact that I have been able to lead two state SBDC programs to record breaking achievements and the highest level of national accreditation has been a special highlight. The SBDC program truly helps small businesses become successful, generating wealth for the owners and positive economic impact for their communities.

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 at this point in time 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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? The SC SBDC assists an average of about 5,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs annually. We are an economic development engine made up of highly experienced professionals who have a strong commitment to supporting the small businesses we serve. Our work drives measurable economic impact that is carefully monitored and verified. Over the last five years, the SC SBDC has helped 32,711 entrepreneurs in our state create and retain 11, 735 jobs, obtain $393.3 million in capital, win $167.3 million in government contracts and launch 1,049 new businesses.

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.


Mike Gula

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.


Nate Tomforde

Title: Chief operating officer, COO o Crafted Community Concepts + Owner of Southernside Brewing Co

Business/Organization: Crafted Community Concepts

Years in current position: 10

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.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? South Carolina is a great place to start a business with fairly low start-up costs and tremendous opportunities for growth. On the flip side, with so many people starting businesses in South Carolina, it can be challenging to provide business owners with ongoing resources, services, and tools to sustain that growth.

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.


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? 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.

What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? Strengths: Pro-business attitude of the state, great public-private cooperation, strong higher education system (two-year, four-year, and graduate schools). Challenges: Creating an electric vehicle infrastructure across the state, attracting and educating enough skilled people to meet future demand.

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 across the state. 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 towards 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.


Ron G. Smith

Title: Founding Principal

Company: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture

Years at your current position:  36

 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? As a Founding Principal of the 25th largest architecture firm in America (2022), it has been my honor to provide well designed buildings that support healthy and vibrant communities throughout the Southeast. My greatest achievement has been to see mine and my friends children and grandchildren live, work, and play in the buildings that our firm has designed.

 What is South Carolina’s biggest strength? What is its biggest challenge? Our state’s strength comes from our family atmosphere and great work ethic. South Carolina is growing because many people across the country want to live and work here. The challenge is managing that growth so that it benefits the citizens of this state in a way that responsibly creates meaningful and lasting impact for the good of all.

 How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Our firm’s work in the areas of civic, commercial, education, healthcare, manufacturing, and workforce development directly contributes to the health of our economy and creates new opportunities for the people who live in our state. Our team at McMillan Pazdan Smith 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.


Sharon Pearce Wilson

Title: President and Co-Founder

Company: Wilson Associates Real Estate

Years at your current position: 38

 What is your greatest career achievement? I have been honored with numerous sales awards over the years, and, while I am proud of my production and the ability to help clients with one of their most important decisions, I have to say founding Wilson Associates Real Estate with just 3 agents in 2014 and watching it grow to 35 agents today has been the hardest but most rewarding work I have ever done.  After all these years, we have never wavered in our belief that real estate is about so much more than buying and selling houses; It’s advocacy, service, counsel, and community-building.

To be in a position to mentor and “pay it forward” with our agents – watching them continue to grow and succeed and building trusted relationships with clients and community partners, whether they’ve just moved to Greenville or been here for generations like my family has – is the blessing of a lifetime.

What is Couth Carolina’s biggest strength? 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 okay 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.

How do you think your work has benefitted South Carolina? Wilson Associates Real Estate’s presence and contributions have been instrumental in boosting the real estate market, driving economic growth, generating revenue, creating jobs, and developing neighborhoods. However, our most significant contributions have been in building and serving the community we call home.

We have created a culture in which every agent is not only expected to but genuinely loves to give back.  We identify problems and opportunities and are the first ones to roll up our sleeves and help – whether that’s through helping to found organizations like the McCall Hospice, supporting top-notch non-profits like Project Host or the Meyer Center, spearheading efforts to place bike racks in Unity Park, or helping to grow the next generation of real estate leaders through leadership positions with industry organizations like Greater Greenville Association of Realtors, you’ll find Wilson Associates leading the way forward for our community, our profession, and our state.

Finish this sentence: SC will continue its positive 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.


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!


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 has far too many strengths to be measured against each other. 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. Maintaining our values and quality of life should be paramount.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? I will let others be the judge of this.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we remember what makes us special. One of the most unique things about South Carolina is that we have access to each other and there is a true spirit about cooperation. Leaders are three degrees of separation throughout the state and our approach and perception of PPP’s is unique. No one feels threatened, personal agendas can be set aside for the common good. We work together.


Stuart D. Whiteside

Title: Principal in Charge, Co-Founder

Company: Seamon Whiteside

Years at position: 38

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 pro-business stance. Its 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.


Tim Hardee

Title: President

Company/organization: SC Technical College System

Years at your current position: 7

 What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? I’ve spent most of my career working to make higher education more accessible and affordable for South Carolinians. During the pandemic, we worked with Governor Henry McMaster and his team to leverage funding through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds. Our initial success enabled us to expand scholarships beyond short-term training to include longer-term certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees.

In November 2021, the Governor announced a groundbreaking $17M investment in South Carolina’s workforce by creating the Workforce Scholarships for the Future pilot program. This initiative was designed to provide no-cost tuition to nearly 15,000 South Carolinians seeking an associate degree or industry credential in a high-demand career field.

We expanded the pilot program further by working closely with the Governor’s Office and the state legislature. As a result, funding for the SC WINS scholarship was increased from $17M to $94M in the FY2023-24 budget, making certificates, degrees, and diplomas in the state’s most high-demand programs essentially at no cost to the student.

What is South Carolina’s greatest strength? 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.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … it continues to invest in its people through education and workforce development. A well-educated and skilled workforce is vital for long-term economic growth. Continued support of education initiatives like the SCWINS scholarship will help ensure we have a ready, skilled workforce equipped to meet the demands of new and evolving industries.


Tod Augsburger

Title: President and CEO

Company/organization: Lexington Medical Center

Years at your current position: 8

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 can-do 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.


Tonya Matthews

Title: President and CEO

Company/organization: International African American Museum

Years at your current position: 3 years

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? 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 (IAAM) is an intentional commitment to expanding the stories we tell here in South Carolina – 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.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if… we are able to grow and attract diverse, enthusiastic, high-capacity talent and build the community, culture, and leadership opportunities that retain them.


Wes Carter

Title: President

Company/organization: Atlantic Packaging

Years in your current position: 8

What is your greatest career achievement/accomplishment? The realization of our vision for creating the most advanced packaging development center in the world was a monumental achievement for Atlantic. We opened our Charlotte-based Packaging Solution Center in 2017 and today, it supports the world’s largest CPGs and retail brands in achieving their sustainability goals.

In 2020, we also launched A New Earth Project (ANEP), which brings together the voices of ocean and water advocacy with organizations committed to innovate solutions to solve the global plastic pollution crisis. As a lifelong outdoorsman and surfer who sits in a unique position within the supply chain, it’s a privilege to help implement life-affirming technologies to replace problematic packaging. We believe ANEP is catalyzing a sustainable revolution and poised to have a profound impact.

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.

How do you think your work has benefited South Carolina? Atlantic supports a wide range of companies’ desires to transition to sustainable packaging materials. We are investing tremendous resources in bringing new technology to market and providing our customers with sound, economically viable packaging that supports a healthy planet. We’ve set aggressive climate and waste reduction goals as a company, which I hope inspires other businesses. Personally, I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to organizations including the Lowcountry Land Trust, Sustain SC and The Conservation Alliance, and to be a part of education programs like the South Carolina Healthy Business Challenge.

Finish this sentence: South Carolina will continue its positive economic momentum if … we acknowledge that our greatest strength is the natural beauty of our state and do not silo conservation and commerce into separate lanes, because abundance comes from balance.