Building South Carolina’s Opportunity Infrastructure
March 3 – March 5, 2016 (Thursday through Saturday)
Marriott Resort and Spa on Hilton Head Island
1 Hotel Circle, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
To read the New Study on Financial Self-Sufficiency for South Carolina Families, click here.
Record-breaking attendance. More speakers, more sessions, more interaction. New ways to collect impressions and legacies of DLI and OneSouthCarolina. At OneSouthCarolina 2016 we focused on South Carolina’s “opportunity infrastructure” – the policies and programs that exist and those that are needed to move more South Carolinians into sustainable, middle-wage jobs. We brought together some of the movers and influencers who are making South Carolina a better place to live by strengthening communities, encouraging entrepreneurship, and bolstering meaningful connections between education and jobs. Our goal: Diversity Leaders Initiative alums walking away with a deeper understanding of how South Carolina’s “opportunity infrastructure” is connected to the creation of a path for their constituents, both young and old, to good jobs that pay well and foster economic resilience.
Don Gordon opened early Thursday afternoon with a presentation of what is and is not “middle class” in South Carolina, why a strong middle class is a vital component of a healthy economy, and a look at the recent downward trajectory of the middle class in South Carolina. Kyle Longest followed with an interactive budgeting exercise that gave participants some insight into the kinds of spending decisions and dilemmas poor people in our state face each month. Next Tim Ervolina took a quick look at United Way Association of South Carolina’s “self-sufficiency study” detailing how much it actually costs for different kinds of families in different parts of the state to live assistance-free and beyond that, to save, buy a home, and pay for education – to become middle class. Representatives Kenny Bingham and Chandra Dillard closed the afternoon’s work with a conversation with moderator Mark Quinn about what state government is doing and should be doing to grow the middle class in South Carolina.
Thursday evening featured a packed and high energy opening reception, followed by a dinner with a welcome from Secretary Dick Riley and Furman President Elizabeth Davis. Riley Institute deputy director Jacki Martin defined South Carolina’s opportunity infrastructure by pointing to the incredible work being done around the state by various Riley Fellows, all of whom were in attendance and all of whom were heartily cheered. John Simpkins (the first associate director of the Riley Institute) spoke in a simple, unembellished and moving way about what his young son has taught him about why the opportunity infrastructure is important, and received a standing ovation.
At Friday breakfast, Ken May previewed the work of this year’s artists in attendance. Juan Johnson put forward a moving video tribute to his friend and mentor Calder Ehrmann, then spotlighted Camp Hope, one of the most successful among many successful DLI community action projects. The plenary session opened with Katherine Newman telling stories of the perilous lives of the “missing class” or working poor in America, gathered through observation and interviews with a number of families over the course of several years. Joey Von Nessen spoke about the Darla Moore School’s recent study of current and projected jobs in the state through 2030, the education needed for them, and the projected skills gap.
Lunch on Friday featured a menu and lively presentation by Matt and Ted Lee, the Lee Brothers (who also planned the menus for Thursday’s dinner and whose recent cookbook was a Riley Institute gift to conference attendees). The remainder of the day was spent in discussion of three paths to creating and sustaining middle-wage jobs and greater economic security in South Carolina. The first of these, focusing on holistic community revitalization in the state, brought together Bill Barnet and Carol Naughton to talk about Spartanburg’s Northside Initiative and Vernita Dore and Andy Brack about the recently designated South Carolina Promise Zone.
Conference participants enjoyed a Creative Break featuring demonstrations and sales by South Carolina artists Jeri Burdick, Arianne King Comer, Jason Knight, and Steve Owen, brought together through the Riley Institute’s much-valued partnership with the South Carolina Arts Commission.
Following the break, a discussion moderated by Linda O’Bryon about how educators and large employers are working together in the state to prepare graduates for fulfilling, well-paid careers and ensure employers a field of qualified workers brought together Mike Riordan and Elizabeth Davis to talk about the unique partnership between Greenville Health System and Furman University, and Jimmie Williamson and Werner Eikenbusch about the state’s technical college system’s custom programming for large employers and their shared work on South Carolina’s aggressive, fast-growing and effective apprentice programs.
The final session on Friday focused on South Carolina’s innovation economy, with Ann Marie Stieritz’s thoughts on the state of entrepreneurship in South Carolina and the “innovation ecosystem” needed to support it, Ernest Andrade on the why and how of the Charleston Digital Corridor, Mike McGirr on the growing local food production movement in the Upstate, and Lydia Dobyns on how public education can help students learn to think and act like entrepreneurs.
The day’s work was followed by the traditional oyster roast, barbeque, chili and fixings on the oceanside patio. Temperature: mid to low 50s. Music: house band Mac Arnold and a Plate Full O’ Blues. Consensus: perfect.
The final session on Saturday morning opened with Mayor Joe Riley telling the audience about the International African American Museum, scheduled to open in Charleston in 2018. Sen. Sean Bennett, Jack Ellenberg and Pete Selleck talked about the connections between physical infrastructure in South Carolina – the port, roadways, railways, etc. – and good jobs in the state, and about the battle going on in the South Carolina legislature about how to fund the state’s much-needed infrastructure improvements. Finally, Gov. Ed Rendell, in the closing keynote, gave an informed, engaging and entertaining talk about advancing a new national vision for infrastructure investment that strengthens urban and rural communities and enhances economic competitiveness and job creation.
Our great thanks to all who participated in the discussions and all who attended OneSouthCarolina 2016 – we appreciate your time and your support!
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