As a native of the Charleston area, no one needs to convince me about this area being a great place to do business. My career started and remains here. I’ve had the opportunity to not only work for a number of employers, but I’ve also owned a successful marketing and communications business.
Charleston-area residents are, of course, business-minded, and they are also hospitable in the way they do business. We are surrounded by natural beauty. Extremely cold winters are pretty short-term, which leaves us with vacation weather most of the year. How can you not be a hospitable business person in Charleston?
Because I’ve grown up in the Charleston area, I’ve had the opportunity to watch it transform over the years. As a child, Charleston was heavily military and was known for its multiple bases and military installations. In school, we were always welcoming new students who had moved here due to a parent or both parents being in the Air Force or the Navy.
As a result of military base realignment in the early 90s, many of the installations closed or merged leaving Charleston to figure out its next move. This is when tourism moved from the back seat to the front in terms of what Charleston ‘was known for.’ Tourism not only grows our economy; it also provides a steady stream of new residents who were once tourists themselves. Many of the newer residents are extremely tech-savvy and have helped grow Charleston’s innovation economy to rival technological cities such as Charlotte and Jacksonville.
In recent years, Charleston has seen a proliferation of business and technology incubators and accelerators where entrepreneurs can receive guidance and collaborate with other innovators. South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA’s) SC Launch program, which funds and supports technology-driven startups and entrepreneurs, recently spearheaded an initiative to create the South Carolina Business Incubator Association (SCBIA). The association unites various organizations that share best practices, and further stimulate the innovative spirit now thriving in our state.
SCRA’s other three programs are: SC Academic Innovations, which funds and supports academic research, development, and the commercialization of the resulting products and services; SC Facilities, which offers customized laboratory and workspaces to support the SCRA programs and the innovation economy; and SC Ventures, which funds and supports later stage startups and industry partners.
Charleston is home to an infinite number of business startups that are thriving and fueling South Carolina’s innovation economy, which is the mission of SCRA. Extremiti3D, LLC is an example of this. Based on Johns Island, the SC Launch Portfolio Company provides amputees with 3D-printed prosthetic sockets and protective covers that are comfortable, strong, and cosmetically appealing. During this pandemic, Extremiti3D is also assisting another company, Essentium, Inc. in its effort to supply 3D-printed masks.
In addition to the knowledge base Charleston offers to businesses, it also includes workspaces in desirable locations, a selling-point for recruiting talent to the area. SCRA’s SC Facilities provides customized laboratory and administrative spaces to early and later-stage startups as well as academic institutions. One such location is 22 WestEdge, where SCRA offers approximately 20,000 square feet of wet lab, research, training and office space. Vikor Scientific, a market leader in providing targeted, molecular diagnostics that can improve clinical and economic outcomes, is an SCRA tenant at 22 WestEdge.
The Charleston area will continue to be a world-class tourism destination, but it is also growing in notoriety as a great place to start and grow a technology-based business.
Source: CompTIA Tech Town Index 2019
Adrian Grimes is the director of marketing and communications for South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA)—a public, non-profit corporation that fuels South Carolina’s innovation economy.