Collaboration is hard but works

By C. Grant Jackson
Senior Vice President/Community Development
Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

Navigating from Good to Great, the community development and prosperity initiative launched through the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, is approaching the end of its first five years.

And while the region is not great yet, progress has clearly been made. The key to that progress is that the region’s leaders have adopted the Navigating from Good to Great mantra – “Reaching our full community potential will require that nothing separate us, be it a road, a neighborhood, race, age of even a river” — and begun to work together on key issues. Navigating from “good to Great” has become part of the Midland’s everyday lexicon.

Navigating from Good to Great works to align and focus diverse efforts into a unity of purpose through collaboration . But collaboration is hard work. Organizations have to be willing to work together, understand what each group’s motivation is and be more concerned about the outcome than who gets credit. “The first rule of collaboration is that people collaborate when it is in their interest to do so,” says Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board is an article “Play Nice to Win Maximizing Competitiveness Through Collaboration.”

But collaboration can yield extraordinary results and collaboration is helping to move the Columbia region from “good to Great.” Here are few examples:

Regional Cooperation

With the assistance of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Navigating from Good to Great, 19 chambers in 11 counties formed the MIDSTATE Chambers Coalition, providing for the first time a unified voice for Central South Carolina.

Existing Business Growth

The City of Columbia and the Navigating from Good to Great Foundation launched Business in Motion — a regional Existing Business Retention & Expansion program. The program’s reach extends far beyond the city limits into Richland and Lexington counties. A key result from the first nearly 300 interviews was the establishment of a city-county-chamber Business Services Task Force working to improve business permitting, licensing and other services in Columbia and Richland County.

Cluster Development

Nurturing industry clusters may be one of the region’s greatest collaborative efforts — involving New Carolina, EngenuitySC, the USC-Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative, Navigating from Good to Great, the Columbia Chamber, IT-oLogy and a host of industry partners. Successes include the launch of iTs|SC Columbia’s Insurance Technology and Services Cluster –the region is home to more than 20 companies representing 15,000 employees with an annual economic impact of $6.7 billion– the formation of NuHub, the nuclear collaborative working to make the Midlands a center for nuclear industry training as well as for the development and manufacture of Small Modular Reactors; and the TDL Council, the statewide transportation, distribution and logistics cluster centered in Columbia.

Talent Attraction & Retention

Talent is the major currency for successful regions. A collaboration of COR-Columbia Opportunity Resource, the Navigating from Good to Great Foundation, and the Columbia Chamber is focused on talent attraction and retention. COR, which provides the region’s young professionals a gateway to connect to diverse and meaningful networks, has connected nearly 3,000 young professionals through events, volunteer service and other opportunities, and provided nearly 16,500 volunteer service hours through its partnership projects. The chamber’s Leadership Columbia program annually accepts 60 participants to an intensive 10-month program of leadership development. In its 30 year history, nearly 1,600 individuals have been through the program.


Homelessness continues to be a significant regional issue. But progress has been made through the creation of the Midlands Housing Alliance and the opening of Transitions, the region’s comprehensive service center for the homeless. The effort was originally begun by the Midlands Business Leadership Group, a collaborative of leading business executives. The Navigating from Good to Great Foundation made an initial investment in Transitions and assisted the Alliance in raising funds to match a Knight Foundation grant. Other collaborative partners include the faith community and service providers. In barely a year, more than 2,000 individuals have been part of Transitions programs, almost 200 have been placed in housing, and an additional 515 have moved from homelessness to a better living situation.

Columbia|SC Famously Hot

The successful rebranding of the Columbia region as “The New Southern Hot Spot” and the creation of the “Columbia|SC Famously Hot” logo and tagline was led by the Midlands Authority for Conventions Sports and Tourism, creative partner ADCO, and Navigating from Good to Great, and involved broad spectrum of regional partners.The authority has catalogued more than 200 uses of the logo on brochures and ads, in newspaper and magazine articles and in advertising from other partners and media. The social media usage of the brand has been phenomenal with almost 20,000 #famouslyhot and @columbiasc tweet mentions per month.


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