LC17: Economic Development

The Leadership Columbia Class of 2017 is a group of 58 emerging and existing leaders in the region, who are dedicated to bettering themselves and their community. The 10-month skills-building program provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on social and community awareness, while challenging the candidates to step out of their comfort zones and become involved in Columbia.

The Leadership Columbia Advisory Board, an alumni-based committee, organizes nine full-day class days, an orientation and a two-day retreat for the class. These class days focus on timely topics in our region ranging from economic development to criminal justice.bob-evans-headshot

On Tuesday, January 10, current LC17 candidate Bob Evans wrote a post detailing his experience during the class’ Economic Development Day:

“Take good notes, because you have to write a blog about this.”

That was my mantra last Tuesday, as our Leadership Columbia class descended on the Amazon facility out in West Columbia. This month’s class day was “Economic Development,” the process by which a community improves the socio-economic quality of life for its citizens.

I came in with a basic understanding, but I left with boundless reasons why the Midlands – and South Carolina – means good business.

Like I said, our day began at the Amazon distribution center – a sprawling, 1.3 million-square-foot facility. We were instructed to leave our cell phones in our cars and I learned we were one of only a handful of groups permitted to tour the building in a given year.

Kind of reminds you of a certain fantastical chocolate factory, right?

No golden ticket necessary.

Our guides led us through every section of their workspace at the brisk pace of 2 steps per second (company policy). Having once worked at a similar center for the Home Shopping Network, I was familiar with the overall workflow, but absolutely blown away by the scope. One employee mentioned that, in a given shift, approximately 400 people might be working in a section, but you might only see one or two. Such is the nature of a job where you’re spread out in a space equal to, like, 15 football fields.

We heard from two thought leaders that morning. Kiosha Boyles, president of Digitize Marketing, spoke about building our brand and claiming our name. “Your personal brand is your professional reputation. Take control of it and ensure it reflects who you are.” This is near and dear to me, since I share my name with a well-known restaurant. It can be hard to be heard among the crowds of content online, but by emphasizing our authenticity and positive traits, she encouraged us to infuse our personality into our professional presence. Next, Ford Graham of the SC Department of Commerce noted that Charleston has the fastest growing major US port, and that South Carolina attracts the second-most international companies to our state. We’re also number one in production of lawn mowers – did you know that the Husqvarna Group’s SC workforce is 80% female?

Who run the world? Girls.

We left the Amazon facility just before noon, and after furiously texting, tweeting, and replying to emails, we reconvened at the downtown offices of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. to continue our discussions of economic development in the Midlands.

Our class heard from impactful people throughout the day, each of them making the case for business growth in South Carolina, and all of them throwing out more morsels of information than gobstoppers on an assembly line. Mercifully, they were also intelligent, engaging speakers who are passionate about the Midlands, so it was easy to find common ground.

Will Johnson of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, had the distinct pleasure of explaining property taxes, millage rates, SSRCs/FILOTs (‘special source revenue credits’ and ‘fees in lieu of taxes’) and all of the thrilling nuances of the tax code.

After the initial shell shock wore off, I learned a lot: Columbia’s property taxes are high because we have a lot of untaxed land owned by churches, nonprofits, and the government. High rates can be a barrier when encouraging companies to choose the Midlands, but tax incentives allow us to be more competitive.

The rest of the speakers for the day all came back to several key points:

  • SC offers state-funded, comprehensive workforce training for companies that meet certain employment/profit thresholds
  • Columbia is good for business, though our current incentives are geared towards manufacturing
  • USC is doing its part to draw the technology industry through its incubator and key partnerships with IBM and Boeing
  • Economic development is a team sport, and there are lots of groups who need to work together to attract business

We as individuals can help by pushing to repair and maintain our infrastructure, by presenting a unified, positive voice for the Midlands, and realizing that though growth is slow, we need to be prepared for it. Columbia is one of the most connected cities in the Southeast in terms of interstate access; we can capitalize on that.

For my classmates in Leadership Columbia, I’d like to challenge us to use everything we’ve learned about the Midlands so far – education, arts and culture, political systems – and everything we will learn to make an effective case for the culture and community that we have here. It’s up to us to make connections. Our class project is rooted in the idea that Columbia is stronger together through any adversity. Let’s do everything we can to make our city succeed.

And I definitely have a newfound appreciation for online shopping.

Bob Evans, Leadership Columbia Class of 2017


January 2017 Partner of the Month: Nilson Van & Storage

When Nilson Van and Storage opened over 75 years ago, they wanted to provide clients with superb, professional moving services to help relieve the stress of relocating. Their commitment to quality customer service has helped them grow to eight locations, over 140 employees, and countless satisfied clients.nilson-logo

Back in 1938, members of the Nilson family began in South Carolina with two trucks and $500 of startup money. Through focusing on quality customer service and from the dedicated hard work of their employees over the years, they have expanded their reach quite a bit since then. They are thankful to have extended the Nilson “family” throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and even, the world. They remain true to the core values that led them to success, and continue to offer the same high quality service as they did on day one.

On the ten-year anniversary of their Partnership with the Columbia Chamber, they are being recognized for their support and participation over the years. They have played in the Chamber’s Annual Golf Tournament each year and sponsored the event many times. The Nilson staff has joined us at countless Coffee Connections and Partner Engagement events to network and build connections with other Chamber Partners. They also participated in SchmoozaPalooza, the Chamber’s annual B2B networking expo.

Nilson Van specializes in moving, whether it’s for individuals, businesses, or members of the military, and continue to build on their years of experience. So, whatever the move and however far, they will treat you right and get the best job done.

For every step of the moving process, count on their team of friendly experts to help you achieve a smooth transition. If you need assistance packing, moving, or storing your possessions, they have programs and professionals in place ready to go to work for you.

You can expect an excellent experience when working with them, whether you’re planning a residential or commercial move. The trained professional movers at Nilson Van, accurate price quotes, and extensive resources allow them to better serve clients and their unique needs.

No matter what type of move you’re making or where you’re going, their network of moving professionals is committed to helping you every step of the way.

The Columbia Chamber is honored to present Nilson Van and Storage as the January 2017 Partner of the Month.

To learn more about Nilson Van and Storage, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.

LC17: Education Day

The Leadership Columbia Class of 2017 is a group of 58 emerging and existing leaders in the region, who are dedicated to bettering themselves and their community. The 10-month skills-building program provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on social and community awareness, while challenging the candidates to step out of their comfort zones and become involved in Columbia.

The Leadership Columbia Advisory Board, an alumni-based committee, organizes nine full-day class days, an orientation and a two-day retreat for the class. These class days focus on timely topics in our region ranging from economic development to criminal justice.

On Tuesday, December 13, the LC17 class had Education Day, below is a post by current candidate, Stephanie Frazier:

“Practice active listening. That was my self-imposed assignment as I entered the doors of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority House on USC’s campus on December 13. It was Education Day for Leadership Columbia, and I was committed to digesting the thoughts and opinions of my classmates and presenters. As a higher education stephanie-fraizeradministrator, conversations about college readiness, access and equity, advisement, teacher training, and accountability are far from foreign. Still, it is always exciting to learn from and listen to others outside of the microcosm that I navigate daily. I applied to Leadership Columbia in an effort to expand my professional network and explore the many changes taking place in my hometown. More importantly, I am seeking additional ways to proactively connect higher education with business and industry. Every class session has introduced new partnership opportunities, prompted self-reflection, and offered substantive information on initiatives taking place across the Midlands. Education Day was no exception.

The Superintendent for the SC Public Charter School District spoke zealously about closing achievement gaps among SC students and placing emphasis on college as an access point to networks and power. In order to cultivate college-ready students, teachers must embrace innovation, demand high expectations, and adopt the belief that each student has an inherent ability to be great. I believe that this is a solid framework for success, conceptually. Yet, presentations throughout the day highlighted challenges that threaten this framework inside and outside of the classroom. The Deans of Education at USC and Benedict talked extensively about teacher preparation programs, as well as the continuous shortage of teachers, and the need for teachers to do more with less.

Despite the challenges presented, I remember that even the thinnest pancake has two sides. There are, indeed, some wonderful educators across the Midlands who would seemingly do their jobs without pay. This was evident by the presentation from the SC Teacher of the Year. Her presence was a reminder of that sometimes you must leave your environment in order to more effectively enact change. We certainly need teachers like Jennifer Wise in the classroom on a daily basis. However, voices like hers are critical to discussions about policy development, research, and funding. Even simpler, voices like hers are critical to informing novices about education in general. Amidst animated stories about her students, blackberries, fractals, and mutual exclusiveness, Mrs. Wise provided our class with information about many pertinent initiatives including Teacher Cadet, Read to Succeed, and the Francis Marion University Center on Poverty.

Also critical is the importance of educational partnerships, particularly as we prepare students to be successful after high school graduation. The Executive Director of Housing at USC affirmed the need for collaboration if we want to efficiently meet the needs of today’s students. In my opinion, that includes creating stronger educational pathways for students – from high school to two-year, to four-year. My heart skipped a beat when one of the guidance counselor panelists indicated that the majority of her students started their postsecondary careers at Midlands Technical College. [Steps on soap box] Across our 16 technical colleges, we educate nearly 60% of all undergraduate students in South Carolina. Approximately 11,000 K-12 students took at least one dual enrollment course during this past academic year. Furthermore, we have hundreds of youth apprentices at businesses across the Midlands and state. Transfer agreements exist with many institutions including USC, Clemson, Benedict, Claflin, Columbia College, and the Medical University of South Carolina. I could go on, but, I’ll stop there [Steps off soap box]. My point is that there is great work being done to make higher education accessible and affordable for our students. My heart belongs to the SC Technical College System, but I’ve learned that there’s room at the table for everyone.

In essence, Education Day presented fruitful discussion about this multi-faceted concept called education. The class left with many questions, and a better understanding of some of the challenges facing educators at all levels. We also left assured that there are a lot of good things happening in our state, and across the Midlands. As an educator, I took this as a challenge to continue practicing active listening and to lessen the disconnect among all stakeholders. I suspect that my classmates took this as an opportunity to become even more inquisitive – to explore avenues for learning and public involvement through school improvement councils and school boards, or volunteering with educational organization. Kudos to the planning committee on a job well done.

Final Grade: “A” :)”

Stephanie Frazier, Leadership Columbia Class of 2017

December 2016 Partner of the Month: Salvation Army of the Midlands

Partners of the Columbia Chamber since 2011, The Salvation Army established a corps in Columbia, SC, in 1906 and has been serving people living in extreme poverty in the Midlands for more than 100 years. The Salvation Army, an international movement, works to ensure that human needs are met without discrimination.

Social Services programs provided by The Salvation Army focus on those living in the most extreme poverty in the Midlands. They work daily with those who are homeless and offer several homeless prevention initiatives. From serving daily meals to providing Christmas toys to families in need, The Salvation Army reaches out to those in our community who need assistance.


The Salvation Army was a first responder during last year’s historic flooding and continues to be a key part of the recovery and restoration of the Midlands. Initially, officers, staff, and volunteers served 55,788 hot meals and 51,663 cold drinks to people all across devastated areas. They prayed with people who lost nearly everything. They provided clean up kits and other resources to aid in efforts to rebuild lives. And perhaps most importantly, they instilled hope and let people know that they were not alone. The response began locally, but Salvation Army units from outside the Midlands area quickly arrived on the scene to assist in the relief efforts.

This July, The Salvation Army of the Midlands provided a free summer camping experience to 52 local children, ages 6-12, at Camp Walter Johnson in Denton, North Carolina. The children attended the 5-day program developed to be a positive environment for children to grow, learn and be encouraged while striving to meet spiritual, social, recreational and educational needs. Since 1974, Camp Walter Johnson has impacted the lives of over 55,000 children throughout North and South Carolina.

The Leveraging Literacy Free Afterschool Reading Program recently wrapped up for the year with an exciting ceremony at The Salvation Army where 25 students received certificates of completion, books from Richland Library, and sneakers from Innersole. The program meets every weekday when school is in session with a focus on vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension to increase student success.

This year, The Salvation Army of the Midlands…

  • Helped serve 217,836 meals to the homeless
  • Helped 3,102 families receive emergency basic needs assistance including rent, utility, water, food boxes
  • Helped issue 953 clothing vouchers
  • Helped distribute 1,905 hygiene kits
  • Helped 3,833 children receive new gifts for Christmas
  • Helped 1,724 families receive Christmas assistance
  • Helped distribute 1,724 boxes of food to families at Christmas
  • Helped 232 children receive new, well-fitting clothes, shoes, and school supplies through the Clothes for Kids program
  • Helped 593 children and youth enjoy Salvation Army camp

Major Roger Coulson, an officer of the Salvation Army, is a regular attendee of the Chamber’s Issues Committee meetings, and a long-time proponent of a thriving Midlands. The Columbia Chamber would like to take the time to thank the staff and volunteers of The Salvation Army of the Midlands for their continued support of our community.

The Columbia Chamber is honored to present The Salvation Army of the Midlands as the December 2016 Partner of the Month.

To learn more about The Salvation Army of the Midlands, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.

November 2016 Partner of the Month: Alpha Media

Alpha Media is a growing radio broadcast media company that has a passion for outstanding radio and digital content. Their philosophy is to be smaller, faster, bolder, and work as a team at all levels.


Alpha Media hires and retains skilled talent who can deliver a unique outlook and innovative ideas. The company believes in creating progressive products, world class events and building strong relationships in their community.

As Alpha Media continues to grow, the organization follows the philosophy of keeping radio Live and Local in each of their markets. Alpha Media stations work closely with local communities and advertisers, focusing on relationships with team members, clients and partners rather than negotiating deals. Whether it’s a 2-day music festival or a community fun-run, the team is relentlessly focused on innovation, efficiency and entertainment.

Last year, Alpha Media Columbia partnered with WIS-TV and the American Red Cross on a two day Radiothon/Telethon to raise $736,000 for those that were in such critical need after floods of historic proportion decimated most of central South Carolina.

Through the Columbia Chamber, Mike Hartel and the Alpha Media team have been very involved in supporting the local business community. Including, providing entertainment at the Chamber’s 2016 Schmoozapalooza Networking Expo and donating PSA’s over the radio waves for all of the Chamber’s major events throughout the year.

Representatives have attended countless Chamber functions, and Hartel also served on the Chamber’s Marketing & Communications Committee. In February, Alpha Media Broadcasting was honored as the New Partner of the Year at the Chamber’s Yellow Jasmine Awards. Alpha Media also sponsored the Chamber’s 2016 Annual Gala, for which they provided all of the voice-overs for our Annual Report videos.

Alpha Media is known for outstanding service to the community. The commitment to these communities and the radio industry is to never stop learning and recognizing opportunities for growth.

To learn more about Alpha Media Broadcasting, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.

LC17: Political Systems Day

The Leadership Columbia Class of 2017 is a group of 58 emerging and existing leaders in the region, who are dedicated to bettering themselves and their community. The 10-month skills-building program provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on social and community awareness, while challenging the candidates to step out of their comfort zones and become involved in Columbia.

The Leadership Columbia Advisory Board, an alumni-based committee, organizes nine full-day class days, an orientation and a two-day retreat for the class. These class days focus on timely topics in our region ranging from economic development to criminal justice.

On Tuesday, October 11, current LC17 candidate Heather Cooper wrote a post detailing her experience during the class’ Political Systems Day:

“Networking Tip #1: Avoid discussions regarding politics, especially in the South.

As an outsider, that’s what I was taught. As a rising community leader, that’s a topic I seek out. Leadership Columbia is an opportunity driver, a vehicle for challenging the status quo, and a means of contributing to the growth and development of our community. That’s why I applied to the program.

heather-cooper-headshotWe [the class] are presented with varied perspectives each meeting. Political Systems Day was no different. Special guests ranged from investigative journalists to elected officials. A thorough review of political parties, the role of the media, the differing levels of government, the voting process, the Judicial branch, and the Presidential Election were the building blocks to this educational experience.

Most surprisingly, we heard of the grave disappointment many of the guest speakers felt regarding the state of our Federal Government and the parties involved. It was a consistent sentiment that was first expressed by Dick Harpootlian and Katon Dawson and later addressed by Will Folks and Ron Aiken. These aren’t regular people like you and I. These are professionals within the political industry, that have spent a lifetime building their name and pushing forward their beliefs. Although it may initially sound discouraging for the rest of the U.S. population, as their words settled I found the thought to be comforting. Inspiration surfaced as we engaged with Amanda Loveday, Scott Farmer, and Chief Justice Pleicones. Why? Well, because they didn’t just harp on the negative. Instead, the three individuals shared their thoughts on viable solutions after addressing a pending issue.

The very courage it takes to express your true feelings and be a positive voice for others, that is what a leader is made of. At this time in our country’s history, I find it imperative for more people to stand up.

Tip the scale and choose to play devil’s advocate when you can. Make an impact. Achieve something great through political service (like running for a board position or calling your representatives) or through genuine and consistent public conversations. Political Day reinforced the idea that if you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Although I don’t believe my calling to be related to politics, I do believe I have a responsibility to talk about politics more than I had previously. The key to opening discussion though, is making sure you’re educated first. Thanks to our day rooted in political discussions, I can now consider myself well-educated.

Additionally, I’m hopeful. Hopeful because there seems to be more self-awareness among citizens due to the 2016 Presidential Election campaigns. So much so, that Republicans and Democratic alike are yearning for compromise, teamwork, and unity. Columbia learned a short year ago just how strong a community can be when we all work together, regardless of background, race, political association, religion, etc.

We’re all in this together and together we’ll get better.

Networking Tip #1 REVISED: Go ahead, discuss politics whenever and wherever you can.”

– Heather Cooper, Leadership Columbia Class of 2017

October 2016 Partner of the Month: Schmoyer and Company, LLC

Partners of the Columbia Chamber for 21 years and counting, Schmoyer and Company, LLC is a firm of Certified Public Accountants that serves the state of South Carolina and the Southeast. Schmoyer offers a full suite of services including accounting, auditing, tax, small business, healthcare and much more.schmoyer-logo-600Schmoyer and Company combines solid experience with the flexibility to go beyond traditional accounting roles. The organization’s greatest strength is the ability to think outside conventional boundaries. Schmoyer and Company has the talent and experience to serve as your business consultant and advisor. You will find a team of professionals eager to discuss options with you and help you map out your best strategy.

Over the years, Schmoyer and Company has been a very active participant in Chamber programs and committees. Terry Schmoyer, President and Managing Partner, has dedicated many years of service to the Chamber’s Finance Committee and the Executive Committee. Each year, their staff attends the Chamber’s Golf Tournament and Annual Gala, along with countless other monthly events.

The company’s valuable contributions to the Chamber’s initiatives make programs, such as the Leadership Columbia Alumni Association Leadership Luncheon Series, possible. This year, Schmoyer also sponsored the Chamber’s Partner Engagement event at the new sea lion exhibit at the Riverbanks Zoo, as well as the Golf Tournament and the Annual Gala. They have also pledged to support the Chamber’s military initiatives and our troops at Fort Jackson.

Active in the community, Terry Schmoyer, Jr. chairs the Logistics Committee for the American Heart Walk of the Midlands and serves as Treasurer of Communities in Schools of the Midlands, which works to surround students with a community of support empowering them to stay in school. Schmoyer also serves on the Payment for Services Committee of the South Carolina Health Care Association and on the boards of the Ben Lippen Booster Club, Delta Upsilon Fraternity Alumni Corporation, Central Carolina Community Foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Columbia Chamber is honored to present Schmoyer and Company as the October 2016 Partner of the Month.

To learn more about Schmoyer and Company, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.

September 2016 Partner of the Month: Crescent Construction

Founded in 2012, Crescent Construction is a full-service General Contractor that specializes in roofing, remodeling, and renovations in the region. Deeply embedded in the community, Crescent has gone above and beyond for both their clients and neighbors.

Owner, Kevin Varnadore, is a believer in supporting local businesses by purchasing his materials from local suppliers and vendors, as well as utilizing local tradesmen and subcontractors. He also uses locally owned caterers, restaurant, event venues, and beverage distributors for company sponsored events, including an annual golf tournament for local non-profits such as Special Olympics of SC and Pets Inc.

The organization supports a wide range of charities and causes including the American Legion Post 6’s Patriot Guard Ride Scholarship Fund, WIS TV Military Salutes segment, Roofs for Troops, Pawmetto Lifeline, Hydrocephalus Walk, Lexington County Recreation, Columbia Parks and Recreation, Harvest Hope, 5 Points Association, Rosewood Merchants Association, Midlands Gives, US War Dog Memorial, SC ProAm, Chester Baptist Association, Lori North Foundation, Karen Walker Foundation, SC Federation of the Blind, numerous local schools, churches, and Chambers of Commerce in addition to donating materials and supplies to those affected by the October 2015 floods.

In 2013, the company was named the Irmo Chamber 2013 New Business of the Year Award Winner quickly followed by GAF’s Triple Excellence award in 2015 – exclusively awarded to GAF Master Elite Roofers (top 3% in the nation). For the past three years, Crescent has proudly been recognized as the “Official Roofer of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.”

Since joining the Columbia Chamber in 2014, Crescent Construction has been an active participant with Chamber events including the Annual Golf Tournament, as well as sponsoring and attending the 2015 Gala.

While Crescent Construction is trained in helping home and business owners with roofing and construction needs, the organization’s employees have a true passion for giving back to the community.

For these reasons and many more, the Columbia Chamber is proud to recognize Crescent Construction as the September 2016 Partner of the Month!

To learn more about Crescent Construction, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.

August 2016 Partner of the Month: Bluebird Property Management, LLC

Founded in 2008 by Tammy Davis, Bluebird Property Management, LLC is a full-service property management company headquartered in Columbia with properties in South Carolina and North Carolina. Specializing in single family homes and multifamily apartment management, Bluebird logo 2014 (640x203)homes for rent, properties for lease, rental condos, duplexes and rent-to-own options, Bluebird serves clients across the Midlands; including Camden, Elgin, Lugoff, Blythewood, Lexington, as well as the cities of Columbia, Orangeburg, Spartanburg, Charlotte, Greenville, and Rock Hill.

Bluebird holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, has a thriving resident retention program, and 4.5 out of 5 stars on the company’s Facebook page.

Since joining the Columbia Chamber in 2009, Bluebird Property Management has gone above and beyond to make the most of their Partnership. The organization remains actively engaged with the Chamber by attending various events such as Coffee Connections, the SchmoozaPalooza networking expo, and the Chamber’s Small Business Workshops.

Founder and CEO, Tammy Davis, is also a new addition to the Chamber’s Diplomat Link program, a volunteer group working to connect and engage Chamber Partners. Additionally, Bluebird has made use of the Chamber’s Partner Portal, posting Hot Deals and job openings within the company.

As a small business owner, Davis knows the importance of civic involvement, and makes a significant contribution to the region through an annual back-to-school drive for her residents. Davis serves her community on the United Way Flood Recovery Group, the Advisory Board for the Alston Wilkes Society housing re-entry program, and the Education Committee of the Apartment Association of Greater Columbia. Currently, Davis is a Certified Property Manager (CPM) Candidate with the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).

The Columbia Chamber is honored to present Bluebird Property Management as the August 2016 Partner of the Month.

To learn more about Bluebird Property Management, visit their website.

For more information about the Columbia Chamber Partner of the Month, or to nominate a current Chamber Partner, please visit our website.