Clemson’s Renaissance Center in Greenville - World’s Best Conversation on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Leadership

By Bruce Yandle
Dean Emeritus, College of Business & Behavioral Science,
Clemson University

(Additional information can also be found in the Clemson Renaissance Center newsletter.)

Clemson University’s Renaissance Center on Greenville’s Main Street is scheduled to open in 2007. The Center will be the location of the world’s best conversation on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. As a portal to Clemson’s College of Business & Behavioral Science, the Center will unleash the power of entrepreneurship to create wealth and build a stronger knowledge-based Upstate economy.

The purposes of the project are 1) to cultivate and enhance entrepreneurship in the Greenville region and across the Southeast by assisting the launch of high-impact, wealth creating firms, 2) to engage Clemson graduate students and faculty in a full-immersion learning process that solves real problems while building creativity and leadership skills, and ultimately 3) to become a center of graduate education and intellectual discussions that will celebrate, inspire and strengthen entrepreneurship in all walks of life.

Renaissance Center activities will help close the gap that separates the Greenville region from the ranks of leading knowledge economy metropolitan areas located in the South. For example, relative to 115 Southern metropolitan regions, the Greenville region ranks 60th with the year 2000 share of adults with college degrees, 73rd in the 1997 share of employment in technical and scientific services organizations, and ranks just below the national average in the 1991-96 share of firms counted in the high growth entrepreneurial category. At the same time, the Greenville region ranks 14th in 1995-99 patents per capita, and 21st in 1998-2000 per capita R&D expenditures of area universities and colleges. In short, the Greenville region sits on an entrepreneurial launching pad ready to soar into the knowledge economy, but has not been completely fueled.

With the arts flourishing, a vibrant downtown developing, and highly energetic business and community leaders working together to improve infrastructure and schools, there is one thing still lacking if Greenville is to join the ranks of Southern Cities where high growth, high tech firms are concentrated. To be launched as a leader in the knowledge economy, dynamic downtown Greenville must have the intellectual energy that emerges when a major university comes to town.

Supported by private partners, the Center will be the location of headquarters and programs of the Small Business Development Center, activities of Clemson’s Center for International Trade, directors and faculty of the Spiro Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and the Entrepreneurs Forum, which will sponsor mentored discussions for small groups of successful entrepreneurs across the region and state.

The Center will also be a crossroads for scores of Clemson graduate students who will earn their entrepreneurship spurs by being engaged in faculty-directed Greenville area consulting projects. Starting with programs to assist budding small businesses and extending to the launch of high-impact, wealth-creating startups, the Renaissance Center will energize and strengthen the complete entrepreneurship life cycle.

Another Renaissance project will celebrate Greenville area and other Southern entrepreneurs whose life stories need to be documented and studied by university students nationwide. One last project—The Renaissance Lecture and Event Series--will bring Renaissance activities to Greenville conferences, forums, training programs and seminars.

Goals for First Five Years:

  1. Assist the launch of five high-impact, wealth-creating entrepreneur-driven enterprises in the Greenville area.
  2. Provide guidance and instruction to 500 small business entrepreneurs.
  3. Engage 100 MBA/MS students in firm and organization-specific research projects.
  4. Produce and publish entrepreneurial histories of 25 Greenville entrepreneurs.
  5. Provide one program in Greenville each month that features the activities of units that form the Center.

To launch and operate the Renaissance Center for the first five years requires $2 million in operating funds and space for the Center. Clemson is supplying one million dollars for five years in the form of faculty and staff. The remaining one million is being raised from local firms and individuals who want to make Renaissance happen. Those who commit $200,000 over a five-year period will be named Founders. Those who commit less than $200,000 but as much as $100,000 over five years will be Renaissance Center Partners. Other sponsors will support teams of graduate students who become employed on sponsor-specific research projects. Still others will help support lectures and seminars that will be a part of the Renaissance Center Lecture Series.

More information can be obtained by contacting Bruce Yandle or Spiro Center Director Caron St. John.

Additional information can also be found in the Clemson Renaissance Center newsletter.

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