USC plans to connect with business

USC plans to connect with business
By C. GRANT JACKSON,
Business Editor
The State
USC will open an office of economic development this fall to give the business
community and industry recruiters one stop for dealing with one of the region's
biggest economic engines.
The office will be under the vice president of research and will draw from
existing university assets for expertise.
Harris Pastides, interim vice president for research, declined to provide many
details about the office, which should be announced in about 30 days.
The university is working with outside marketing people to help develop the
office's mission, name, look, and also to develop some printed materials
"What we really want to do is have better communication and better teamwork
when it comes to making the Midlands and the state of South Carolina more
vibrant economically," Pastides said.
A main focus will be to provide a convenient way for the business community to
access the university, Pastides said.
The idea is to make the university more of a partner with the state Department
of Commerce and regional- and city-based economic development offices. The
university wants to do a better job of helping those agencies recruit new
companies to the region and state by showing what USC can contribute, Pastides
said.
Pastides, Tony Boccanfuso, managing director of the USC Research Foundation,
and other university and regional officials have been working on the plan.
The office will involve existing university support staff, such as those who
manage intellectual properties and handle commercial contracts, as well as
university organizations like the USC Technology Incubator.
Pastides said the office also will link with USC's Small Business Development
Center and the Center for Manufacturing Technology.
He also expects the office to connect with other educational institutions,
especially Midlands Technical College.
The door will not just swing one way, Pastides said. The office will be a place
for business to get answers. But it also will be a place where faculty members
can take ideas that they think might benefit the community.
State and regional economic developers have been involved in discussions on the
new office.
Claire Morris, spokesperson for S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bob Faith, said the
agency is excited about the initiative and pleased to be part of the planning
process.
"We can't emphasize too much what an economic development asset we think USC
and the other research universities in the state are," Morris said. "This
economic development initiative is yet one more sign of the lovefest that
exists between USC and the new Commerce Department."
USC's new office should make it much easier to approach the university, said
Mike Briggs, executive director of the Central Carolina Economic Development
Alliance.
When an industrial prospect comes to the region, Briggs' staff works with the
client to understand its needs and then tries to match them with someone at USC.
"It is going to allow us to be able to pinpoint potential matches with much
greater ease," Briggs said.
The ability to link with a university for research support, equipment usage and
co-operative programs for faculty members is a significant asset in industrial
recruitment, Briggs said.
USC has been viewed in the past as less than the major player in economic
development that it should be.
"Columbia benefits from having a major research university in this town, but
quite frankly our university has not done as much as it should have done to
help the town and its business sector," USC President Andrew Sorensen told the
Columbia Regional Technology Council recently.
"We want to reinforce that we are committed to recruiting new businesses to our
communities and also to assisting those that are already here," Sorensen said.
USC needs to do a better job of asking the business community what it needs and
explaining what it offers, he said.
The new office could go a long way toward informing the business community of
USC's intellectual capital, and creating the private-public partnerships
Sorensen says are vital to the university's growth.
One key, Sorensen said, will be the office's responsiveness. It will respond to
inquiries quickly and post information online, he said.
The new office will provide a clearinghouse, Columbia Mayor Bob Coble said.
"There are a lot of deans, a lot of schools, a lot of folks in the university,"
Coble said. "Having an external person who can be the face of the university on
a nuts-and-bolts level and then go back to the university to get answers is
absolutely critical."
City Councilwoman Anne Sinclair, whose district includes the university, said
there is a lot of talk about the university being a partner with the city,
county and state.
"I see this as a way to cut through all the challenges and to be sure that the
help that the university offers is really efficient and quick. '.'.'. Because,
you can get lost in there," she said.

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