2015 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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Economic development: Startup.SC gets planning funds from Boeing

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Boeing has adopted Georgetown County’s high-tech business incubator host, Startup.SC, in the $10 million America’s Best Communities competition.

Startup.SC, representing Georgetown city and county, was one of 50 entrants selected as first-round winners from across the nation in the competition that aims to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities. Boeing will advise Startup.SC and help develop a comprehensive strategy to grow a high-tech business community from the county’s incubator facility at Litchfield Exchange. Eleven entrepreneurs have begun their businesses with the county providing office space and Startup.SC providing mentoring, access to capital and technical support.

Startup.SC will receive $35,000 to develop and implement a community revitalization plan, and Boeing has agreed to contribute an additional $15,000. The 50 quarterfinalists have six months to shape and refine plans for the chance to advance and enact them. Sponsors of the contest are Frontier Communications, DISH Network, The Weather Channel and CoBank. Boeing is one of 50 companies adopting a contestant.

Brian Tucker, county economic development director, said the America’s Best Communities application sat on his desk until Mike Schroll and Ryan Smith of Startup.SC got involved. “This was a longer term process,” Tucker said, “three years to get to the end. We didn’t have a project that fit that timeline. For Startup.SC, with its big-picture, community impact, it was great. They thought they could do something with it. I handed it off to them, and they basically ran with it.”

Tucker said the planning initiative will include ideas for growing technology and entrepreneurial activity that will change the local culture. “It’s taking what they are doing in the incubator and spreading it throughout the entire county,” Tucker said.

Smith, executive director of Startup.SC, said the opportunity to work with Boeing is exciting. “The team at Boeing said, ‘We are a competitive organization, and we are in this to win.’ Boeing is ready to share their resources, and dedicated to making Startup.SC successful in our efforts to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem and technology cluster on the Grand Strand. They will be here at the end of June to start the planning process,” she said.

Fifteen semifinalists will be selected early next year to present their strategies. Eight will be awarded $100,000 to continue. The competitor with the most innovative proposal will receive $3 million in April 2017. Second place pays $2 million, and third pays $1 million.

Tucker said the local process is ready for the community’s involvement. He will meet with the city’s economic development director, Tee Miller, and representatives of the library, non-profits and industries. “We want to bring everybody around the table,” Tucker said, “so we can build a community-wide plan for what the thing is going to look like. We are just getting started. Fortunately, we have a phenomenal, highly competitive partner that wants to win.”

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