Ready to Launch: South Carolina's Entrepreneurs Help Drive Economic Growth
If you are a tech entrepreneur, South Carolina is the perfect place to start your business. See why.
MOVE OVER, SILICON VALLEY.
South Carolina is quickly gaining recognition as one of the nation’s up-and-coming tech hubs.
Described as a digital corridor and an innovation destination, the state draws entrepreneurs because of its outstanding support network and quality-of-life advantages.
Innovative technology companies, such as Greenville-based Green Cloud Technologies, Healthy Hands Cooking in Irmo and Heatworks in Mount Pleasant, are creating thriving entrepreneurial scenes in every corner of the state.
Much of this growth is driven by a swarm of young, creative talent seeking a better quality of life.
“People value quality of life and what they have access to outside of work, and the tech sector allows you to choose where you live,” says Keith Coker, Green Cloud founder and CEO. “We are attracting tech talent who want to vacate the high-cost-of-living areas.”
Home Sweet Home: Newcomers Embrace South Carolina
Big Business, Affordable Labor
Technology-driven innovation is not restricted to the IT sector. Heatworks is a technology company in Charleston County that has pioneered a tankless electric water heater for a variety of residential and commercial applications. Heatworks is nearing the production phase of its flagship product, the MODEL 3 Water Heater.
Rather than using metal coils or traditional heating elements, the MODEL 3 uses Heatworks’ patented Ohmic Array Technology to heat water in the simplest, purest and most efficient way.
When Jan Pinnington, who is originally from Canada, was deciding on a place to start a new business, South Carolina was her obvious choice. Pinnington says she fell in love with the Palmetto State when traveling here for business.
“There are more than 218 days of sunshine,” Pinnington says. “It is so close to so many major cities. South Carolina has a small-town feel, but there is big business here.”
Hard at Work: South Carolina Attracts Talent
In 2012, Pinnington launched Healthy Hands Cooking, an information technology company that certifies instructors to teach children and teens healthy cooking tips through classes, camps and events.
“I wanted a business that allowed me to work from home,” she says. “There is little snow, and it’s convenient to do business because you are not shutting down because of snowstorms or ice storms.”
Pinnington says, among the other perks of being a business owner in South Carolina, the state has a lot of opportunities for government contracting. Additionally, she says the University of South Carolina Columbia Technology Incubator offers training and resources to technology startups, and USC students are an excellent source of labor.
“Student workers are very affordable, or sometimes, they will help you for free because they want the experience,” Pinnington says.
In 2011, successful IT, telecommunications and communications entrepreneurs started Green Cloud Technologies, which serves as a cloud technology solutions provider. Today, Green Cloud is one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Its footprint expands far beyond the borders of South Carolina, with regional offices in Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas.
Green Cloud’s founders chose South Carolina based on their experience starting other successful telecommunications companies in the state. Other factors that aided their decision were the state’s strong business support, large pool of technology workers and availability of capital funding.
“South Carolina has a good investor community,” Coker says. “As a startup, we needed to secure local, knowledgeable investors.”
Green Cloud raised $25 million from South Carolina investors.
The state’s well-known SC Launch Program provides resources such as access to grants, loans and investments to support entrepreneurial growth. Since its inception, SC Launch has awarded $43 million in grants and investments to client companies.
Clemson University’s Dominion Energy Innovation Center is a powerful resource for companies developing energy technologies. The center houses the world’s most advanced wind turbine drivetrain testing facility.
In addition to helping companies bring new technologies to the market, the center makes its test rigs and energy grid system available for businesses looking to test relevant devices. Businesses conduct electrical testing scenarios on the center’s 15-megawatt grid simulator, which allows them to re-create real-world situations in a test environment.
“The marketplace requires technologies that are cost effective and reliable,” says Angie Leidinger, vice president for external affairs at Clemson University. “Clemson works hand in hand with industry to develop technologies that meet these criteria.”