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Talent Pipeline Supports College Interns for Local Tech Companies

The Talent Pipeline program was conceived as part of a second year South Carolina Innovation Challenge Grant which was awarded to the Knowledge Park collaborating partners, including the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation, the City of Rock Hill, Winthrop University, York Technical College and Rock Hill Schools.  The program was designed to utilize grant funds to pay one half the cost of a college student intern employed by local technology companies, and in particular client companies of the Technology Incubator.

The way the program is currently operating, local technology companies request internship assistance and provide job descriptions.  Local college students, primarily from Winthrop University and York Technical College, are encouraged to submit resumes to match with the internship job descriptions.  When an intern and a company are matched up, the intern is paid $10 per hour for up to 20 hours of work per week.  The Talent Pipeline, managed by Frank Keel of the Rock Hill Economic and Urban Development Department, then reimburses the company $5 for each hour an intern works.  If a company has found a good fit with a particular college intern, they are free to hire that person outright and the end of the internship period.  The original grant funds for the program were exhausted as of June 30,2016, but the program is continuing through a grant from Wells Fargo. 

TI Center client companies, which are usually strapped for cash, were the first to take full advantage of the Talent Pipeline program.  To date, five client companies of the Technology Incubator have taken advantage of this innovative program and have hired twelve college interns.  So far, three of those internships have turned into full time jobs. 

 

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“The Talent Pipeline internship program turned out to be a vital component of my education while a digital design and marketing student at York Technical College.  The internship program allowed me to gain practical skills while being able to help solve real-world problems in an actual collaborative business environment.  In my case, the internship led directly to being hired by the company, Insignia Group LC. I would highly recommend participation in the Talent Pipeline program to any college student driven to gain real world experience as preparation for full-time professional work.” 

 

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Tanja Krouse, Marketing Design Specialist, Insignia Group LC

 

One significant spin-off benefit of the Talent Pipeline program for the Technology Incubator is that it provides another unique feature we can offer to those promising startup firms we are recruiting to be client companies.  This benefit, along with several other unique services, such as Comporium Communication’s Zipstream gigabit internet service and our licensed GrowthWheel® decision-making tool kit, make a compelling case for entrepreneurs to locate in Knowledge Park.  These types of advantages to entrepreneurs are making our Technology Incubator program one of the most robust business accelerators in the State of South Carolina.

David Warner

September 2016

So What’s the Big Deal About Growth Wheel®?

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Starting and growing a business is a highly risky venture.  In an uncertain environment where money is always tight, business owners must make decisions quickly … payrolls must be met, rent and utilities must be paid, sales must happen, inventory and equipment must be purchased, and employees must be hired and managed.  Making the wrong decision at the wrong time, or in an incorrect sequence, or not making a necessary decision at all, could put a fledgling company in serious jeopardy.

In seeking out the best resources for our Technology Incubator client companies, I came across Growth Wheel® at a national incubator conference.  I learned that Growth Wheel® is a toolbox for decision making in startup and growth companies.  It helps entrepreneurs and business advisors to get focused, set agendas and take action.  While at the conference, I took the time to gather opinions from other incubator directors. The response was unanimous, everyone highly recommended Growth Wheel®. I became convinced that this resource needs to be brought to Rock Hill, and Knowledge Park, in particular.

The Growth Wheel® toolbox contains guidance frameworks, inspirational articles, decision-making worksheets, all based on the power of “group think” with hundreds of contributing business advisors and entrepreneurs.  Along with coaching assistance from a Certified Business Advisor, companies are guided through the process of arriving at the right decisions for their specific circumstances.

To able to access the Growth Wheel® toolbox, a business assistance organization, such as the TI Center, must obtain a license from Growth Wheel®; and 2) have a Growth Wheel® Certified Business Advisor on staff to coach business owners through the guidance materials.  We now have met all of the licensing requirements as are currently offering Growth Wheel® materials and coaching to our client technology startup companies.

Although having Growth Wheel® available to our clients companies provides us with a competitive edge over other communities and incubators in recruiting new entrepreneurs, we feel it is too valuable a resource not to offer it to all business owners in the area.  Thus, the big news is that The Technology Incubator will be conducting Growth Wheel® based workshops for local business owners for a nominal registration fee.  Visit our web site www.tirockhill.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter regularly to learn of workshop dates.

The Buzz in Knowledge Park … Rock Hill’s Fledgling Start-Up Scene

Welcome to our inaugural blog from the Technology Incubator @ Knowledge Park.  Our purpose is to carry on a conversation with the community about entrepreneurship, technology and the building of a local knowledge economy in Old Town Rock Hill. To begin, it’s important to understand that Knowledge Park is a both a place and a state of mind. Geographically ranging from the Winthrop University campus to the Corporium Headquarters at Fountain Park, Knowledge Park is an unprecedented redevelopment initiative for our community, with plans for many new buildings and amenities, such as a streetcar.  Even more important, however, Knowledge Park is an economic development strategy focused on technology, talent development and new knowledge worker jobs.  One spearhead project to get the ball rolling was the opening of a technology-focused business incubator.  Now that we have been open for two years, it’s time to step back and see what we have created.

Last April I had the opportunity to attend the National Business Incubation Association’s International Conference in Denver. Brad Feld of Boulder, Colorado was our keynote speaker.  He is a successful serial entrepreneur -turned-capitalist who is generally acknowledged as the driving force behind Boulder’s thriving tech start-up scene.

The focus of Brad’s talk was on what it takes to create a startup community.  From his experience as both an entrepreneur and investor, he has compiled the ”lessons learned” into a book titled Startup Communities.  The book sums up the principles driving the development of an active startup scene, which the author terms the “Boulder Thesis”:

  1. Entrepreneurs must lead
  2. Leaders must have a long term commitment
  3. Community is inclusive of anyone who wants to participate
  4. Community has continual activities to engage entrepreneurs

I was very glad to see that, according to Brad, we are doing things right.

  • We have successful and soon-to-be successful entrepreneurs moving into leadership roles in Knowledge Park. Brad suggests that there must be both “leaders” (the entrepreneurs themselves) and “feeders” (all who assist entrepreneurs, including the Technology Incubator).
  • There is every indication that our entrepreneur leaders, and our feeder network, are both in it for the long haul. Building a startup community doesn’t happen overnight, but takes decades.  Over time, successful entrepreneurs are known to come back to fund the next generation of startups to sustain the community.
  • It is our policy at the Technology Incubator to assist everyone who requests our help. And beyond our walls, there is clearly a spirit of cooperation and collaboration amongst those who are asked to provide guidance to our entrepreneurs.
  • TI Center regularly schedules and hosts engagement activities for entrepreneurs and “wannabees”. These include Lunch & Learn programs, evening educational seminars, and socially-focused meet-up events.  All are open to the public at large.

All of this is well and good. However, it does not answer the question, “Does Rock Hill actually have a startup scene??”

The seeds of Old Town Rock Hill’s entrepreneur community were sown before the concept of Knowledge Park was solidified.  Companies such as RevenFlo, Social Design House, the Insignia Group and Span Enterprises were already successfully doing business prior to the opening of the TI Center (the Technology Incubator @ Knowledge Park).  This month, August 2015, the TI Center has been open for two years.  In that very short time, we have attracted a large number (to us at least) of would-be entrepreneurs with great ideas, from places as far away as Philadelphia and New Mexico.  Three companies have graduated, and one of those, Stark and Associates, with their MemberThrive product line, has located on to Main Street.   Also, one of our current clients, ACA Compliance Services, a fast-growing software-as-a-service firm, has located to Main Street.

We currently have nine client companies licensed into the TI Center, with an invitation out to number ten.  There is a waiting list of another six or so that would like to become clients.  In the last twelve months, we have met with 36 individuals interested in starting a business around an innovative idea. I have been surprised and delighted by the many incredibly talented people who have walked through our doors.  I have heard from our many stakeholders that the TI Center is contributing directly to the growing entrepreneurial vibe and the rising level of creative energy in our community.

During the past two years, other technology businesses have also opened nearby, for example Second Brick Ventures and New World Media.  And beyond the technology based companies, several consumer businesses have opened in our vicinity, including Amelie’s, Flip Side Restaurant, the Bottle Shop, and Provisions.  And Vinyet Architecture just relocated to a new permanent space on Caldwell Street.

So does Rock Hill actually have a “start-up scene”?  The answer is undeniably “yes” and it’s centered in Knowledge Park.

In conclusion, after I heard Brad Feld speak, I decided to pick up a copy of Startup Communities and ask Brad to sign it for me.  He wrote … “Keep Smilin’ South Carolina” (I think he must have seen our State’s tourism tag line from a few years ago).  Well, we certainly are smiling at the results we have seen so far, and we look forward to seeing how the exciting future of our startup community unfolds.

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