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Columbia Business Monthly

50 Most Influential

Jan 02, 2017 08:38PM ● Published by Makayla Gay

By John McCurry and Kathleen Maris

Columbia Business Monthly presents the year’s 50 Most Influential People in the Midlands. Our list includes movers and shakers in industry, government, and business. We compile our annual list from a variety of sources, including staff research and community nominations.


Ben D. Arnold

PRESIDENT / ARNOLD COMPANIES

The president of Arnold Companies, Arnold leads the leasing and management of offices, warehouses, and retail spaces in South Carolina. Recently, Arnold Companies dedicated West End Alley, a two-block Arnold complex, in Columbia’s Vista, which includes new landscaping and lighting, new restaurants, and a new sculpture that represents Columbia’s community after the 2015 floods.



Tim Arnold

PRESIDENT & CEO / COLONIAL LIFE

As president and CEO of Colonial Life, Arnold leads one of the area’s largest, oldest and most prominent companies. Under his leadership, Colonial Life achieved record results in 2015 and continues to be a national leader in the employee benefits industry. He is also a strong supporter of social responsibility and actively encourages company and employee giving of time, talent, and resources.



Tod Augsburger

PRESIDENT & CEO / LEXINGTON MEDICAL CENTER

President and CEO of Lexington Medical Center, Augsburger is guiding the hospital through a major expansion program, which includes construction of a 545,000-square-foot patient tower, which will initially add 71 beds to the 414-bed hospital.





 Todd Avant

CEO / NAI AVANT

As CEO of NAI Avant, Avant leads one of the Southeast’s largest commercial real estate firms that recently observed its 50th anniversary.







 Charlie Banks

MANAGING DIRECTOR / VENTURESOUTH

As managing director at VentureSouth, Banks helped rebrand the South Carolina Angel Network into VentureSouth to spread and identify as an investment group for the region. He is leading growth into Charlotte and western North Carolina.





 Charles Beaman, Jr.

CEO / PALMETTO HEALTH

CEO of Palmetto Health, Beaman heads the largest integrated health system in the Midlands. In April, he received the Friend of the School of Medicine Award from the USC School of Medicine for his role in forging a strong alliance between the school and Palmetto Health.






 Steve Benjamin

MAYOR / COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA

Columbia mayor since 2010, Benjamin was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention and reportedly was on the list of those considered for Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Elected second vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors last June, he is in line to become that organization’s president in 2018.


 Carl Blackstone

PRESIDENT & CEO / GREATER COLUMBIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

President and CEO of Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Blackstone works to bring public policy and communications experience to small and large businesses to help facilitate their growth. Active in the community, Blackstone serves as a member of the Riverbanks Society, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, and First Presbyterian Church, and is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina.


 Mike Brenan

STATE PRESIDENT / BB&T

State president of BB&T, Brenan is also chairman of the South Carolina Board of Education. He has also served on the boards of numerous state and local organizations.





 Peter Brews

DEAN / DARLA MOORE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

The dean of Darla Moore School of Business, Brews writes and speaks about the impact of robots and the Internet on companies, focusing specifically on how quickly businesses and the global environment are developing, and offers his advice to companies around the world about how to respond to these technological changes. He also serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Asia-Pacific Business.



 Mike Briggs

PRESIDENT & CEO / CENTRAL SC ALLIANCE

President and CEO of Central SC Alliance since 1997, Briggs oversees an agency that has helped bring in more than $4 billion in investments over the past several years to a nine-county region.






 Lee Bussell

CHAIRMAN & CEO / CHERNOFF NEWMAN

Bussell leads one of the largest public relations and advertising firms in the region. He serves as senior counselor to BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Waste Management, and the University of South Carolina, and gives time and resources to the business and nonprofit communities. He also serves on the board of EngenuitySC.


 Deborah Cameron

DIRECTOR OF AEROSPACE INITIATIVES / SC COUNCIL ON COMPETITIVENESS

As director of aerospace initiatives for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, Cameron has been an integral figure in development of the state’s aerospace cluster.





Holt Chetwood

MIDLANDS MARKET PRESIDENT / WELLS FARGO

As Midlands market president at Wells Fargo, Chetwood oversees business banking for Wells Fargo for the Midlands, Pee Dee, and Grand Strand, and conducts charitable donations to various parts of the community. Through him, Wells Fargo donated $3.8 million across South Carolina in 2015, including grants, towards youth literacy, affordable housing, and flood relief efforts.



Jim Clyburn

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE / SOUTH CAROLINA

As South Carolina’s lone Democratic member of Congress, President Barack Obama has described him as “one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens.” He has served in Congress since 1993.





Richard Cohn, Sr.

FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN / COHN CONSTRUCTION

Founder of Cohn Construction, Cohn heads a firm that is a leader in commercial, industrial, and health care construction. He is also a member of the board of directors of the City Center Partnership.



Michael Crapps

PRESIDENT & CEO / FIRST COMMUNITY BANK

President and CEO of First Community Bank in Lexington since its founding in 1995, Crapps is also a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. First Community has expanded its presence into the Upstate in recent years.




Beth Dinndorf

PRESIDENT / COLUMBIA COLLEGE

President of Columbia College since 2012, Dinndorff is an advocate for women’s leadership. An attorney and former business executive, she currently serves as chair of the South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission.





Chuck Garnett

CEO / NBSC

Through Garnett, CEO, NBSC invested $100,000 in the South Carolina Community Loan Fund to help finance community projects across the state in 2015. He is active on numerous boards and is on the American Heart Association leadership team, is the chairman-elect of University Associates at the University of South Carolina, and is on the advisory committee at Benedict College.



Scott Garvin

PRESIDENT / GARVIN DESIGN GROUP

President of Garvin Design Group, Garvin is credited with bringing financially strong developers and national tenants to the market for progressive and adaptive building re-uses.





Dr. Zafer Gurdal

DIRECTOR / USC MCNAIR CENTER FOR AEROSPACE INNOVATION & RESEARCH

Director of USC’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation & Research since 2013, Gurdal is one of the driving forces behind the state’s effort to become a major aerospace cluster.





Nikki Haley

GOVERNOR / SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina’s two-term governor is poised to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. as 2017 begins. Haley, who drew praise for economic development and the way she guided the state through natural disasters and other tragedies, leaves office with the state still in need of a comprehensive infrastructure improvement plan.




Robert Hill, Jr.

CEO / SOUTH STATE CORP.

Under CEO Hill, South State Corporation signed a definitive merger agreement with Southeastern Bank Financial Corporation, adding to its status as one of the fastest-growing banks in the Southeast. Hill sold more than 2,891 shares of the firm’s stock in November.





Bobby Hitt

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE / SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce is widely viewed as a key figure in the state’s economic development successes in recent years. That continued in 2016 with large projects such as the $600 million Teijin plant in Greenwood County.





Aundrai Holloman

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR / TOWNSHIP AUDITORIUM

Township Auditorium’s executive director receives credit for raising the venerable venue’s profile with well-known performers.




Mark Hood

PRESIDENT & CEO / HOOD CONSTRUCTION

President and CEO of Hood Construction, Hood is a long-time community leader and promoter of progressive change in the construction industry. His company is one of the most prolific builders in the state.



John Katz

PRESIDENT / COLUMBIA FIREFLIES

The inaugural season of the Columbia Fireflies, by all accounts, was a major success. The team shattered the minor league attendance record for Columbia. Ballpark Digest named Spirit Communications Park “Ballpark of the Year.”





Robert Keane

PRESIDENT & CEO / SPIRIT COMMUNICATIONS

President and CEO Keane leads Spirit Communications to provide voice, data, and Internet programs to businesses and agencies in S.C., N.C., and Ga. Recently, Spirit Communications partnered with the City of Columbia to offer free wi-fi on Main St. in downtown Columbia. The company also donated $1.4 million’s worth of services to the South Carolina LightRail, an education network service.



 Lou Kennedy

OWNER & CEO / NEPHRON PHARMACEUTICAL

Nephron Pharmaceutical’s owner, and her husband, Bill, are major philanthropists in the community. They helped establish the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center with the USC School of Pharmacy. She serves on a variety of business and civic board, including the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia College Board of Trustees and the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.


Matt Kennell

PRESIDENT & CEO / CITY CENTER PARTNERSHIP

President and CEO of the City Center Partnership since its founding 15 years ago, Kennell led a new branding and image campaign for the Main Street District in 2016. This includes a new website at www.mainstcolasc.com and 80 banners hung on street poles between the State House and Elmwood Avenue, along with new logo and imagery.



Satch Krantz

PRESIDENT & CEO / RIVERBANKS ZOO

President and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo, Krantz has led the major tourist attraction’s recent $40 million expansion. He has led its growth and development for more than four decades. Krantz is currently on the board of directors of the River Alliance and the Children’s Hospital.



Pamela Lackey

PRESIDENT / AT&T SOUTH CAROLINA

As president of AT&T South Carolina, Lackey oversaw the development of “Access from AT&T,” a program that offers a lower Internet cost to those who normally could not afford it. She serves leadership roles in several local and state community and civic organizations, and as a board member for others.



Leighton Lord

CHAIRMAN / SANTEE COOPER

Chairman of Santee Cooper, he is also vice chairman of the utility’s economic development arm, the S.C. Power Team. Lord was elected board chairman of the Nexsen Pruet law firm last July.





Jay Lucas

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE / SOUTH CAROLINA

Speaker of the House, Lucas was a key figure in the roads funding debate in 2016 and figures to be so again this year.  He has also focused on ethics reform and overhauling the Transportation Department. Tax reform and dealing with the state pension system are sure to be on his agenda this year.  




Steve Macdougall

MAYOR / LEXINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

The Lexington mayor continues to seek solutions for the town’s burgeoning traffic congestion. Among the town’s accomplishments in 2016 was the opening of a new amphitheater downtown.






 Dan Mann

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR / COLUMBIA METROPOLITAN AIRPORT

As executive director of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Mann has overseen steady growth for the past several years. An ongoing capital improvement program includes improvements to the concourse, a new mechanical system and improvements in energy efficiency.




Kevin Marsh

CHAIRMAN & CEO / SCANA

As Chairman and CEO, Marsh runs SCANA and its subsidiary SCE&G to provide cleaner and more reliable energy to South Carolina. Currently, SCE&G is building two nuclear units, which will have a 60 percent non-emission generation. SCE&G donated $200,000 to the One SC Fund to help restore homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew’s floods.




Henry McMaster

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR / SOUTH CAROLINA

Former state attorney general who has served as lieutenant governor since 2015 is set to replace Haley as governor when her appointment as U.N. ambassador becomes official. He gained attention when he nominated Donald Trump during the Republican National Convention. McMaster, who will turn 70 in May, will be among the oldest to serve as South Carolina’s governor.  




David Pankau

PRESIDENT & CEO / BLUECROSS BLUESHIELD OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In October 2015, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and its foundation donated $1 million to organizations helping those affected by flooding. As chairman of the American Heart Association, Pankau hosted the 2016 Midlands Heart Walk.




Elise Partin

MAYOR / CAYCE, SOUTH CAROLINA

The Town of Cayce has made significant development strides during the tenure of its first female mayor. An adjunct professor at USC, she’s teaching a course on “Demystifying Elected Office.”





Dr. Harris Pastides

PRESIDENT / UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

The University of South Carolina president is in his 9th year of leading the state’s flagship university. The university has seen tremendous growth during his tenure.






Ted Pitts

PRESIDENT & CEO / SOUTH CAROLINA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

President and CEO of the SC Chamber of Commerce, Pitts was among those pushing for a better infrastructure improvement program. That effort will continue, along with pressure for state tax reform.




Dr. Ronald Rhames

PRESIDENT / MIDLANDS TECHNICAL COLLEGE

The president of Midlands Technical College has overseen major facility expansions, including the college’s Advanced Manufacturing and Skilled Crafts Center. MTC’s continuing education program has drawn accolades.





Torrey Rush

CHAIRMAN / RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL

A member of Richland County Council since 2012, Rush served as its chairman during 2015 and 2016.






Dawn Staley

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH / UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

USC’s women’s basketball coach is one of the best in the country. Will this be the year the Gamecocks win the national championship?




David Swinton

PRESIDENT / BENEDICT COLLEGE

President of Benedict College, Swinton plans to retire in June after 23 years. During his tenure, he has increased enrollment and majors at the historically black school.






Ray Tanner

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR / UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner once again had to make a major hire. This time it was football coach Will Muschamp.




JoAnn Turnquist

CEO / CENTRAL CAROLINA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

As CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation, Turnquist connects people and agencies to causes and people in need in 11 counties in the Midlands. In October, CCCF partnered with the One SC Fund, raising almost $700,000 in donations to help repair damage and provide food and temporary housing during the effects of Hurricane Matthew’s floods.


Robert Wilcox

DEAN / UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW

Dean of the USC Law School since 2011, Wilcox has overseen construction of a new school of law building, set to open in 2017.




Teresa Wilson

CITY MANAGER / COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA

Columbia’s city manager since January 2013 drew praise in her handling of the aftermath of the October 2015 floods.


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