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Columbia Business Monthly

EngenuitySC announces 2017-18 initiatives to boost competitiveness and prosperity in the Midlands

Oct 20, 2017 08:19AM ● By Emily Stevenson

EngenuitySC, the Columbia-based economic development nonprofit focused on enhancing the Midlands’ competitiveness and prosperity, announced its programming for the upcoming year. Projects include What’s Next Midlands, the Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, Richland One STEAM and Richland Two CAT initiatives, regional leadership consortiums and more. Details can be found below with further information at                                                                                                              

A public-private partnership that manages some of the most impactful initiatives in the Midlands region, EngenuitySC is guided by a board of highly engaged community and business leaders. The board is steered by founding co-chairs Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, S.C. and Dr. Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, under the leadership of current board chair Paul Livingston of Richland County Council.

“To say we have a lot going on this year is an understatement, but that’s exactly how we like it,” says Meghan Hickman, EngenuitySC executive director. “We love being the behind-the-scenes engine of many important groups and initiatives in our community, and there is more good work to come. The payoff for us comes when we see positive change that makes our region an even better place to live, work, play and visit.”

One of the new programs EngenuitySC is introducing is “Competitiveness Week” in early 2018, during which several events will be planned that specifically revolve around regional competitiveness.

Among those events will be the launch of the 2017 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, the annual scorecard that shows how the Columbia, S.C. region stacks up against peer city regions in the Southeast across five areas of regional competitiveness (talent, entrepreneurship, innovation, industry clusters and livability). This will be the 4th annual report released by EngenuitySC. 

“We’ve found that the community has grown to anticipate and appreciate the Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report as an annual benchmarking tool,” says Councilman Paul Livingston, EngenuitySC board chair. “We want to celebrate the progress we’ve made since the first report was published in 2014 but also point out areas where there is a lot of work yet to be done. The launch event is a sort of ‘pep rally’ to energize us for the work ahead.”

In addition to the Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report and Competitiveness Week, other EngenuitySC programming on tap for the year includes the following:

  • What’s Next Midlands: The What’s Next Midlands social innovation initiative, powered by EngenuitySC, is now on its fifth idea implementation: a network of bicycle repair stations in partnership with the Cola Town Bike Collective. One recent idea selected for implementation, the sculptural light installation Southern Lights, will debut in its final form over the Congaree River in 2018. Other What’s Next Midlands projects implemented thus far include new bistro tables and chairs for Columbia’s Main Street, new recycling bins for Main Street, and the highly successful Pop-Up Summer Drive-In Movie Series at the Historic Speedway in Cayce, S.C.
  • Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG): EngenuitySC is supporting a key effort led by MBLG, an organization of regional business leaders. Together they have created working groups around each of the five indicators of competitive communities outlined in EngenuitySC’s annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report. In the next 12 months, EngenuitySC will support MBLG and other community leaders as they take action around these critical areas and work to improve quality of life for all. 
  • Richland County School District One STEAM programs: EngenuitySC’s partnership with Richland One has grown this year to include four high schools (Lower Richland High School, C.A. Johnson High School, Columbia High School and Eau Claire High School), two middle schools (Southeast Middle and Hopkins Middle) and one elementary school (Gadsden Elementary). In Spring 2018, each of the four high schools will host its own “Dressed to Impress” student business etiquette showcase, an extension of the annual event established at Lower Richland High School in 2014. EngenuitySC project manages this endeavor as well as a robust platform of work focused on STEAM exposure and tools for success across these schools, including artist-in-residence programs, LifeCycle Sustainability projects, ForenSTEMics nights and more.
  • Richland County School District Two CAT program: Now in its third year, the Carolina Alliance for Technology (CAT) program looks to EngenuitySC to provide mentorship programs, field trips, job shadows and internships for the roughly 240 CAT students at Ridge View and Westwood High Schools in Richland Two.
  • Midlands Mayors Group: This consortium of 26 area mayors and leaders, managed by EngenuitySC, convenes bi-monthly to discuss region-wide issues – from infrastructure to infectious diseases – that are not bound by municipal lines.

transitions to series of events and initiatives across calendar year

After 13 exciting years, Ignite!, EngenuitySC’s annual celebration, will sunset as the organization tightens its focus on community impact. In lieu of producing one evening-length gala, the organization will engineer multiple opportunities to connect the dots and bring Midlands makers, doers and leaders together year-round in more intimate networking environments such as the What’s Next Midlands voting event series, which carries forward the spirit of the Ignite! Ideas Contest with a sustainable model that turns crowd-sourced ideas into reality.

“Just as EngenuitySC blazed a trail 13 years ago with our first Ignite!, we will do so again by offering new, innovative solutions to continue inspiring the region,” says Hickman. “While Ignite! has always been one of our favorite events, we’ve made an intentional shift in our approach to prosperity in the Midlands. Now, rather than having one night a year to interact with EngenuitySC, there will be multiple inspirational, exciting, and innovative opportunities throughout the year.”

For more information on EngenuitySC and its current slate of projects and initiatives, follow @EngenuitySC on Twitter and Facebook, and visit

About EngenuitySC

Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., EngenuitySC is a nonprofit focused on long-term competitiveness and prosperity in the Midlands. EngenuitySC specializes in managing collaborations between business, government, education and community leaders. For more information, visit