This afternoon we were visited by a rather distinguished and diverse group of business, academic and political leaders who have been putting their heads together to see how our various interlocking existing community ecodevo initiatives — Innovista, the 3 rivers greenway, hydrogen and fuel cell efforts, and so forth — can position our community to take advantage of the stimulus funds once they start flowing to achieve some of our existing goals.
As Lee Bussell said when he asked for the meeting:
Our purpose was not just to make sure Columbia participated in the creation of jobs through this special program. We identified that for the last 5 years we have been working toward building a sustainable and green community with the creation of an economy based on alternative energy solutions. Sustainability and green jobs have become a central part of our community development strategy.
I am asking on behalf of all of these groups that you consider pulling together a group at the State that we could come meet with next week. We think it’s critical that you understand what we are attempting to accomplish. It could truly enable our regions to find opportunity to not only create jobs, but also to create an everlasting impact on the sustainability of our community and a whole new economic approach.
Lee didn't actually make today's meeting (he's out of the country, I understand) but the following folks did come (starting with left to right in the photo above, from my phone):
- Paul Livingston of Richland County Council
- Neil McLean of EngenuitySC
- John Lumpkin of NAI Avant
- Columbia Mayor Bob Coble
- Tameika Isaac Devine, Cola city council
- USC President Harris Pastides
- John Parks, USC Innovista
- Bill Boyd, Waterfront Steering Committee
- Judith M. Davis of BlueCross BlueShield
- Jim Gambrell, city of Columbia
- Ike McLeese, Cola Chamber of Commerce
- Kyle Michel, Kyle Michel law firm
… and several other folks who I know I must be forgetting as I try to reconstruct who was sitting around the table (or whose names I missed).
Basically these folks represent a lot of different efforts that will be combined and coordinated as the situation warrants to seek funding for things they were going to do anyway, with the goal of long-term economic transformation for the community. As Harris Pastides said, the test of success will be whether, after the construction workers are gone, we still have jobs here that put us on the cutting edge of the nation's move toward a greener economy and greater energy independence.
Toward that end — and with Congress not yet decided toward the final shape of the stimulus — Mayor Bob has set up a War Room in his office at City Hall. Pres. Pastides says he'll be doing the same at USC. The watchwords, says Coble, will be nimbleness, persistence and resources as opportunities are seen to match local projects with stimulus funding streams.
The group was very optimistic that the sorts of things they're working on here in the Midlands are a good match, and at a good point in the pipeline, for matching up with priorities they're seeing in the stimulus, and also with longer-term priorities of the Obama administration.
That's what I recall off the top of my head; I haven't gone back through the recording I made. (Sorry, no video; I took out my camera last night for a family birthday party, and forgot to put it back in my briefcase.) I expect some of the news folks who were there will have something in the paper that will flesh this out a little. I just wanted to go ahead and get my contact report filed…
(And no, in case you're wondering, neither the governor nor any representative of his was there. As Coble said, our governor is seen as an obstacle in this process; whether that obstacle will be surmountable or not remains to be seen, but the folks in the room seemed determined to try…)