What does Innovista success look like?

How will we know when Innovista is succeeding? Well, to begin with, we won’t be at the point where we can call it a complete success for many years, at best. But along the way, there will be signs.

Some of them will be big, such as the new baseball park and the Moore School moving to the geographic area that is central to the Innovista movement. Or the eventual construction of the waterfront park that makes the area more inviting. Most important will be the development of high-tech start-ups that you won’t even be aware of at first, but that will grow and feed off each other as the dynamic starts working.

But there will also be other less obvious signs. Here’s one small, but definite, sign that jumped out at me in recent days…

Have you heard the radio ads for Thirsty Fellow Pizzeria and Pub? The part that jumps out at me is when this eatery/watering hole announces that it can be found in USC’s Innovista. I’m never in a position to take notes when I hear it, but here’s what the Thirsty Fellow says on its website:

Owners Willie Durkin, Chuck Belcher, Dean Weinberger and Terry Davis want you to join the Thirsty Fellow family. Located in the USC Innovista area, we have a comfortable atmosphere, a great menu, a full bar and plenty of televisions. Open for lunch, dinner, late night and Sunday brunch, put Thirsty Fellow on your “to do” list.

“Located in the USC Innovista area.” Whether you take that as a boast — a desire to be associated with the idea of the Innovista — or merely as an acceptable way of giving directions (thereby suggesting that everyone knows where the Innovista is), this is a small-but-telling sign of the concept moving forward, taking hold in the marketplace.

Let me say that again: In the marketplace. You know, that place where Gov. Sanford and the Policy Council don’t want USC to go messin’, the place where they believe, with all the fervor of their secular anti-gummint religion, it is doomed to fail.

And yet, the place where, in this tiny way, it is taking hold…

11 thoughts on “What does Innovista success look like?

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    It doesn’t hurt to also be located near the Colonial Center parking lots and the Greek village, but Innovista sounds better….

  2. Brad

    And this business CHOSE that identification over those other possibilities, in a sense linking its own fate to the concept.

    I mentioned this to Don Herriott today, and he hadn’t heard the ad. He oughta give Thirsty Fellow a medal…

  3. Doug Ross

    How about measuring the success of Innovista using all the criteria laid out by USC and the Legislature when they took the money? It wasn’t about pubs or the baseball field (which is about as far out in left field as you can get to try and claim it has ANYTHING to do with Innovista).

    Innovista was about jobs and the hydrogen economy. That’s what was sold. Now that that has turned into a failure both in execution we’re seeing the rewriting of history to try and salvage the silk purse out of the sow’s ear.

    Empty buildings are empty buildings.

  4. Brad

    And what I just wrote in these two posts is the way I thought of Innovista all along.

    And yes, the ballfield was always a part of the live-work-play concept of transforming that part of town. I was in the briefings. I saw the drawings. I heard the pitch. And all of this is what I bought into.

    Innovista spans a wide variety of human activity, from the groundbreaking research of such key endowed chair holders as Brian Benicewicz and Ken Reifsnider, to walkable streets, to new coffee shops. One measure I’ve always had in my mind to watch for has been when the NEXT Starbucks appears in the Vista (in addition to the Gervais St. one). Because when there are enough creative-class types living and working in the area, that one store won’t be able to meet the demand. But then, I’m a very Starbucks-focused kind of guy.

  5. Doug Ross

    Now go look at USC’s Innovista website where it talks about the two tenants: Collexis and the Loccioni Group. Based on what I can see, Collexis isn’t in the Innovista building (1418 Laurel St, Suite 100 Columbia, SC 29201) and Loccioni doesn’t appear to have any address in Columbia even though the press release was released in 2007.

    This is my issue with Innovista, Brad. A whole bunch of tax dollars were spent on empty buildings and that aspect of it has been an utter failure (as the current head has admitted no matter how YOU want to interpret his words).

    USC is still playing PR games to try and spin this disaster in the best possible light. Where are the tenants? Where are the jobs?

  6. Brad

    Doug, one of the many things Herriott needs to get his hands around is making sure that website is up to date. But I doubt it’s at the top of his list. He has a lot of ducks to get in a row. Some of it has to do with what does on in those buildings, a lot of it does not. And as I indicated, I’m particularly encouraged that he’s not letting those building problems get in the way of business development, as evidence by those companies moving into Wilbur Smith.

    Back when I was doing consulting work for USC last summer, I spent part of my time trying to get into the loop on Innovista — meeting the researchers, touring facilities, trying to get a grip on all the elements — but it was more than I could get to during the time I was on contract. I had some meetings with John Parks — Herriott’s predecessor — that sort of left my head spinning from lists of prospects, lists of patents, lists of licenses, flow charts of various sorts.

    It was complicated. But I think if you met Herriott and talked with him, you’d have some confidence that he is capable of getting a handle on it and explaining to us just how Innovista is doing, in the kind of detail that would appeal to you.

    One thing I suspect will be a challenge for him, having been in the business world, is the complexities of the politics of all this. But I still think he’s up to it. He’s played a leadership role in dealing with public issues from his days at Roche, and I think he’ll master it.

  7. Brad

    … an indicator of the complexity involved: I remember seeing a map in Parks’ office that diagrammed every property owner in the area associated with Innovista — every one of whom will have a say in how that area develops.

    But this is doable, if enough folks believe in it enough to give it a chance. The Vista eventually caught on, and this can, too.

  8. Doug Ross

    One other comment on the USC baseball stadium — why doesn’t USC be a good community neighbor and allow a team like the Columbia Blowfish to play there in the summer instead of the decrepit ballfield they have had to use? Could it be because USC puts its own interests over those of the community? Why should the ballpark sit idle during what is considered the peak of the baseball season? More games = more traffic = more business in the area.

    We saw the same attitude back when the Carolina Panthers were looking for a place to play for one season while their stadium was being built in Charlotte. Columbia was the right place for them to play but USC turned them down purely for selfish reasons.

    USC does what it best for USC.

  9. Ralph Hightower

    Okay, I gotta go try their pizza! Wonder if they’re open for lunch. Calamari as a pizza topping… Interesting!

    Thanks for sharing!


  10. Kathryn Fenner

    Doug– There may be an issue with how it was financed. Only students and faculty, and faculty pay a lot, can use Strom Thurmond Wellness Center, because it was paid for with student activity fees, or something like that. Spouses and alumni/ae cannot.

  11. rootveggie

    How does that $890,000 payment to a convicted felon fit in with your definition of success?

    By the way, that was a pathetic job of reporting done in today’s _The State_. The article did not even mention the name of the foundation that is making the payment, and the reporter (or his editor) couldn’t be bothered to ask why the money from this foundation can go to pay Kale Roscoe but can’t go to pay for upgrades to any number of trashy buildings on the USC campus.

    What does this “opportunity to move forward” say about USC’s values as an institution, especially when it’s firing instructors, cramming students into ever-larger classes, and discontinuing permanent faculty lines? I would love to know what you think, Brad.

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