Congratulations, Innovista, on landing Ann Marie!

A little earlier, I sent an e-mail to Ann Marie Stieritz congratulating her on her new job:

Ann Marie Stieritz has been named director of business solutions for Innovista at the University of South Carolina.

Stieritz has worked in the S.C. Technical College System for the past four years, most recently as vice president for economic development and workforce competitiveness.

Her responsibilities will include recruiting high-tech businesses to the Midlands and serving as the liaison between USC’s researchers and the business community.

Don Herriott, director of Innovista partnerships, said, “I have worked with Ann Marie on various boards and projects. She has demonstrated exceptional capability and leadership in her role at the South Carolina Technical College System, especially in her economic development and workforce development programs. I am confident that she will provide the industry connectivity that Innovista needs.”

Stieritz has a background in education, workforce and economic development. At the S.C. Technical College System, she has overseen the system’s two nationally recognized economic and workforce development programs, as well as other statewide initiatives that have enhanced the state’s competitiveness through education and training, USC said.

She is former statewide coordinator for 12 Regional Education Centers, which coordinate education, workforce and economic development with business and industry initiatives to develop education and workforce readiness strategies…

But then I realized that I had it all wrong! Congratulating Ann Marie was as wrong-headed, as déclassé, as congratulating the bride on her engagement.

Actually the congratulations are due to Innovista. So, Innovista, I give you joy of your new hire.

Don Herriott was a good call. He did what he should, immediately shifting the conversation about a couple of buildings to the much, much broader concept about what the juxtaposition of an urban research university and all this undeveloped land overlooking a river can add up to.

So is this. Ann Marie’s intelligence and drive will be just what Innovista needs for this movement to take off. I look forward to watching her make that happen.

39 thoughts on “Congratulations, Innovista, on landing Ann Marie!

  1. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Best wishes to Ann Marie, then!

    Innovista couldn’t make a better choice!

  2. Doug Ross

    Just like the Wizard of Oz… “pay no attention to those big empty buildings over there”

    How many jobs has Innovista created? I mean aside from the sandwich shops you’ve touted as examples of Innovista’s awesomeness and the public employees who are just moving from one building to another?

    The Innovista web page was last updated with news (the Herriott hiring) 14 months ago! What has he done in that time to generate 21st century jobs????

    The “tenants” page still touts Collexis, a software company that was acquired and disappeared more than eight months ago and doesn’t appear to have any presence in Innovista any more.

    Then there is the Loccioni Group. The second big “get” on the Innovista website. Maybe they have an office with a fax machine in it somewhere in Columbia but you wouldn’t know it from their website ( Their website doesn’t mention Innovista and the only mention of Columbia is a note about a guy who opened the “officio” in Columbia in 2008. Nothing since.

    The fact that USC’s Innovista website has this information still listed in a prominent place on it two years later is indictment enough to show what an utter disaster it has been. Do you think this is an error of ignorance or of being afraid to let the public know the truth?

    $140 million would have fed every hungry kid in this state for decades.

    Let’s see some JOBS. $140 million worth.

  3. Mike

    Great news for the unmitigated success that is the Innovista project that has transformed Columbia’s economy and not wasted a single tax dollar.

  4. Brad

    Those buildings, built when they were (on the verge of the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression) were a mistake. They have always been a distraction from what Innovista is. Even if the economy had been better, and the buildings had immediately filled with start-ups and other tenants, that would NOT have constituted success for the concept, the movement, that is Innovista.

    Innovista is a juxtaposition of opportunities. We have an urban research university, and a vast swath of downtown real estate, running down to an untouched riverfront. Few cities in this country have an opportunity like that.

    And yes, I do find the Thirsty Fellow — which serves more than sandwiches, by the way — to be significant. More significant than any tenant in those buildings could be. Because it signifies a business deciding on its own to invest in the concept of the Innovista (which is how the restaurant promotes itself). And THAT is what needs to happen for the Innovista to realize its potential, and its much more important than what happens in those buildings.

    I fully expect the naysayers to dominate in the comments on my blog. That’s very South Carolina. We’re all about the thousand and one reasons why we CAN’T do anything worthwhile. For Innovista to succeed (and that’s going to take a couple of decades, just as the original Vista did, so the naysayers will enjoy themselves doing what they do for a good, long time), lots of people have to stand up in the face of that negativity and step out and take a chance on the concept, on the vast potential.

    Lots of people. As I’ve explained here before, Innovista is to me what was first explained in editorial board meetings years ago now, when I looked at the map anchored by the present USC campus on the East and the unspoilt riverfront on the West, with the then-projected (and now open and well-received) home of the now-champion Gamecock baseball team and Olympia on the South and by the present Vista on the North.

    I also recall another map I saw in former Innovista director John Parks’ office a number of times. It was a vast and complex thing, with every bit of property color-coded and keyed to a list of property owners — something that underlined just one subset of the many players that would have to be involved in this broad enterprise, just some of the people who would have to be involved in the birth of this thing.

    You won’t see a lot of those birth pangs happening before the economy comes back fully, which is going to take years. But in the meantime, its very promising that Innovista is assembling this team — a team that can do great good for our state… if more of us encourage them and give them a chance to do so.

    And I will continue to do so, no matter how much scorn the cynics heap here.

    (To paraphrase Professor Elemental, Guess I bloody told them… Fetch me my fighting trousers!)

  5. Steven Davis

    I’ll post this a 2nd time since Brad obviously deleted the first one by mistake.

    If she creates one job, or brings in one tenant to this overwhelming failure of a project her efforts will be considered a success.

  6. Brad

    I’m going to see Ann Marie later this week. I’ll give her the good news that Steven has set the bar for success so low…

  7. bud

    The Vista took off once the RR tracks were removed. Seems like the same would happen in the Fairgrounds area if we moved them there. That would be a much better expenditure of money than the Innovista boondogle. Really Brad, touting one eatery as evidence of success? Talk about your low bar.

  8. Doug Ross

    Can you also admit that the “hydrogen economy” that was the cornerstone of Innovista’s marketing plan is deader than Stephen Garcia’s NFL career hopes?

    Do you ever judge something on what it actually is versus what it might be in a perfect world?

    Innovista is a failure so far… and there is nothing aside from erroneous marketing b.s. on the Innovista page to suggest otherwise.

    I would have rather seen $140 million divided between 140 USC professors (like Katherine’s husband) as seed money to develop an idea into a business/product than the pie-in-the-sky, let’s speend other people’s money on a grand design strategy.

    That would be my plan – give $1 million a piece to 40 professors and tell them at the end of one year, the best 10 ideas/business plans will be funded for $10 million for three years.

    There’s $140 million that would probably create 100’s of jobsnd utilize existing office space.

  9. Steven Davis

    BTW – Have you seen the Vista lately? It’s starting to look like Main Street did before all of the business pulled out. I’ve noticed more and more empty building along Gervais Street and the ones that are there aren’t spending much money to improve their storefronts which haven’t been touched in 10 years.

  10. Brad

    Come on, Bud! Does anybody read what I actually write? Thirsty Fellow is no more the spring than the first robin is, but it’s a sign. “Success” would follow hundreds of businesses making the decision that Thirsty Fellow did — all sorts of businesses, from high-tech startups to coffee shops to everything else you need in a walkable, live/work/play environment. The thing that was cool about Thirsty Fellow, and the reason I celebrated it, was that it chose to PROMOTE itself as being in the Innovista. That is an indication of an idea BEGINNING to catch on. And that’s the first thing that has to happen: The idea has to catch on, and do so in spite of all the negativity.

    If nothing happens in Innovista for another 10 years, it won’t change the fact that the tremendous potential is there, if people will seize it.

    And Doug is onto something with his endowed chairs idea — which is what he just described. Presumably, he will urge the Legislature to resume funding that program. Because it’s the one worthwhile thing to come out of the institution of the lottery.

  11. Mark Stewart

    Separating the idealism from the bricks and mortar is the right idea. Unfortunately, its also necessary because of the completely ham-handed way the real estate was put up.

    There’s this useful concept that I saw raising kids – it generally applies to life: crawl, walk, run.

    Throwing up Potemkin buildings was running (this happened all over America so USC shouldn’t be totally eviscerated for the lack of judgment shown in leaping far out ahead of any even glimmer of demand). After that smack-down, Innovista is learning to crawl. That’s not a bad thing, and the only way to lay a foundation that will support the vision – because clearly hubris cannot ever provide solid footing.

    If even 20% of the Sasaki plan gets built over the next 20 years, it would be a rousing success. There is nothing in the Innovista blocks now to anchor the area and provide a draw. The river is that magnetic thing. If anyone is going to “squander” funds on the built environment down there, it ought to be on beginning a gown to river connection through the town.

  12. Steven Davis

    Thirsty Fellow, the only think keeping that place alive is the Greek Village. The Innovista had nothing to do with it, they could advertise that they’re in the middle of an abandoned industrial park and their business would be the same, afterall they are a bar across from FratHouse Row.

  13. Brad

    Hmmm. I haven’t seen a lot of Greeks when I’ve been in there.

    Maybe they’re in that big wooden horse thing in the parking lot…

    And Mark: Good points. Actually, it would have been better if they had only been Potemkin villages — they would have been cheaper that way, and people wouldn’t have all that cost to criticize. So we could talk about what we should be talking about, which is the potential, which is as great now as ever.

    I expect those buildings will come in handy at some point, but they were the wrong thing at the wrong time, and are hugely distracting. It’s tragic the way they have kept people from talking about the actual concept of Innovista.

  14. Doug Ross


    It’s not just the buildings. It’s the lack of real high tech jobs. Where are they?

  15. bud

    Brad, is there never any expenditure of money that you don’t find offensive? Seriously, $140 million dollars should raise some eyebrows. Perhaps if Mark’s crawl, walk, run approach had been tried first we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But to simply brush aside that kind of money with one rationalization after another takes a great deal of hubris. I’m all for economic development projects paid for by government but when they fail we shouldn’t keep touting them for their “potential”. That only gets us into the poor house.

  16. Brad

    Again, I feel like people aren’t reading what I write…

    Who “brushed aside” the buildings? I said they were a mistake, the wrong idea at the wrong time. What do you want me or anybody else to do about it?

    Whether it was $1.40 or $140 BILLION, NONE of that changes the fact that the original idea for the Innovista remains a good one, with tremendous potential for this community and this state. And now, the effort has new leadership that had nothing to do with building those buildings. New leadership that goes out of its way to say that wrong decisions were made in the past, and who have worked to focus on the original potential of the idea.

    These are POSITIVE developments, and nothing that happened in the past, and nothing you say about it, changes that.

    The surest way for people to make sure Innovista fails is to keep talking it down. The great thing about that is when it DOES fail, you get to say, “I told you so.” Of course, that means the community gets the shaft, but think of how self-satisfied you’ll be.

    Well, it sounds like fun (actually, it doesn’t; it sounds like misery — but bear with me; I’m being ironical), but I’d rather be part of the solution going forward. I’d rather do all I can to help this succeed. Because the opposite path is a dead end.

  17. bud

    Let’s hope this isn’t a new round of good money after bad. This kind of reminds me of those giant lightpoles they put up on Main Street back in the 70s. Everyone thought they were ugly except the guy who pushed the idea onto the public. After a few years public pressure was enough to bring them down. But not before thousands of $ was wasted. That’s where hubris gets you.

  18. Doug Ross

    Well, how many jobs has Herriott created in 14 months? How much money does he have at his disposal to create jobs?

    At some point you have to DO something tangible besides hold meetings and “strategerize”.

    The problem as I see it is the people running the show don’t want to give the money to job creators. They want to use it for marketing a grand vision.

    Imagine if you gave 100 startups a million bucks and you got one Facebook out of it? That’s all you need.

  19. Steven Davis

    Talk doesn’t pay the mortgage on those multi-million dollar buildings. They’ve been sitting empty for years, and will sit empty for several more years unless something is done. If it were me, those buildings would be on the auction block or sold to USC.

    It’s tough to talk up a mess as big as this one.

  20. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    The Perfesser is a theoretical guy–even works with theoretical computers. That said, his colleague, former chair/acting dean Duncan Buell has had some great ideas that have not received fair hearing because of the focus on hydrogen, nanotechnology and public health. I’m sure Ann Marie will be more open to hearing Dr. Buell out.

    Thirsty Fellow is as much for the Greek Village/Convention Center crowd as anything, but kudos to them!

  21. Doug Ross

    The other issue goes to accountability. Someone who makes a $140 million dollar mistake shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the program going forward. There are a lot of people who have escaped being held accountable.

  22. Brad

    I like theoretical computers. They’re less cantankerous than the other kind.

    As to accountability: Hey, John Parks got canned. I bet he’s had his fill of accountability.

    Doug, you’re right — spend $100 million, or $140 million as has been mentioned, and get one Facebook and you’ve done well. Not that I think the $140 million did anything toward getting us a Facebook. Like I said, a mistake. And the best way to make up for it is by having success going forward.

    And Steven — you’re right, too: Talk doesn’t pay the mortgage. Having Innovista take off in a big way over the next couple of decades WOULD pay the mortgage, and a lot more besides. That’s why I want it to take off.

    When a good idea fails one way, you try it another way — a way that would be a whole lot less capital-intensive. What do you think the chances are that Innovista will get another $140 million to spend any time soon (by the way, I don’t even know if that’s the number; I’m just going along with y’all on that). Not bloody likely. Herriott and Ann Marie will have to make it work in other ways — the ways that should have been tried to begin with.

    And it’s because we know Ann Marie that Kathryn and I applaud her hiring. If you knew her, you’d do the same.

  23. bud

    Brad is demonstrating a marketing technique that conservatives have utilized with great effect over the years. He continues to say with certainty that the innovista idea is a good one. There is not one scintila’s worth of evidence to support that claim yet he continues to repeat that assertion with great authority. The idea is to repeat something that you believe over and over again, no matter how much the evidence proves the opposite, and eventually it gets accepted as fact.

    A great example of this is the conservative mantra that Ronald Reagan ended the cold war. His role was, at best, minor. Yet conservatives have repeated that as fact so often that it is now regarded as a proven fact.

    The moral to the story is you should never take conventional wisdom at face value no matter how many people accept it as fact. Always trust but verify.

  24. Brad

    I love it that Bud slapped Reagan, then quoted Reagan (“trust, but verify“) in backing up his point. Bud, did you do that intentionally, or was it just serendipitous?

    This concept that there’s “not one scintila’s worth of evidence” to support a good idea being a good idea is interesting. What sort of evidence are you seeking? I’m sure I don’t have any, or maybe I do and don’t know it, because I can’t imagine what form such evidence might take…

    Perhaps a time machine — one capable of exploring different futures. I could run out about 20 years into the future and collect evidence from two different pathways: One in which we do all we can to make the Innovista successful, and one in which we say, as many here would do, to hell with trying.

    I would imagine the settings on such a machine would be pretty delicate, and you’d have to be careful. Because even if we try as hard as we can, we can fail. And of course, many consider that a reason not to attempt anything. I disagree. One might as well roll over and die.

  25. Brad

    Of course, I would probably have enjoyed it if Bud had just slapped Reagan, without all the irony. Not my favorite political figure.

    Although he looks pretty good compared to some of the people who call themselves “conservatives” today. But then, that’s what I said when Reagan came along — that he was redefining “conservative” and in a very unfortunate direction.

    My kind of conservative would be, I don’t know, Eisenhower. Or Winston Churchill. Just as my kind of liberal would be JFK. Or FDR.

    In fact, the country would be better off if all our politicians starting going by initials again…

    What’s the emoticon to represent an ironic smirk?

  26. Mike

    Brad, you often express that in your opinion the “conservatives” of today aren’t really conservative, or aren’t what you’ve traditionally viewed conservatives to be, or something like that. Maybe it’s just that you like some conservatives but not others. I’m just trying to understand. If you say Eisenhower is your type of conservative, does that mean you think he is MORE conservative than Reagan (like do you think JFK is MORE liberal than Dukakis) or are you just referring to your own tastes? I thought I remember you writing about how people like Gresham Barrett and Bobby Harrell and Lindsey Graham are REAL conservatives and that Nikki Haley and Tom Davis and Jim DeMint are NOT conservatives. Do you mean that, say, Graham is MORE conservative than DeMint or just more your type of conservative?

  27. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    and a working quantum computer would be a disaster. The quantum computing community, of whom Steve is part, have not figured out how to protect the encryption of all that sensitive data that a quantum computer could easily hack into.

  28. Brad

    Mike, the problem with “liberal” and “conservative” as they are used today is that they do not respect the meanings of the words. Tea Partiers, for instance, are self-styled revolutionaries, beginning with their name, which celebrates the destruction of private property by a bunch of yahoos who dressed up as Indians in a half-hearted attempt to blame it on innocent parties. Not something a conservative would respect. A conservative respects private property and other institutions of society. (And yes, private property IS an institution of society, and not something that exists in a state of nature — without sound laws and government institutions backing it up, it doesn’t exist. To hear “conservatives” today talk about it, you wouldn’t know that.)

    Some who call themselves “conservatives” are actually classic liberals. But the Tea Party goes beyond that.

    As for liberals — well, I respect can-do liberals like FDR and JFK (we can BEAT Hitler, Tojo and the Depression; we can GO to the moon, contain communism and establish social justice). But post-Vietnam, feminist, identity-politics liberals lost me a long time ago.

    Is that helpful? In addition, you might want to read a column I wrote during the 2008 campaign, “Give me that old-time conservatism.”

    Or, to save you the trouble of following the link, I’ll give you the ending, which is the core:
    ” By now some of you think I have it in for all things ‘conservative.’ I don’t. I just grew up with a different concept of it from that which has in recent years been appropriated by extremists. I grew up in a conservative family — a Navy family, as a matter of fact. To the extent that ‘conservative ideas’ were instilled in me, they weren’t the kind that make a person fume over paying his taxes, or get apoplectic at the sound of spoken Spanish. They were instead the old-fashioned ones: Traditional moral values. Respect for others. Good stewardship. Plain speaking.
    “And finally, the concept that no passing fancy, no merely political idea, is worth as much as Duty, Honor and Country.”

  29. Doug Ross

    ” A conservative respects private property and other institutions of society. ”

    How do you reconcile this with your views on illegal immigration? Seems like a conservative would include border security and the rule of law as basic principles.

  30. Brad


    I’m not sure you understand my views on immigration.

    I believe in rules. I think we shouldn’t allow jaywalking. And I don’t think we should let people into our country without the proper paperwork.

    I think we agree on that. We just have different ideas on what to do once there are 12 million or so illegals in the country. You want to punish them for doing something terribly wicked, if I understand correctly. I just want to fix the problem — I want to get them into the system, so we know who is in our country, can evaluate them, and boot them out if they’re a danger.

    I just want to put things in proper order. I’m not looking for vengeance. Because while I wish people wouldn’t come in without following procedure, it doesn’t make my blood boil when it doesn’t happen that way.

    Going forward, I would set more realistic limits for people coming here from those countries, and make sure we have the infrastructure to handle the flow.

  31. Doug Ross

    But would you stop people from entering illegally NOW… let’s not worry about the ones who are here illegally for now. Would you stop the inflow until the quotas are raised? If not, then you don’t believe in the rule of law.

  32. Brad

    Yes, of course. But I wouldn’t engage in an engineering feat along the lines of the Great Wall of China. I’d put more of my energy into addressing the cause of the problem.

    And the cause is that we don’t legally admit nearly as much unskilled and semiskilled labor into the country as there is a demand for.

    There are a lot of other things we need to do, such as make sure this labor is not being unfairly exploited. And I think making sure everyone is legal is a way to avoid that. People whose status is a problem aren’t in a position to demand safe working conditions or decent pay, and that’s wrong. But get them into the system, and that becomes less of a problem. And then you’ll see the problem of Americans being done out of jobs by people who have no choice but to work for less in bad conditions lessening.

    The problem is NOT that people are willing to go to a great deal of trouble, even great risk, to come here and work. The problem is that they are not in the system.

  33. Doug Ross

    You understand that if these people are made “legal”, the jobs they currently have will go away because their employers don’t want to pay market wages? The cheap labor creates the demand for illegals. Should we allow anyone to enter who doesn’t have a job? And allow for entry into all forms of public assistance without contribution? The current illegal population is already straining finite resources.

    I just finished a novel called “Tortilla Curtain” by T.C. Boyle that does a good job of telling the illegal immigration issue from both sides using parallel storylines. It has all the usual stereotypes but also enough reality to make anyone on either side of the issue realize its not just about bigots and freedom loving hard workers. There’s a whole lot in between.

  34. Doug Ross

    And you say “yes of course” to the question of protecting the border – but does that mean you support deportation of anyone who is caught here illegally? If there is no penalty for entering illegally, how do you prevent it?

Comments are closed.