South Carolina’s Department of Commerce is laying groundwork for participation in a new community development program – Opportunity Zones – established by Congress as part of 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The program was detailed for Capital Rotary by Commerce research director Ben Johnson (pictured), the club’s Oct. 24 guest speaker. Designed to encourage long-term private investment in low-income communities, Opportunity Zones aims to jump-start economic activity in parts of the state that have not prospered over the past few years. Investors are offered federal tax incentives for putting existing capital gains into the program and keeping these monies invested for five, seven or 10 years or more. Opportunity Zones projects could include workforce development, affordable housing, new infrastructure, startup for new businesses and capital improvements. Johnson, who has experience in commercial real estate research and data, is a board member of the SC Logistics Council, the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator and Eau Claire Development Corporation. He also authored the most recent South Carolina Innovation Plan.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told Capital Rotarians that the state is “on the edge of great prosperity” and must not miss the “window of opportunity for economic expansion and growth that will take care of our problems.” McMaster – a Republican running for re-election in November against Democrat James Smith – was Sept. 26’s guest speaker for the Columbia area club. He said the state’s competitive advantages in attracting new industry include (1) “three great research universities – the Medical University, University of South Carolina and Clemson University”; (2) “the best technical college system in the country” to train the needed workforce; (3) the Port of Charleston, which is being deepened to accommodate the world’s largest container ships; (4) inland ports at Greer and Dillon, making South Carolina the only state in the nation with two inland ports located on major highways like I-85 and I-95; and (5) a “unique population” made up of residents who are “friendly, hardworking and proud of what we’ve accomplished.” McMaster became the state’s chief executive in January 2017 after serving two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as attorney general and four years as United States attorney. McMaster received his AB degree in history in 1969 from the University of South Carolina and his JD degree in 1973 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Capital Rotary Club visited the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (photo one) on Aug. 29 for a slide show and briefing by Deputy Amanda Jordan (photo two) on the agency’s mission, values, organization and programs. With its population of more than 400,000 spread over 756 square miles, the county presents a policing challenge for the sheriff’s force of 700 uniformed officers and 140 support personnel. Jordan said Sheriff Leon Lott stresses core values of service, integrity, accountability and professionalism for all employees and works to develop a sense of family throughout the organization’s various divisions and offices. She encouraged Rotarians to spread the word about the Citizens Police Academy – a 14-week program of classes designed to give participants an overview of the Sheriff’s Department structure, services and personnel. Jordan (shown with Rotarian Rowland Alston in photo three) is a University of South Carolina gradate who’s been a deputy for 15 years and now is a sergeant in the Office of Public Information and Media Relations. Capital Rotary’s Aug. 29 briefing was part of the club’s Fifth Wednesday program substituting local field trips in place of a regular meeting.
Pawmetto Lifeline’s work on behalf of animal rescue and welfare in the Midlands paid dividends for more than 45,000 companion pets in the Midlands last year, according Jack Sloan, director of development for the non-profit and Capital Rotary’s Aug. 8th guest speaker. Sloan (at right in photo with club president Philip Flynn) said the ultimate goal is to have a no-kill community here, so that no healthy, adoptable dog or cat is euthanized in a municipal shelter or dies because it is homeless. Pawmetto Lifeline’s 80 employees and 200 volunteers treat pet overpopulation with adoption, medical care, rescue and education programs. Sloan said there’s special emphasis on spay/neuter services as the most cost-effective and humane way to reduce the number of unwanted pets. Sloan, a graduate of The Citadel with an MBA from the University of Tennessee, joined Pawmetto Lifeline after a long career at national and state chambers of commerce. He’s also been a board member for several clubs and organizations including Columbia Rotary.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club held its annual summer blood drive on Wednesday, July 25. Scheduled donations and walk-ins were welcome, and the drive resulted in 66 pints of blood collected. Red Cross staff member Libby Wright (at center in photo with president Philip Flynn and drive chairman Paul Gillam at left) said the club over the past 10 years has collected 582 units of blood, helping to save the lives of more than 1,700 people. Because of high demand and lagging blood donations in summertime, Wright said the Capital club’s effort helps to answer the “emergency appeal” for prospective donors.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s Project Lifesaver team aims to “bring loved ones home” safely when electronic tracking is needed to find at-risk wanderers – clients with Alzheimer’s, autism, Downs Syndrome or traumatic brain injury. Deputy Amanda Jordan (shown at left in photo with Rotarian Daniel Moses) briefed Capital Rotary on June 13, noting that 44 local clients and their families are enrolled in the program founded in Virginia nearly 20 years ago. Project Lifesaver began in Richland County in 2006 with only eight deputies and three clients. Today 80 deputies are trained, certified specialists in locating missing persons via electronic searching – a process that usually takes less than 30 minutes as compared to a normal physical search lasting up to nine hours and sometimes involving hundreds of officers and volunteers. Jordan said Project Lifesaver is cost effective for law enforcement and provides better protection for lost individuals. Richland County does not charge its residents or their at-risk loved ones for receiving a transmitter and joining the program. Jordan, a University of South Carolina graduate, has served with the Sheriff’s Department for 14 years. She coordinates Project Lifesaver for the State of South Carolina, where 18 counties have signed on. There are 1,300 participating agencies across the US, Canada and Australia. To date more than 3,400 client rescues have been reported.
Rotary clubs worldwide are the heart and soul of an unprecedented effort to eradicate polio, an effort leading to a 99% drop in cases of the once-widespread disease. Capital Rotary club members were reminded of that fact in a video shown at their May 9 breakfast meeting. Rotary began an anti-polio campaign in 1979 with a project to vaccinate children in the Philippines. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched in 1988 is driven by Rotary International and four other core partners – the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The partners’ work has been called “the single most successful public health initiative in history.” Rotary’s focus is advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness building. In this way, Rotarians and the 101-year-old Rotary Foundation have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries.
Advocacy for, preservation of and education about the capital city’s unique houses and gardens has been the mission of Historic Columbia since the non-profit organization’s founding in 1961. A milestone will be celebrated in May with the 200th anniversary of construction of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, according to Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director since 2004. Waites (shown at right in photo with Rotarian Allyson Way Hank) was Capital Rotary’s April 11 guest speaker. She said the historic property’s May reopening follows more than a year’s worth of mansion repairs and restoration of its gardens and grounds. Also featured is a holistic reevaluation and restructuring of the site’s historical interpretation. Waites noted that from the 1820s to the 1870s, the estate grew to be Columbia’s grandest residence under the Hampton and Preston families and the many men, women and children enslaved there. In addition to the mansion, Historic Columbia provides house and garden tours at four other sites downtown, offsite bus and walking tours, and education programs for youth and adults. Waites was the SC State Museum’s chief curator of art before joining Historic Columbia’s staff.
Dominion Energy’s proposed $14.6 billion merger with South Carolina’s SCANA Corp. is a remedy for “the largest utility failure in modern history” – that is, the $9 billion loss of the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear power plant. That’s according to Dominion executive Dan Weekley, who told Capital Rotarians March 14 that the Virginia-based company seeks this “friendly acquisition” because it believes the Palmetto State is “on the verge of explosive growth” needing energy reliability. Weekley said merger benefits include (1) a $1.3 billion cash payment to customers – a value of $1,000 for average residential users; (2) additional reductions of up to 7 percent from current electric and gas rates; and (3) a $1.7 billion write-off of existing debt related to the failed nuclear project. Weekley noted that Dominion already has a business presence in the state, citing recent construction of an 1,100-acre, 270,000-panel solar farm in Jasper County. He said Dominion – the sixth-largest producer of solar power in the country – is about 10 times SCANA’s size, with projects equally divided between electricity and natural gas. Weekly joined the company in 2000. He’s a graduate of Marshall University and earned a master’s in business administration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
At a mid-year assembly to review Capital Rotary’s accomplishments to date in the 2017-2018 Rotary year, president Blake DuBose thanked members for achieving highlights that included:
- Attaining a current membership level of 61 Rotarians; plans are under way to create a new online proposed member application form plus an online explanation of membership responsibilities.
- Donating 936 free dictionaries to third-graders in 14 Richland County District One schools.
- Collecting 65 units of blood at the annual Red Cross Blood Drive, each donation helping to save the lives of up to three people.
- Making a $1,000 donation for Harvest Hope Food Bank’s “Back Pack” and “Kids Café” programs to feed hungry children.
- Supporting domestic and overseas relief efforts with a total of $8,000 in donations for natural disaster victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
- Taking part in the World Polio Week international campaign to eradicate polio. The club raised $882, matched by Rotary District 7770 for a total donation of $1,764
- Assisting three local college students with scholarships that will total $5,000 per year each.
- Sponsoring two families through the Families Helping Families organization. Members contributed $625, then matched by the club, for a total donation of $1,250 used to purchase Christmas wish-list items such as clothing, toys, personal items, food and furniture.
- Continuing community service projects with weekly Meals on Wheels delivery and annual volunteering at Harvest Hope Food Bank.
- Supporting The Rotary Foundation with 55 Paul Harris Fellows ($1,000 donation), 40 Benefactors ($1,000 donation via will), four Bequest Society members ($10,000 donation upon death), six Major Donors (donation greater than $10,000) and eight Paul Harris Society members ($1,000 donation yearly).
- Exceeding the club goal ($1,680) for PolioPlus contributions (total $2,38 to date).
- Publicizing our activities with 45 club website and social media posts; reaching 6,181 people through social media; 2,262 website visitors; 40 postings on District 7770’s website and newsletters; 59 press releases posted by local media; and seven monthly club activity recaps e-mailed to members.