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 United FC is the Palmetto State’s largest youth soccer club and aims to make a positive impact on the lives of the 4,400 children and young adults active in its programs. That’s what Capital Rotary members heard when Ron Tryon (shown with Rotarian Felicia Maloney) was their Oct. 17 guest speaker. Tryon – a former attorney – has been CEO of the soccer non-profit since January 2014. His goal is to offer quality youth recreational soccer in all neighborhoods and to any child regardless of race, religion or socio-economic background. South Carolina United FC attracts players from 250 schools in 17 counties and last year had 43 of its “alumni” players bound for competition at the college level. Three of the club’s former players are now in the professional ranks. South Carolina United FC’s cultural exchange program with a “sister state” in Germany has involved over 600 student-athletes and coaches since 2003. Its two annual tournaments attract some 200,000 players, coaches and parents, resulting in a $7.6 million economic impact in the Columbia area. Tryon also detailed progress on the club’s new 24-acre, five-field soccer training complex located near the intersection of I-20 and Monticello Road.
Capital Rotarians heard the story of a unique boutique that helps cancer survivors feel whole again from the business founders – Sherry Norris (standing in photo) and Kim Neel (seated) – guest speakers at the club’s Oct. 10 meeting. The pair opened Alala LLC in 2006 to serve women who’ve had all types of reproductive cancers. The company specializes mainly in mastectomy prosthetics and bras, as well as compression pumps for cancer survivors. Alala also offers compression garments and wig refurbishing, shampooing, conditioning, setting and styling. In addition to their retail operation, Norris and Neel started a nonprofit organization in 2008 – the Alala Cancer Society – that helps provide women with donated mastectomy bras and wigs that would otherwise be unaffordable. The enterprising pair met while working with the local Girl Scouts and remain active community and church volunteers. Norris received business administration training at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, while Neel earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC.
Columbia Housing Authority’s goal has not changed since its 1934 founding – it works to provide affordable homes for city and Richland County residents. That mission was explained by executive director Gilbert Walker, guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s Oct. 3 meeting. Walker (at right in photo with Rotarian Chris Ray) said 7,000 families – about 28,000 people – make up the authority’s current tenants list. Housing costs range from $50 to about $1,500 monthly, depending on financial ability. Walker said authority income includes federal funding, tenant rents and returns from investments. Columbia Housing Authority is the nation’s third-oldest organization of its type, the biggest in South Carolina and the largest local provider of seniors housing. Redevelopment of the 1940s-era Gonzales Gardens site – vacant since Gardens demolition last year – is expected to begin this November. Walker said the project will create an impressive “gateway for the city and Richland County.” Redevelopment proposals include single family houses, midrises for seniors, garage townhomes, mixed-income rentals and a community center/museum. Despite its success and ambitious plans, Walker said the authority sees unmet needs – a waiting list of 15,000 people seeking homes.
Capital Rotary member Gene Oliver (center in photo) was recognized Oct. 3 for his latest donation to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs promoting peace and world understanding. Oliver is a Paul Harris Fellow plus-three giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with three additional gifts in the same amount). Oliver – a retired college administrator – joined the Capital club nine years ago and has been a Rotarian for more than 50 years. Immediate past president Blake DuBose (left) is the club’s chair for Foundation contributions, while current president Philip Flynn is at right.
Capital Rotary Club members John Guignard (standing left rear) and Rowland Alston (standing right rear) helped deliver new paperback dictionaries to this Arden Elementary School third-grade class as part of the club’s participation in The Dictionary Project. The project – begun by a non-profit organization in Charleston in 1995 – aims to help young people become good writers, active readers, creative thinkers and resourceful learners. Capital Rotary donated dictionaries to some 900 students in 12 Richland County District One schools for 2018. Over the past 14 years, the club has distributed personal dictionaries to 14,000 students in the Columbia area. A number of other Rotary clubs in South Carolina and throughout the country are Dictionary Project sponsors. One of Rotary International’s major goals is improving basic education and literacy for adults and young people.
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.
When Columbia hosts the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regionals next March, that could bring 20,000-25,000 visitors to town and generate a potential $9 million economic impact. Scott Powers, executive director of Experience Columbia SC Sports, is working alongside the University of South Carolina to make that experience welcoming, user-friendly and enjoyable for players, coaches, media and fans. Powers (shown at left with Rotarian Alex Serkes) was Capital Rotary’s Sept. 19 guest speaker. He said the event – to be held March 22-24, 2019 at Colonial Life Arena – is the first time Columbia has been an NCAA Regionals host since 1970. The eight college teams slated to compete in first and second round games won’t be announced until March 17. How well the tournament draws will be influenced by which teams will be playing, where they’ll be traveling from, each team’s fan base and their fans’ willingness to travel. Powers is encouraging the Midlands to get involved by offering community events, fun things to do while in town and food/drink specials. “All eyes will be on Columbia to determine whether we will be selected to host again,” he said. Powers has been Experience Columbia SC Sports director since 2004. He’s a USC graduate, a Leadership Columbia gradate and a founding member of the South Carolina Sports Alliance.
Two more Capital Rotarians have been recognized for donations to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs promoting peace and world understanding. Shown in the photo from left are Blake DuBose, immediate past president and Foundation giving chair; E.J. Newby and Stephen West, both Paul Harris Fellow plus-one givers (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with an additional gift in the same amount); and Philip Flynn, club president. Newby joined Capital Rotary in 2017, while West has been a member since 2005.
The Alzheimer’s Association-South Carolina Chapter’s vision for the future is a world without the dreaded disease of dementia. Taylor Wilson (shown with Rotarian Tony Thompson), chapter director of communications and advocacy, was Capital Rotary’s guest speaker on Sept. 12. She detailed the statewide group’s work to educate, support and advance critical research for treating, preventing and, ultimately, curing Alzheimer’s. The chapter also promotes the needs and rights of patients and caregivers. Wilson said 89,000 South Carolinians have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; there are 309,000 caregivers in the state. South Carolina’s death rate from Alzheimer’s is the nation’s highest and went up by 180% in the past year. Wilson lauded Rotary for its support of CART – the Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust – a project started in 1996 to provide funds for cutting edge research to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Wilson joined the Alzheimer’s Association staff three years ago and has spent the last 10 years working with non-profits around the Midlands area. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.