The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance has been working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help Palmetto State industries navigate issues including worker safety, lack of child care, supply chain interruptions, unemployment and a thicket of local, state and federal health/behavior guidelines and mandates. That’s according to John Wall (in photo), guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s July 29 Zoom meeting. He’s vice president of government relations and general counsel for the group that represents 400 manufacturing facilities and 880,000 employees. Wall noted that manufacturers have been proud to “fill in the gaps” by supplying personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, gowns and masks to combat the coronavirus. They also “stepped up in a big way to lead the charge for contact tracing in the workplace,” Wall said. While COVID-19 is today’s chief concern, Wall noted one of industry’s future legislative goals is business license tax reform setting a standard filing date, application form, appeals process, rate and class schedule and a portal for online access. Education reform is another goal, aiming to ensure that students “have the skills they need to fill these great-paying jobs here in our state.” Wall believes South Carolina’s future includes more investment by food marketing and processing businesses, growth in “life sciences” like pharmaceutical manufacturing, and growth in warehouse/distribution facilities. Wall is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. He joined the Manufacturers Alliance in 2018.
Service clubs like Rotary face challenging times because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but need to strengthen their membership, put ideas into action and improve local communities – all reflected in 2020-2021’s international theme, “Rotary Opens Opportunities.” That’s the message Capital Rotarians heard from assistant governor Eric Davis (in photo) at July 15’s Zoom meeting. Davis noted that the pandemic has curtailed in-person gatherings and scrapped numerous club and district projects. He said that virtual meetings – even remote “happy hours” or small group online socials – can help Rotarians stay in touch. “We need to be flexible and innovative in keeping every member engaged,” Davis said. “Reaching out one-to-one is the way to strengthen our bond.” Despite the pandemic’s effect, clubs can still take part in district committees, apply for grants to fund global projects or sponsor applicants for international scholarships. It’s also possible to virtually sample other club and district meetings. Davis, a member of Vista Night Rotary, has a year left to serve as Area 2 assistant governor in District 7770. Area 2 encompasses six Midlands clubs, plus the University of South Carolina’s Interact group for young adults and an EarlyAct club for youngsters at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Columbia.
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed blood drives across the Midlands, but the need for lifesaving donations remains critical, according to Kristen Boyle, a donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross. Boyle was guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s biweekly meeting via Zoom on July 1. Closed colleges and businesses shrank student and employee donor pools in the spring, Boyle noted, plus a number of churches and civic groups (including the Rotary club) cancelled planned drives. Meanwhile, demand is up as much as 30 per cent while hospitals are beginning to reschedule elective surgeries. The Red Cross has safety steps in place, Boyle said, including mandatory face masks, temperature checks, gloves, rigorous sanitizing and social distancing at donor sites. Blood is now being tested for coronavirus antibodies; results are anticipated in 7 to 10 days. A positive test means the donor has previous virus exposure, but “that doesn’t mean we can’t use the blood,” Boyle explained. “COVID-19, or any respiratory illness, isn’t transfused through blood donations. Having antibodies means you can apply to the convalescent plasma program and potentially help a patient who’s battling a severe case of COVID.” Since the country has a blood need every two seconds – and every donation can help save up to three lives – Boyle declared: “Giving blood is an essential service.”
Columbia’s Capital Rotary began its 2020-2021 year July 1 by inducting a new president, saluting the Rotarian of the Year and announcing Paul Harris Fellow honors in a biweekly Zoom session. Capital’s new president is Ben Carlton (in photo), a member since 2015, who practices corporate law with the Columbia firm of Richardson, Plowden & Robinson. Carlton is a graduate of North Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina’s Law School. He was a club director and secretary before serving as president-elect in the past year. Earning Rotarian of the Year honors for the second time was Neda Beal (left in photo below with Sophia Bertrand of the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club). Beal – cited in 2016 for her work with several projects – was recognized anew for serving as liaison to the student group. Rotaract clubs are for adults ages 18-30 interested in community service, in developing leadership and professional skills, and who enjoy networking and social activities. USC Rotaract formed in 2010-2011; Capital Rotary became its host in 2018-2019. New Rotary Foundation donor honors went to Jack Williamson, Philip Flynn and Pete Pillow – all named Paul Harris Fellow Plus-Two givers (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with an additional gift in the same amount). The Foundation is Rotary International’s charitable arm to support world understanding and peace programs. Williamson, a former sergeant at arms, joined Capital Rotary in 2008, as did Flynn, a past president and current director. Pillow joined in 2006 and was Rotarian of the Year in 2018. The club is holding remote meetings currently in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
University of South Carolina president Bob Caslen updated Capital Rotarians on a host of items June 17 at the downtown club’s biweekly Zoom meeting. Topics ranged from possibly renaming iconic buildings to resuming fall classes on campus, and from football season prospects to strategic planning for the future. Caslen (in photo), a retired Army general who’s a graduate and former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, became USC’s 29th president last Aug. 1. He told Rotarians that: (1) renaming Sims Hall on campus – a building named for a man who performed medical experiments on slaves – has been reviewed by a special committee, but the state’s Heritage Act requires a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly for such changes; (2) resuming onsite classes is based on mitigating health risks through COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, social distancing, wearing masks in class and “responsible measures” to avoid disease spread to the community at large; (3) the slate of Southeastern Conference football games likely will be played, but non-conference games may be decided on an individual team basis, and social distancing will impact stadium seating; and (4) USC’s strategic vision is to become the nation’s premier flagship university, serving the needs and transforming the lives of the people of South Carolina. Caslen said he and his executive team will work to recruit the best students, employ world-class faculty and staff, boost the school’s research status, improve systemwide integration of programs and campus infrastructure, and prioritize economic development.
Capital Rotary announced new Paul Harris Fellow honors and elected its slate of 2020-2021 officers and directors during a Zoom meeting on June 17. Neda Beal (in photo) was cited for her continuing donations to the Rotary Foundation in support of world understanding and peace programs. She is now a Paul Harris Fellow Plus-Six giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with six additional gifts at the same amount). Paul Harris Fellow recognition memorializes the Chicago attorney who helped found Rotary International in 1905. A Capital board member for several years, Beal was named club Rotarian of the Year in 2016.
New club officers and directors are: President – Ben Carlton; President-Elect – Austin McVay; Secretary, Membership – Lee Ann Watson; Treasurer – Bryan Goodyear; Sergeant at Arms – Andy Markl; Immediate Past President – Abby Naas (Foundation); Directors at Large – Catherine Mabry (Community Service); Neda Beal (Rotaract); Le Frye (Blood Donations); Philip Flynn (past president); and Ione Cockrell. Terms of office are July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2921.
Over the past seven years, the Office for Innovation, Partnership and Economic Engagement has become a focal point for industries melding the University of South Carolina’s resources with doing business in the Palmetto State. The result has been nearly $800 million worth of economic development, 620 jobs and $86 million in job-related impact, according to Bill Kirkland, the office’s executive director (in photo) and guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s June 3 meeting via Zoom. Kirkland said the engagement office’s work includes (1) corporate outreach; (2 help in licensing intellectual property; (3) innovation assistance for entrepreneurs; (4) support at the Innovista research campus in downtown Columbia; and (5) recruiting companies to the state. In the past six months, over $7 million in small business research grants have come as a result of the university’s “strategic creative partnership with corporate America,” Kirkland reported. For the past eight years, South Carolina has been among the top 100 universities granted U.S. patents. “We’re also the fifth fastest-growing manufacturing state in the nation,” Kirkland said. A former head of the university’s Columbia Technology Incubator, Kirkland also held executive management positions with IBM and Pfizer and was a managing partner for South Carolina-based LK Global Consulting. Capital Rotary has been holding biweekly video meetings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are working together to help boost economic development in the Palmetto State. That’s what Capital Rotarians heard from Jamie Frost at their Zoom meeting May 20. Frost is senior vice president of community preparedness for the SC Power Team, a nonprofit set up in 1988. It serves 20 co-ops across two-thirds of the state seeking more industry and commerce, especially in rural areas. The Power Team offers project management, retention and expansion of existing businesses, utility rate incentives, funds to help prepare industrial sites and infrastructure, an annual economic development review, training and strategic planning. Over the past six years, co-op and Power Team efforts were key for attraction and expansion of companies investing more than $6.4 billion and creating 30,000 jobs in the state. Frost joined the team in 2017 after working for a consulting engineers’ firm. He’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina, completed the Leadership South Carolina program, Class of 2019, and is a City of Columbia Planning Commission member.
The head of the SC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has been inducted into Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club. Kitty Sutton – executive director of the legal nonprofit since 2013 – joined May 20 during the club’s second Zoom meeting. Remote sessions are being held every two weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Sutton is a Columbia native with both English and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, plus a Masters in English from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She’s worked at law firms in Mobile, Charleston and Columbia. She has been an adjunct professor at USC, the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College. Sutton is on the board of Justice 360, a group involved with juvenile justice and capital punishment issues. She’s also been a board member for Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and for Columbia’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, Communities in Schools and Carolina Ballet.
Giving youngsters a safe place to learn, eat and grow is the mission of Hope Foundation Liberia, according to Columbia attorney Mark Arden, a board member for the non-profit and guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s first Zoom meeting on May 6 (shown in photo). Arden detailed efforts to improve the lives of rural kindergarten students “physically, emotionally and mentally” in the poverty-stricken nation wracked by 14 years of civil war, followed by the Ebola epidemic. Hope Foundation renovated buildings to serve as a temporary school and dug a new well to bring clean drinking water to the community. A new school on seven acres of land is nearly finished. It has enrolled 160 children and has a curriculum including etiquette, agriculture, being kind to others and trusting in God in addition to reading and writing. Children are fed two meals daily and will learn how agriculture can promote sustainability for the school. Arden is a partner at Chappell, Smith & Arden and graduated from the University of South Carolina and the university’s School of Law.