Hartsville approves plans for ‘Technology Incubator’

HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – The city is taking the first steps towards an economic development project that will bring high-end tech jobs to the area.

The Hartsville Community Development Foundation is spearheading a project called a Technology Incubator, and it does just that: growing technology-based businesses which will increase jobs and the quality of life in Hartsville.

"As a small municipality, we have a lot to offer. We're not going to just bring a company like Boeing into the city limits, but we have the ability to have the same amount of jobs, with the same higher pay," explains Hartsville Mayor Mel Pennington.

The city will be partnering with Clemson University. Clemson will provide services and support to build technology companies.

"Traditionally these companies have developed in urban areas, but we believe it can be done in smaller-sized markets," explains Karl Kelly with Clemson.

Local businesses that are already in Hartsville believe it can be successful there, as well.

"It would bring more people in, more growth to this area. It would bring more money, taxes. Taxes are always good to help the city," says Robin Rodgers, with the Fifth Street Cleaners in Hartsville.

And Mayor Pennington agrees.

"From the Governor's School to Coker College, there is a lot here in Hartsville for Clemson to utilize. They were thrilled when we became interested in this project," says Mayor Pennington.

The mayor says the reach of this project will spread over a quarter of the state.

"The idea is for entrepreneurs to come in and start technology-based businesses with the help of Clemson University," explains Mayor Pennington.

He says Hartsville tries hard to recruit or create jobs in the area. Since most of the country is fighting over the same labor pool, he says Hartsville decided to be progressive by growing jobs in the technology incubator.

"At first, it may be 10-15 jobs. But we're going to keep with those 10-15 jobs until they are 500," says Mayor Pennington.

The mayor says that investing in businesses is investing in the future of Hartsville.

"The intent of the incubator is to recycle our talent and dollars within this community," he says.

The HCDF insists the project won't be funded by taxpayer dollars but through investments.

Instead of pushing people to bigger cities for higher-paying jobs, the project will bring in workers to rural South Carolina, making Hartsville their home.

"Hartsville is a great place to live, we have wonderful schools, the city council is improving this town," says Rodgers.

The first incubator built with Clemson's help is already performing in Bluffton, SC. The Don Ryan Center for Innovation is helping small technology companies either form or grow into larger ones.

"Once those companies can graduate from the Incubator, they will settle in Bluffton where they hire people and pay taxes to the town," explains Jordan Berliner, the Director for The Don Ryan Center for Innovation in Bluffton.

Berliner says ultimately the center wants to become self-sustaining.

"After only 8 months, 10 companies are already in the incubator," says Berliner.

The Mayor of Hartsville, Mel Pennington, believes the incubator will have similar success in Hartsville.

More information on the companies in Bluffton, SC and The Don Ryan Center in general can be found at Ryan-Innovation-Center.com

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