Something is Happening Here in Charleston, South Carolina – Technology Renaissance

By Mark A. Leon

Yesterday, in front of nearly 15,000 fans, the Citadel Bulldogs Football program went 9-0 and clinched the Southern Conference in remarkable fashion.? Coming back from ten with less than 5 minutes remaining and winning in overtime, this was a game mapped out by the best sports screenwriters combining the drama of “Hoosiers” and “Miracle”

In the fog of this foodie paradise, where coastal living is a defined by dining, drinking and recreation, something big is happening in Charleston.

In the 2015 School System Quality Ranking, South Carolina ranked 47th in the US.? In 2013, 67% of state high schoolers graduated and only 43.2% of students with disabilities completed their degree.? In the category of highest levels of obesity, South Carolina ranks 41st, graduation rates, 36th, cancer deaths, 38th, diabetes, 43rd, violent crime, 4th and smoking 43rd according to 2015 rankings.

As of November 6, 2016, (Traffic Accidents and Fatalities in South Carolina):

  • Fatal Crashes for 2015:? 782 / Fatal Crashes for 2016: 766
  • Persons Killed from Crashes in 2015:? 839 / Persons Killed from Crashes in 2016: 833

We still have 2 months remaining in the year and we are on pace to shatter the 2015 records.

South Carolina has its challenges, but something big is happening in Charleston.

Last month 30 aspiring start-ups participated in the 2016 Charleston Angels Conference meeting with investors to vy for a prize of $100,000.? These is a pioneer program for Charleston highlighting some of the best young tech companies in the Southeast.? With the partnership of local investors and a wealth of potential seat money, this even can launch a promising future for some young startups.

In 2015, Charleston Magazine published “The Rise in Silicon Harbor” while in 2015 Huffington Post released, “Charleston, South Carolina Outpaces the Nation in Tech Growth”.? Both outlined a renaissance in technology and professional expertise taking shape in the Low country.? This unprecedented birth of human capital solutions has paved the way for a new look and feel for Charleston.

DigSouth is on a mission and their goal is very clear, bring technology to the Southeast.? This is an area that traditionally has not been a technology focal point.? It isn’t Silicon Valley (Palo Alto/San Francisco), New York, Chicago, Minneapolis or Austin.? The stigma in the South traditionally has been low education standards, limited professional and tech career opportunities and sub-standard quality of life.? Now there are companies, organizations and visionaries that are seeing that this reputation is changing and swiftly.

CharlestonWorks is a website that highlights the technology jobs in the Charleston area.? Its goal is to bring talent locally and across the country to the Southeast to harness and growth our tech infrastructure.? Take a look and see the diverse range of opportunities available right in your backyard.? Currently, there are 341 companies with current technology job openings.? This is truly a feat and a testimony to the growth in tech space.

In the last 10 years, we have witnessed the evolutionary transformation of Charleston witnessing the increase and expansion of medical services, the rise of Boeing, BMW and Volvo, expansion of BenefitFocus, PeopleMatter bringing corporate life to downtown Charleston, monetized apps being released and small technology firms coming into their own.

Charleston remains a historic Southern coastal area with a rich tradition of hospitality, warmth, dining and leisure, but a new seed is being planted.

Six years ago, I had personal challenges scheduling meetings because most friends and network connections wanted to meet during the day.? For some time, I felt like I was the only one in Charleston with traditional work hours.? That thinking is changing.? We are seeing great thinkers home grown who are taking risks and converting business plans into reality right here at home.

The latest 2016 US News and Worlds Report ranks The Citadel #1 and College of Charleston #4 in Public Schools South Region.? With these two strong programs and our surrounding schools focus on technology skills, coding camps and meetups, Charleston is starting to make a national name for itself and very comfortable to be competing with Silicon Valley step for step.

We may not have the deep seed money to compete with the Yelps and Instagrams of the world, but we are making waves in the tech sector and I see us being a player for a long time.