April 16, 2012

Stepping it Up, Tech-Wise

Brendan Kearney  /  Post & Courier

A year ago this month, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance launched "Opportunity Next," a plan focused on high-tech "industry cluster" and "core competency" targets such as aerospace, information technology, advanced materials and software.

In announcing the strategy, alliance CEO David Ginn emphasized the urgency of the mission, writing in a Post and Courier op-ed that the Charleston area has "a narrow window of opportunity over the next two to three years to take advantage of our competencies and leverage our new and growing assets to compete globally."

Late last month, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce unveiled "Accelerate Greater Charleston," a five-year, $5 million plan to boost the local economy through higher-tech workforce development, seed funding and lobbying, targeting defense-related, research and export-import jobs.

And last week, the Charleston Digital Corridor announced the latest piece of its workforce development strategy, CODEcamp, an "augmentative" education curriculum wherein members of local software companies will teach computer languages to aspiring programmers.

See a pattern?
High-tech, whether it's planes or military systems or biotech or business software, is red-hot right now, and Charleston's economic development groups want in on the action.

They recognize these cutting-edge industries and skill sets, along with population growth and other uncontrollable macro factors, could transform Charleston from a historic tourist destination into a proper 21st-century city.

It's still too early to say, of course, how these three initiatives, not to mention several other overlapping ones at different levels of government and private industry, will pan out. But since they all seem to have similar goals, hopefully they're complementary, not duplicative or competitive, and Charleston becomes the tech hub its leadership envisions.