February 2, 2018 (COLUMBIA, S.C.): What will it take to make Columbia the nation’s top insurance technology destination – a place where companies and employees from around the country want to be and have to be if the region is to stay at the cutting edge?
In short: livability, educational alignment and talent development, and perhaps most of all, a consistent, coordinated message – not just for economic development, but within the local community.
Those were the hot topics at a panel discussion hosted Wednesday morning by iTs|SC, an industry cluster focused on Columbia’s insurance and technology industry that employs more than 15,000 in the Midlands. The event, part of EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week, featured industry and economic development leaders from around the region.
In discussing workforce development, Henry Bryson, Technology Capability Officer at Colonial Life parent company Unum Group, noted that closer alignment between the University of South Carolina and businesses’ needs would help companies to fill positions with local talent, instead of global. At the same time, Bryson believes that better marketing can contribute to a pipeline of local students interested in the industry, noting that a lack of understanding of IT careers can turn young students away before they are aware of the high-paying opportunities available in the field.
Several panelists also noted the lack of focus in promoting insurance and other tech-centric industries within a state centered around manufacturing.
“We’ve got a very specific niche, and we’ve got to go at it from an alignment standpoint and from a sales and marketing standpoint,” said Sam McGuckin, who grew insurance technology startup TCube Solutions into a 300-employee company recently acquired by global consulting firm Capgemini. Steve Wiggins, chairman of IT-oLogy after retiring as a visionary CIO at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, put it simply: “What do [our competitors] have that we don’t have? They advertise.”
Richland County Economic Development Director Jeff Ruble agreed that South Carolina’s manufacturing-targeted tax structure and regional marketing strategy has worked against Columbia’s best interests when looking to recruit office-based companies.
Ultimately, the panelists concluded that Columbia has a tremendous opportunity to grow an already-strong industry. Boasting a long history of innovation, top-notch livability and an extremely attractive business environment, Vivian Ford, founder and president of Core Technology Solutions, believes, “Columbia is a hidden gem.”
So what’s next? iTs|SC representative Terry Povey announced the cluster’s new Columbia-centric scope and targeted efforts to reach its vision: that in ten years, Columbia will be at the top of the pile for insurance and technology.
iTs|SC is a regional industry cluster managed by EngenuitySC, a nonprofit focused on enhancing the Midlands’ economic competitiveness and prosperity. Learn more about iTs|SC at its-sc.com.
iTs|SC, Columbia’s Insurance Technology & Services Cluster, is dedicated to making Columbia the place companies and people want to be and have to be for insurance and technology, and is supported by EngenuitySC. Its mission is to maximize Columbia’s competitive advantage through a shared vision for economic development, innovation, collaboration and talent development to create the nation’s leading insurance industry. News, events, participating companies, and information can be found online at www.its-sc.com.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., EngenuitySC is a nonprofit focused on long-term competitiveness and prosperity in the Midlands. EngenuitySC specializes in managing collaborations between business, government, education and community leaders. For more information, visit www.engenuitysc.com.
Panelists at Wednesday’s iTs|SC event discuss what’s next for the Columbia region’s insurance tech industry. From left to right: Amelia Hough-Ross – Companion Data Services, Henry Bryson – Unum, Steve Wiggins – IT-oLogy, Vivian Ford – Core Technology Solutions, Sam McGuckin – Capgemini, Jeff Ruble – Richland County Economic Development.