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Conway Innovation Center open for business

January 22, 2015

The official ribbon cutting was held Jan. 21 for the Conway Innovation Center (CIC), a new technology business incubator that Coastal Carolina University is cosponsoring in partnership with the City of Conway and Clemson University.

A large crowd of area business and civic leaders filled the offices at 1119 Third Ave, where CCU College of Science Dean Michael Roberts led the opening ceremony as president of the 5th T Innovation Group, the nonprofit corporation that administers the CIC.

The purpose of the CIC is to attract and assist in the development of local commercial business enterprises. Five businesses have already begun operating under the auspices of CIC, and two more proposals are pending, according to Roberts. The CIC project received a $150,000 grant from the Waccamaw Community Foundation during the summer of 2014 through the generosity of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund.

A major player in the CIC project is Clemson University’s Technology Villages program, which supports business incubators in non-metropolitan areas of South Carolina. The program “captures the concept of the individual entrepreneur who starts a business in his garage and brings [this concept] to Main Street,” said Karl Kelly, who also pointed out that Clemson has more cooperative programs with CCU than with any other institution of higher education in the state.

CCU President David A. DeCenzo praised the cooperative spirit of the CIC venture, which “brings many entities together for the common good.” Regarding the CCU-Clemson association, he remarked that “orange and teal look good together.”

Conway Mayor Alys Lawson and Conway Chamber of Commerce President Gary Lee are excited about the prospects for economic development that the CIC represents. “This gives local entrepreneurs the tools to take a project from idea to completion,” said Lee.

Kelly said that small and mid-sized cities have been excluded from the technology incubation movement that has benefited larger metropolitan areas. The Clemson Technology Villages program has sponsored four other such programs in small cities around the state.

The event included a presentation by CCU education professor Todd Cherner about a new business he has started with colleague Corey Lee, called App Ed Review. Cherner and Lee, working through the CIC, designed an Internet database that evaluates apps for use in the teaching profession. Their reviews of more than 500 apps assist teachers in choosing the most appropriate apps for their classroom needs.

The 5th T Innovation Group was formed by CCU, Horry Georgetown Technical College and the Conway community. “5th T” refers to the enterprises that have driven the Grand Strand region’s economy through its history: timber, turpentine, tobacco, tourism and, most recently, technology.