A $225,000 grant from the South Carolina Department of Commerce has allowed South Carolina State University to develop the Orangeburg Regional Innovation Center in conjunction with Claflin University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and other community partners.

The Innovation Center is the brainchild of retired Sen. John Matthews to enhance the economic development of this region. He felt that other major colleges had put together similar programs for economic development, so there was no reason not to have a center in Orangeburg, which is home to three higher education institutions.

Leaders celebrated the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021. The Innovation Center is established as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, and it serves as an economic development collaboration between SC State, Claflin, OCtech and other community partners. The center will serve as a hub to connect existing and new companies with resources to enhance economic and work force development within an eight-county region that includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Clarendon, Colleton, Hampton and Orangeburg counties.

The Innovation Center will accomplish this by facilitating the growth and development of businesses forming in or relocating to the service area. It will be the organizing force for innovation in technology and other high growth companies in the region. Small businesses will be provided access to education, mentorship, counseling, developing business plans and assistance with finding funding sources.

The Innovation Center will host a community event in each of the service areas to introduce communities to the center and how to request and obtain services. Services will include educational training; design thinking activities; one-on-one consulting, internships; apprenticeships; working space; mentoring/coaching; facilitating innovation in the application of technology; and assisting in the commercialization of innovative products and processes.

Innovation Center Executive Director Gary Robinson and Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hydrick will provide oversight for the center along with Dr. Barbara Adams, dean of the SC State College of Business, who is project director for the grant.

Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial studies from Hampton University and a certificate from the Minority Business Executive Program at Dartmouth. He has been a consultant in the Small Business Development Center at SC State for the past six years. Hydrick, a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, holds a master’s degree in engineering and has several years of experience in engineering and manufacturing.

The Orangeburg Innovation Center is temporarily located at 1515 Henley St. in Orangeburg but will eventually move to 1170 Russell St. after renovation of the building.

For more information about the Orangeburg Regional Innovation Center, contact Gary Robinson at ‪803-780-4008.

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