As a continuation of our work with the Global Cities Initiative, the Upstate Global Competitiveness Council (GCC) was formed in July 2017 to implement the strategies and tactics named in the Upstate Regional Export and Foreign-Direct Investment Plans. This area of work relies upon collaboration and communication between public and private sector investors and economic development stakeholders, with working groups led by private sector representatives. Through this Q&A series, we can learn more about these leaders and how their day jobs align with the GCC.
Job: Special Counsel (Attorney)
Company: Nexsen Pruet
Global Competitiveness Council Role: Global Leadership Group – Group Leader; Steering Committee
Tell us a little about your background: I grew up in West Virginia, but moved to South Carolina for college. I went to Clemson where I got my degree in Marketing. After I graduated, I worked in radio advertising in Greenville before going to law school at the University of South Carolina. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree, but between my second and third years of law school, I accepted an internship in Global Business with the South Carolina Department of Commerce. I had no idea what economic development was, but it was advertised through the law school as a marketing-oriented internship, so I accepted it, thinking I would get good corporate experience.
I realized how much I enjoyed economic development, so I went to work at the SC Department of Commerce full time after graduating law school and passing the bar. I worked in a variety of roles there, starting in Global Business Development and finishing in International Strategy and Trade, where I helped to manage South Carolina’s international offices and recruited international companies to the state. I started at Nexsen Pruet at the beginning of this year – I am still doing economic development and working with international companies, but am now helping them with the legal aspects of new investment projects and expansions. I focus my practice on economic incentives, but also do a lot of hand-holding and general consulting for companies going through that process.
How long have you been in your current job?: I started at Nexsen Pruet in January 2017.
Why did you decide to become involved with the Global Competitiveness Council?: I’ve always really enjoyed recruiting alongside the Upstate Alliance, and the UA is a great ally of Nexsen Pruet’s. I’ve followed the work of the Global Cities Initiative for a few years now, and I think the program is fascinating and important. Economic Development as we know it is changing – things like exports, mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, and global partnerships are becoming increasingly significant. I think that this program has a unique opportunity to strategize and influence the future of economic development activities in the Upstate, especially as it pertains to attracting foreign direct investment. When I was asked to serve on the Steering Committee as the Global Leadership Group Leader, I jumped at the chance.
How does your job relate to the objectives of the Global Competitiveness Council?:
The Upstate Alliance is doing a fantastic job of identifying areas of opportunity – not just for counties or municipalities in the region when it comes to investment attraction, but also for existing companies and executives in the Upstate. In my role, I work every day with companies of all shapes and sizes – many of them are international. All of these clients face unique challenges and opportunities – especially those coming from other parts of the world. Through the work of the Global Competitiveness Council, I have the ability to influence the level of satisfaction that my clients have in South Carolina and help to turn things that could have been challenges into opportunities for that company’s growth.
In the end, when a middle market company realizes they can start selling goods internationally and receive export incentive assistance to do so, or an executive who moved from across the globe sees that there are programs in place to help their family acclimate to living in the Upstate, or a growing company sees that we’re willing to open our arms to a delegation of their suppliers to show them what the Upstate has to offer, or a corporate leader learns that the Upstate is home to world-class universities with top talent who have the capabilities and desire to partner with them on cutting-edge research, they start talking about it and telling their friends and word gets out. Which turns the work we’re doing into a recruitment tool, which means more business for everybody.
In brief, what are the objectives of your area of work in the GCC?: First, the Global Leadership working group is tasked with engaging local community members and leadership to educate them on the globalization of the Upstate and how they can get involved. Chances are, most of us will work – either with or for – an international company, and it’s important to not just understand the impact that international businesses have on South Carolina, but the impact that South Carolina has on international commerce. Things happening around the world may seem far away, but they have real and tangible impacts on our state.
Our working group is also in charge of coming up with a mechanism for how to manage and track incoming delegations. Delegations request to visit the state with frequency, so figuring out a way to accommodate these groups of companies or executives in a strategic manner will allow the Upstate as a whole to better serve them.
Why would you encourage others to become involved?: Members of our working group include those from both the public and private sectors. It includes local elected officials, members of private companies, service providers, and universities. Aside from the networking potential, rarely is a diverse group of likeminded individuals from varied backgrounds put in a room for a targeted brainstorming exercise. It’s been a lot of fun to see the ideas and action items that have resulted in such a short time from this facilitated dialogue as part of accomplishing a greater goal. I think the Global Competitiveness Council presents a really unique opportunity to affect the Upstate, which is exciting to be a part of.
TOPICS: Existing Industry, Global Cities Initiative, Global Competitiveness, International