Senior environmental attorney Tom Mullikin of Camden – chair of the Governor’s Floodwater Commission – is leading efforts to help defend South Carolina from the effects of a warming planet. The job includes dealing with rising sea levels, persistent flooding and severe storms coming in from the Atlantic and up from the Gulf Coast, as he explained to Capital Rotarians during their Sept. 23 Zoom meeting. Mullikin (in photo) said debate over climate change has been “hijacked by politics” that breed division, but the Floodwater Commission wants to “occupy the middle ground” via emphasis on solving environmental challenges. Plans have been made to plant 1.8 million trees throughout the state on Earth Day 2021 as an example of local, positive action. “We in South Carolina can’t solve the world’s problems,” Mullikin said. “What we’re going to have to do is solve ours.” Floodwater Commission solutions range from planting more shoreline vegetation to constructing natural and artificial reefs along the coast; from cleaning canals, ditches and rivers to replacing fossil fuel power plants with utility-scale solar. “We’re in the process now of helping to create an electric highway, because BMW and Volvo are making South Carolina manufacturing one of the global leaders in e-vehicles,” Mullikin said, touting moves toward reducing the state’s greenhouse gases footprint. “‘Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability are not mutually exclusive,” he added. “We can be more protective of the environmental and more profitable.” Mullikin graduated from the University of South Carolina with a law degree in 1986. The retired leader of the volunteer South Carolina State Guard, he’s also a “National Geographic Expert” and a Fellow in both the Manhattan-based Explorer’s Club and London’s Royal Geographical Society.
Columbia’s greenway parks trace their heritage back to a 1905 beautification plan and still provide scenic vistas for hospitality, outreach, education and recreation. That’s according to Karen Kustafik (shown in LinkedIn photo), assistant superintendent of the city’s 31 Park Rangers and Capital Rotary’s Sept. 9 guest speaker. The Rangers oversee eight parks that have opened since 1983 and are looking forward to adding new facilities in the Bull Street area (2020) and a Saluda Riverwalk and Boyd Island bird sanctuary (2021). Riverfront parks recall a bygone era when waterways were key for commerce, moving produce and raw goods from the Upstate and Midlands down to Charleston and back. Today, Kustafik said, parks remain “really good things to have in flood plains because rivers will rise. In a changing climate, rivers seem to rise a little bit more frequently, so the banks of green spaces along waterways help keep us more resilient.” Insect life thrives in wild places, becoming what Kustafik called “building blocks for the rest of life – these insects are critically important” in the natural food chain and as pollinators for plant reproduction. She also praised the sense of quiet reflection that parks provide. “Yes, we live in an urban area, but if you get a good 10- or 15-minute walk in, you can find solitude and a place to reflect,” Kustafik observed. “We have some gorgeous spots where everybody can find peace.” This has been true even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted, when local parks remained busy in March and April despite being officially shut down.
Agriculture in South Carolina is big business – a $46.2 billion economic impact, 247,000 jobs and over 24,000 farms – but there’s still room to grow (no pun intended). That’s what Capital Rotarians heard Aug. 26 from guest speaker Jack Shuler (in photo from SCNOW), director of agribusiness development for the Palmetto State. Crops and poultry make up about 55% of farming’s impact, with 45% coming from forestry operations. The equine industry, including areas around Camden, Aiken and near Tryon, NC, gives nearly a $2 billion per year boost. Trade wars hurt farmers over the past two years, Shuler said, and the COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains, moved markets from an institutional base (restaurants/food processors) to consumer based (more cooking and eating at home), plus poses labor problems (especially among migrant workers). Still, Shuler sees a promising future for South Carolina farming, forecasting billions more in economic impact by 2035. Advances in technology and robotics (such as driverless tractors and harvesters) offer a labor solution, but require more technical skills and worker training in rural areas. Controlled environments like greenhouses and aquaculture may reduce dependence on weather conditions. Shuler said locating another poultry facility in the state is feasible and would be “a huge economic engine” for any rural county, bringing an additional 1,200 jobs. “A lot of our fresh food now is trucked from California and Mexico,” Shuler said. “We need to look at how we can bring those types of crops to be grown, marketed and processed in South Carolina.” The state’s East Coast location – halfway between Virginia and Florida – makes it ideal for food preparation and shipping within a day. Shuler retired in 2011 and joined the SC Agriculture Department staff after a 38-year career in farm credit operations. A Clemson University graduate, he also has a Master’s Degree in Business and completed the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.
The coronavirus impact on South Carolina’s economic development is a mixed bag of good news, bad news and future unknowns, according to Megan Anderson (in photo), a global business project manager for Maxis Advisors and Capital Rotary’s Aug. 12 guest speaker. Despite the disease, Anderson says business prognosticators are “fairly positive” about job growth, increased capital and additional investment by both foreign and domestic firms. Good news includes: (1) companies aren’t “timid or worried” about the “new normal” of living with COVID-19; (2) firms have done their preliminary work and are ready to “pull the trigger whenever they feel it’s a safe time” for “rapid release of investment”; (3) emerging markets are likely in fields such as personal protective equipment and sanitation products; (4) pandemic-related job losses could be offset by these new industries’ need for workers; and (5) South Carolina has an inventory of available buildings and land for business sites. Bad news incudes: (1) stress caused by tax breaks or financial incentives tied to performance measures that companies now can’t meet; (2) a negative overseas perception of Americans as people who “can’t follow the rules” for face masks and social distancing; and (3) worries about worker safety and managing staff furloughs. Unknown economic factors include: (1) how working remotely will impact the need for and cost-effectiveness of buildings/offices; and (2) the future sustainability of new technologies and “the COVID-19 lifestyle” caused by the pandemic’s duration. Before joining Maxis Advisors, Anderson was a manager at the SC Department of Commerce. She has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in international business from the University of South Carolina.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary began its 2020-2021 year July 1 by inducting a new president, saluting the Rotarian of the Year and announcing Paul Harris Fellow honors in a biweekly Zoom session. Capital’s new president is Ben Carlton (in photo), a member since 2015, who practices corporate law with the Columbia firm of Richardson, Plowden & Robinson. Carlton is a graduate of North Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina’s Law School. He was a club director and secretary before serving as president-elect in the past year. Earning Rotarian of the Year honors for the second time was Neda Beal (at left in photo below with Sophia Bertrand of the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club). Beal – cited in 2016 for her work with several projects – was recognized anew for serving as liaison to the student group. Rotaract clubs are for adults ages 18-30 interested in community service, in developing leadership and professional skills, and who enjoy networking and social activities. USC Rotaract formed in 2010-2011; Capital Rotary became its host in 2018-2019. New Rotary Foundation donor honors went to Jack Williamson, Philip Flynn and Pete Pillow – all named Paul Harris Fellow Plus-Two givers (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with an additional gift in the same amount). The Foundation is Rotary International’s charitable arm to support world understanding and peace programs. Williamson, a former sergeant at arms, joined Capital Rotary in 2008, as did Flynn, a past president and current director. Pillow joined in 2006 and was Rotarian of the Year in 2018. The club is holding remote meetings currently in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Capital Rotary announced new Paul Harris Fellow honors and elected its slate of 2020-2021 officers and directors during a Zoom meeting on June 16. Neda Beal (in photo) was cited for her continuing donations to the Rotary Foundation in support of world understanding and peace programs. She is now a Paul Harris Fellow Plus-Six giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with six additional gifts at the same amount). Paul Harris Fellow recognition memorializes the Chicago attorney who helped found Rotary International in 1905. A Capital board member for several years, Beal was named club Rotarian of the Year in 2016.
New club officers and directors are: President – Ben Carlton; President-Elect – Austin McVay; Secretary, Membership – Lee Ann Watson; Treasurer – Bryan Goodyear; Sergeant at Arms – Andy Markl; Immediate Past President – Abby Naas (Foundation); Directors at Large – Catherine Mabry (Community Service); Neda Beal (Rotaract); Le Frye (Blood Donations); Philip Flynn (past president); and Ione Cockrell. Terms of office are July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2921.
Over the past seven years, the Office for Innovation, Partnership and Economic Engagement has become a focal point for industries melding the University of South Carolina’s resources with doing business in the Palmetto State. The result has been nearly $800 million worth of economic development, 620 jobs and $86 million in job-related impact, according to Bill Kirkland, the office’s executive director (in photo) and guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s June 3 meeting via Zoom. Kirkland said the engagement office’s work includes (1) corporate outreach; (2 help in licensing intellectual property; (3) innovation assistance for entrepreneurs; (4) support at the Innovista research campus in downtown Columbia; and (5) recruiting companies to the state. In the past six months, over $7 million in small business research grants have come as a result of the university’s “strategic creative partnership with corporate America,” Kirkland reported. For the past eight years, South Carolina has been among the top 100 universities granted U.S. patents. “We’re also the fifth fastest-growing manufacturing state in the nation,” Kirkland said. A former head of the university’s Columbia Technology Incubator, Kirkland also held executive management positions with IBM and Pfizer and was a managing partner for South Carolina-based LK Global Consulting. Capital Rotary has been holding biweekly video meetings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are working together to help boost economic development in the Palmetto State. That’s what Capital Rotarians heard from Jamie Frost at their Zoom meeting May 20. Frost is senior vice president of community preparedness for the SC Power Team, a nonprofit set up in 1988. It serves 20 co-ops across two-thirds of the state seeking more industry and commerce, especially in rural areas. The Power Team offers project management, retention and expansion of existing businesses, utility rate incentives, funds to help prepare industrial sites and infrastructure, an annual economic development review, training and strategic planning. Over the past six years, co-op and Power Team efforts were key for attraction and expansion of companies investing more than $6.4 billion and creating 30,000 jobs in the state. Frost joined the team in 2017 after working for a consulting engineers’ firm. He’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina, completed the Leadership South Carolina program, Class of 2019, and is City of Columbia Planning Commission member.
The head of the SC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has been inducted into Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club. Kitty Sutton – executive director of the legal nonprofit since 2013 – joined May 20 during the club’s second Zoom meeting. Remote sessions are being held every two weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Sutton is a Columbia native with both English and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, plus a Masters in English from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She’s worked at law firms in Mobile, Charleston and Columbia. She has been an adjunct professor at USC, the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College. Sutton is on the board of Justice 360, a group involved with juvenile justice and capital punishment issues. She’s also been a board member for Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and for Columbia’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, Communities in Schools and Carolina Ballet.
Giving youngsters a safe place to learn, eat and grow is the mission of Hope Foundation Liberia, according to Columbia attorney Mark Arden, a board member for the non-profit and guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s first Zoom meeting on May 6 (shown in photo). Arden detailed efforts to improve the lives of rural kindergarten students “physically, emotionally and mentally” in the poverty-stricken nation wracked by 14 years of civil war, followed by the Ebola epidemic. Hope Foundation renovated buildings to serve as a temporary school and dug a new well to bring clean drinking water to the community. A new school on seven acres of land is nearly finished. It has enrolled 160 children and has a curriculum including etiquette, agriculture, being kind to others and trusting in God in addition to reading and writing. Children are fed two meals daily and will learn how agriculture can promote sustainability for the school. Arden is a partner at Chappell, Smith & Arden and graduated from the University of South Carolina and the university’s School of Law.