Editorial | Envision SC effort aims to change perceptions of our state

08/27/2013 11:33 AM

08/27/2013 11:34 AM

What do you envision when you hear the name of our state? Lapping waves? Coastal dunes? Historic battlefields? Seafood? All of the above?

Now, what do you think folks elsewhere – i.e., businesses looking for a place to set up shop or relocate – think of?

No matter how many times someone on the other end of the telephone in a government office says “It’s a great day in South Carolina,” that’s not the national perception of our state.

Changing that perception is, in a nutshell, what Envision SC aims to do.

The first phase of Envision, which grew out of a column written by Phil Noble and propelled into being by College of Charleston President George Benson, aimed “to gather ideas from interviews with SC’s ‘best and brightest’ about what we need to do to make SC world class and globally connected in the new, competitive world of the 21st century,” according to EnvisionSC.org.

They began the effort in late 2012 through a series of interviews broadcast on television stations and published in newspapers, including this one, across the state. The interviews were with 30 or more noteworthy South Carolinians, some of whom are familiar names and some who aren’t. The mix represented a broad spectrum of the state’s creative achievers, from historian Walter Edgar to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to journalist Kerri Forrest, a two-time Emmy winner who returned to start her own company in her home state from her role as Washington senior producer for “The Early Show” on CBS.

Now the project moves into its next phase, one that will determine whether it will make a difference in the state’s progress – and its image – or die trying.

That was the goal of a meeting Aug. 5, which included a number of early interview subjects along with others organizers hope will help carry the effort forward. The project, currently funded in part by The Palmetto Project, hopes its next steps will solicit and nurture the great ideas they believe bubble within our collective imaginations.

How will they do that? Those specifics are still in the works and will depend on finding someone who has the passion and experience to carry the torch to highlight and fuel the ideas that emerge.

One thing they know for sure is that they want to avoid the quicksand that is South Carolina politics. A worthy goal, but one that will be difficult if not impossible to accomplish. For one thing, that goal became immediately entangled in one of the state’s biggest challenges to achievement – education.

Organizers said they don’t intend for the project to tackle the education system, because that topic is so wrapped in political barbed wire. True, that. But dreams of making the state “world class and globally connected in the new, competitive world of the 21st century,” are unlikely to come to fruition without some focus on that most basic building block.

That said, we endorse the effort and share their belief that answers lie with the people of the state. We are, after all, the ones who see the problems from the ground level, and that understanding is key to developing solutions.

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