VisionGreenwood Announces Digital Economy Ecosystem Program Designed to Foster Economic Growth in Rural Areas of Greenwood County
Greenwood, S.C. - VisionGreenwood, an established community partner dedicated to making Greenwood the best place in which to live, work and raise a family, is partnering with the South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) and the South Carolina Rural Innovation Network (SCRIN) to bring a government grant-funded Digital Economy Ecosystem (DEE) program to Greenwood County. VisionGreenwood will serve as the local organization assisting the SCRIN with the coordination of the DEE certification program that will help position Greenwood for future digital economic development opportunities.
For the third consecutive year, the SCORH has received a Rural Business Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand South Carolina's DEE program. The DEE program was launched in 2020 with USDA funding to establish digital economy ecosystems in Williamsburg and Barnwell counties. Orangeburg County was added to the project in 2021. This year's grant of $155,447 will bring the program to both Greenwood and Newberry counties.
"With five locations across the state, we have successfully established a DEE network across South Carolina," said Paola Gutierrez, the lead strategist who spearheads the project for the SCORH, along with Kim Bowman, founder and CEO of the SCRIN.
"VisionGreenwood is excited to be part of a proven program that will generate tangible results for the Greenwood community based on the program's success in the three other South Carolina counties," said Kay Self, Executive Director for VisionGreenwood.
Self further went on to explain, "For those unfamiliar with the term DEE, a digital economy ecosystem features technical education, job training, and community planning to foster technology-based entrepreneurship and remote work opportunities in rural communities. A successful digital economy ecosystem increases digital literacy, creates quality jobs, and builds wealth in the local community."
Over the next several months, community stakeholders will work with SCRIN to develop a rural innovation roadmap that reflects the communities' assets, competitive advantages, and goals for a digital economy. The roadmap may include education, job training, and leadership training in partnership with local libraries, public school systems, technical colleges, and four-year universities.
"In implementing the DEE program, we rely on state and non-profit partners who offer their expertise as we work together to move the needle forward on digital literacy in South Carolina," said SCORH’s Gutierrez.
SCRIN's Kim Bowman elaborated, saying, "A DEE is an interconnected system of people, programs, and structures working together to make it possible for technology-based entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers to thrive," Bowman said. "Every community kickstarts DEE revitalization from a different starting point, but we've seen how the process can encourage community buy-in, attract investors, and build momentum for a new way of life."
When asked about the overall timeline for implementing the program in Greenwood, VisionGreenwood's Self noted, “The DEE project is beginning this month with the first of three Broadband Champion Training sessions starting on September 20. By the end of June 2023, Greenwood County will have completed its customized roadmap and become a certified community – one of just five in the state.”
DEE Program Results in South Carolina To-Date
SCORH and SCRIN report that Orangeburg County has completed its roadmap development process and will move into the implementation phase in the coming year. In Barnwell and Williamsburg counties, the DEE project has resulted in new co-working spaces, summer tech institutes for middle and high school students, a program for schools to showcase STEM programs to the business and manufacturing communities, a downtown farmer's market, new courses in drone technology and website design at Williamsburg Technical College and expanded telehealth availability.
About Vision Greenwood
VisionGreenwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with deep roots in the Greenwood community. Throughout the past 20 years, VisionGreenwood (formerly known as the Foundation for a Greater Greenwood County, Inc.) has invested over $2.9 million into the community by supporting collaborative community development initiatives that provide economic prosperity and enhance the growth and success of Greenwood. The Foundation was originally created to support the former Greenwood Partnership Alliance's charitable operations with a focus on community and workforce development. The Foundation became a stand-alone organization in 2020 and was rebranded as VisionGreenwood in 2021. By intent and design, VisionGreenwood continues to be a community partner that is focused on Greenwood's future, its economic growth and development, and its quality of life. Learn more at www.visiongreenwood.org.
About the South Carolina Office of Rural Health
The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) is a non-profit organization with a mission to close the gap in health status and life expectancy between rural and urban communities in the Palmetto State. SCORH has been promoting investment, opportunity and health within rural communities since 1991. With 27 percent of our state's residents living in rural areas, SCORH believes in preserving the unique character of rural communities without compromising their opportunities and access to critical services.