Doubling-Down on Long-Term Strategy Amidst Short-Term CrisisShare: Posted on
Since the founding of the Charleston Digital Corridor in 2001 we have sought unceasingly to understand the unique challenges inherent in developing a tech and life science economy – and then strived to address them. Flexible office and lab space options feature prominently as a key piece of infrastructure to support such an important and diverse economy.
Unlike lab space, which is specialized, expensive to build and therefore difficult to finance as investors cling to more secure investment options, there is an abundance of office space to support tech companies. However, unlike traditional office-dwelling businesses like financial, legal and accounting firms that typically sign long-term leases, the more dynamic nature of tech companies requires a considerably more flexible approach – think rolling monthly options and short-term leases. Not really the most preferable arrangement, to say the least, of property owners or financing sources.
In 2009, the City of Charleston responded to this challenge by developing the Flagship business incubator - the first of six tech-focused facilities that would be developed by the Charleston Digital Corridor. This was followed by the MUSC SCRA Innovation Center, a facility to support early-stage life science companies. Both have proven to be exceedingly successful in meeting the needs of Charleston's budding high-wage tech and life science community.
More recently, the city continued to support building additional capacity in support of Charleston's tech and life sciences community with the development of 22 WestEdge and Charleston Tech Center, both projects delivered while enduring various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With both properties 100% leased, the unwavering commitment by a public entity to proceed with these projects – despite the proclamations of the pundits that the future of work will shift from office buildings to work-from-home – has proven the correct decision and validated my belief in keeping focused on long-term strategy rather than be distracted by the latest short-term crisis.
A fundamental tenet I hold to is to never let a crisis go to waste. Rather than wait and see, look for and seize the opportunities. The Charleston Digital Corridor has leveraged the last three economic downturns to in fact expand capacity in support of Charleston's growing tech and life sciences community. We are not easily distracted by the so-called experts who are focused on gloom and doom commentary instead of creating long-term economic value for a community.
In the final analysis, the growth of Charleston's tech economy from 18 companies in 2001 to approximately 700 today, 202 that have graduated from the Flagship business incubator, is testament to commitment to the execution of a long-term strategy and providing the necessary infrastructure to allow companies to thrive.
Three key takeaways –
- The importance of public-private partnerships cannot be overstated.
- Stay focused on the long-term strategy.
- Exercise leadership in an environment of adversity.