Guest post by Paul Newsom, associate professor of finance at USC Aiken with a doctorate in finance from the University of Arkansas, and a Masters in Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in pharmacy from Butler University. Paul serves as a member of the Mill on Park Advisory Council.
The August 2014 unemployment rate in the United States is 6.1 percent, down from 10 percent in October 2009. Interestingly, there is substantial variability among unemployment rates based on education. For example, the unemployment rate for individuals with less than a high school diploma is 8.6 percent whereas it’s 3.6 percent and 2 percent for individuals with a bachelor’s degree and a professional degree (e.g., nursing, engineering, pharmacy, education, or law), respectively. These figures show that more education increases the chances that you will be employed. Other government figures show similar results for salary. Individuals with more education possess characteristics and attributes that are valued more highly by the marketplace than individuals with less education.
Recently, U.S. News and World Report published its guide to “America’s Best Colleges” and USC Aiken is once again ranked No. 1 among public regional colleges in the South. As a financial economist, I understand the impact USC Aiken is having on the lives of individuals in the Central Savannah River Area and South Carolina. The university provides a quality, accredited education that helps South Carolina reduce unemployment and increase income per capita.
Since coming to USC Aiken five years ago, I’ve taught a course that requires students to develop, analyze, and present their own business idea. Around the same time Laura DiSano and Bob Clark started as business consultants at the Aiken Small Business Development Center, located on the USC Aiken campus. Together, we help interested students who take my course launch their businesses and help guide entrepreneurial minded students as best we can. Why look for jobs when you can create them? This may not seem like much, but students who have followed through with their ideas are filing patents and learning how to start small businesses.
In addition to efforts between USC Aiken and the Aiken Small Business Development Center, the USC system is continuing an entrepreneurial competition called the USC Proving Ground. The competition is awarding over $80,000 in cash and startup support for innovative business concepts. It is a three-month program that includes three rounds of competition with eliminations after each round. You must survive all three rounds to be eligible for prize money. The purpose of the competition is to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, and I’m encouraging my students to submit their work. Students who are serious about winning prize money will benefit from seeking help from the Aiken Small Business Development Center or SCORE. Regardless of the competition outcome, local resources are working together to help students explore the world of entrepreneurship and test their business concepts against other high quality startups. Why look for jobs when you can create them?
Another local entrepreneurial resource is The Mill on Park’s Innovative Entrepreneurs Forum. This group was created by Laura DiSano at the Small Business Development Center and the USC Aiken School of Business. It is being sponsored by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the forum is to identify innovative entrepreneurs within the Aiken business community and help them grow their businesses by providing them with support, education and mentoring. Through this collaborative effort, we hope to identify other local, innovators with novel products and services. The forum promotes dialogue, learning and communication to enhance business performance and development. Interested? Contact the USC Aiken School of Business.
A new effort in Aiken that is sponsored by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and hosted on the USC Aiken campus is the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. It is designed for middle and high school students. The goal of the academy is to develop business and social skills and foster an entrepreneurial mindset. I look forward to helping this new program succeed, and USC Aiken alumni and business students are ready to help these youngsters develop their own entrepreneurial spirit.
Finally, The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council develops annual state rankings on policy measures and costs impacting small business and entrepreneurship. In 2013, South Carolina ranked 17th on the policy index and 17th on the business tax index. Rankings like these are important. First, statewide policies and tax structures help retain existing in state businesses and attract out of state businesses. Second, the rankings signal to entrepreneurs where it is more efficient and value enhancing to locate their startups. It’s important to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship within South Carolina and to have policies and structures in place to keep startups from leaving the Palmetto state.
As a USC Aiken professor, it gives me great satisfaction to see USC Aiken, state and local government, the local Aiken business community, and others working together to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. USC Aiken business professors do not sit in their “ivory towers”, rather, we are active members of the local community who help others achieve their dreams and goals.