November 14, 2011

Investing in Education

South Carolina is investing in higher education to create jobs.

Gary: These engineers are working on the next generation of buses at the Proterra bus assembly plant in Greenville, South Carolina.

One of them is Niraq Chirmulay. He landed this great job designing electric buses right after he graduated from an engineering program at Clemson University. The program is attracting some of the best minds from around the world.

Niraq Chirmulay: It’s almost nearly guaranteed employment when you graduate. So, what can be more attractive than that?

Gary: That is what lured him 8,000 miles away from his home in India to study in South Carolina.

The hi-tech program at Clemson is being funded through a South Carolina initiative called Smartstate. Since 2003, the state has spent $200 million to fund research centers at public universities like Clemson, creating technology hubs that they hope will attract new industries and create jobs.

More than 200 hundred companies have invested in Smartstate. The largest — BMW — gave $11 million. The state estimates 7,000 jobs have already been created statewide.

Imtiaz Haque runs the Clemson program.

Imtiaz Haque: One of the most critical things in the U.S. that we’re facing right now is not just a shortage of jobs, but a shortage of technical people that can actually fill those jobs. So, what we’re trying to do is close that particular gap.

Gary: And it is working because of the talented graduates Clemson produces. Proterra founder Dave Hill moved the location of his plant to Greenville.

Dave Hill: For us to maintain a two- to three-year lead on the industry, we need access to that talent. I want us to have access to the very brightest of the brightest.

Gary: So far, three large cities in the U.S. are ordering buses from Proterra. And the company is in talks with major cities across the country, from Los Angeles to New York, about producing buses for their transit systems. To do that, Proterra expects to hire another 1,200 people over the next several years.

South Carolina says Smartstate has brought in $1. 2 billion in business investment to a state that badly needs it. And now other states are looking at this example and thinking about what they can do too.

Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.


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