July 11, 2006

Metro Chamber launches new Innovation division

Holly Fisher  /  The Charleston Regional Business Journal

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is focused on innovation, so much so it has created a new chamber division called "Innovation." Pennie Bingham, vice president of Innovation, announced the change Monday.

The purpose is three-fold: to facilitate the growth of knowledge-based businesses; to provide innovative resources to maintain continuity of operations in the event of a disaster; and to explore innovative chamber services.

Current chamber initiatives ThinkTEC and FastTrac, will be under the new Innovation division. ThinkTEC will continue to host the Homeland Security Innovation Conference and the ThinkTEC Innovation Summit.

New endeavors will include an opportunity fair at the Medical University of South Carolina, Bingham explained. The fair plans to bring together scientists from MUSC along with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists interested in turning science into business.

Also, under ThinkTEC, the chamber is creating a Coastal Executive Network in response to member feedback, Bingham said. This network of retired and semi-retired executives would provide leadership and advice to young entrepreneurs.

The chamber will continue to expand its FastTrac program around the state, which provides 10-week courses for entrepreneurs. FastTrac was also the force behind this year's New Carolina Business Idea Contest and will organize an Alternate Energy Symposium based on the large number of contest ideas focused on alternative energy sources, Bingham explained.

A goal of the Innovation division will be business continuity management a mission Bingham said is out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to innovation but critical to business sustainability. "In a disaster, you can have all these great ideas, but if you can't recover from the disaster, it hinders the (local) economy," she said.

The chamber will be connecting first responders with business leaders, so businesses can better understand how to prepare for a disaster and what emergency crews can and cannot do for them, Bingham said. The third focus of the Innovation division is making the chamber's overall member services more innovative webcasting meetings, for example, Bingham said.

"We're asking our staff to think of new ways to deliver our services," she said. The chamber's Web site will include a section for the Innovation division. In fact, the chamber is launching a completely redesigned Web site in about two weeks. The new site, Bingham said, will be "resource-rich."