SC State and Francis Marion launch the I-95 Corridor Initiative

Monday, April 07, 2008

 

 

Seeking innovative ways to address long-running development challenges in eastern South Carolina, South Carolina State University and Francis Marion University have announced the launch of the new I-95 Corridor Initiative. The initiative is due to the efforts of two area state senators who led the way to obtain funding for the project during the 2007 legislative session. Sen. John. W. Matthews of Orangeburg, supported by Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman of Florence, made the case to extensively assess and improve human service needs along the I-95 corridor.

Sixteen counties along Interstate 95 form the Corridor, a racially diverse region of farms and small towns between the rapidly developing coast and the growing state capital in Columbia.

To kickoff the initiative, the universities have commissioned the first detailed and comprehensive study of the region, to be conducted throughout 2008. The study will provide recommendations for development strategies and specific projects for federal, state and private investment.

“It is important that two institutions of higher learning have taken the lead to come together for economic development along I-95. I know that the study will offer tremendous results for those of us who live along the corridor,” Matthews remarked.

The universities have contracted with RTI International, a leading nonprofit research organization headquartered in North Carolina, to conduct the study.

In commenting on the project, Leatherman said, “I was absolutely delighted to get funding for the study of the I-95 Corridor. The area bordering Interstate 95 is one of the most economically-neglected sections of our state. We must do everything possible to promote development in this region.”

A team of researchers from RTI will visit communities along the I-95 Corridor throughout 2008, to interview community and business leaders and gather data on the needs and resources of the region.

Public participation in the study will be a key to its success, said RTI’s Dr. Toby Moore, who is directing the research project.

“Our research project is based on the idea that the people who know the region the best are the ones who live and work there,” Moore said. “When we combine that local knowledge with RTI’s expertise in education, public health and regional development, we can provide a really valuable blueprint for the future.”

To ensure public participation, researchers will hold public meetings and briefings, solicit input through a Web portal, and work with the universities and community organizations.

The 16 counties included in the study are Dillon, Darlington, Marion, Florence, Lee, Williamsburg, Sumter, Clarendon, Calhoun, Orangeburg, Colleton, Bamberg, Hampton, Beaufort, Jasper and Marlboro.

“A major part of SC State University’s mission is to collaborate with other entities to provide economic and social growth for our citizens. Economic Development for our state is an important enterprise that determines and shapes our future. We are excited about the tremendous impact the I-95 Corridor study will have on South Carolina,” said Dr. Leonard A. McIntyre, President of SC State University.

Founded in 1896 as the state's sole public college for black youth, SC State has played a key role in the education of African-Americans in the state and nation. Today, more than 5,000 students study at its campus in Orangeburg.

FMU was founded in 1970 in response to the need for a public higher education institution in the Pee Dee region of the state. Its campus near Florence now enrolls nearly 4,000 students.

RTI International is one of the world’s leading research institutes, dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. With projects in more than 40 countries and a staff of more than 2,600, RTI offers innovative research and technical solutions to governments and businesses worldwide. RTI International is a trade name of Research Triangle Institute.

For more information about the I-95 Corridor Initiative and the RTI study, please contact FMU’s Vice President for Public and Community Affairs Libby Cooper at (843) 661-1221, email ecooper@fmarion.edu or SC State’s Director of University Relations and Marketing Erica Prioleau at (803) 533-3617, email esprioleau@scsu.edu.