The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

USC President Refuses to Acknowledge Innovista Failure

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Discovery I - Innovista 012

Many of the floors of Innovista's buildings are nothing more than empty shells, which can't be completed because of a lack of money.

Despite the clear failure of the “Innovista” research campus to live up to its promises of private investment and job creation, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides refuses to stop pouring tax dollars into this increasingly expensive fantasy.  

Pastides pledged his ongoing support of Innovista at a USC Board of Trustees meeting last week, just days after the school was forced to fire the project’s second developer.

“Innovista remains a bedrock strategy for stimulating economic development,” Pastides told the trustees. “Innovista is about creating knowledge, jobs and investment.”

First of all, government bureaucrats – specifically ivory tower educrats – should never be responsible for economic development.

And Innovista isn’t about any of the things Pastides mentioned – because it hasn’t created anything resembling what taxpayers were promised. Instead, it’s been about empty taxpayer-funded buildings and unfulfilled government promises.

At this point, taxpayers have coughed up more than $100 million for Innovista, without much to show for their investment.

Hydrogen transportation research, supposed to be one of the keystones to Innovista’s future, has proven to be a bust so far.

Despite pouring more than $40 million in tax dollars into hydrogen research over the past few years, S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell conceded recently that just 229 jobs had been created. And, many of those are state-supported academic positions, not private sector jobs.

Those results are obviously a far cry from the “thousands of high-paying jobs” that Innovista was supposed to create as it ushered in the “hydrogen economy of the future.”

In fact, even the free-spending administration of President Barack Obama has concluded that hydrogen transportation research is currently not practical (or profitable) enough to warrant public investment, further jeopardizing Innovista’s sustained viability.

South Carolinians obviously learned the lesson of hydrogen impracticability the hard way. At a combined cost of $2.7 million, our tax dollars purchased two hydrogen fuel filling stations – which is twice the number of hydrogen-powered cars currently operating in the state.

This is precisely why government shouldn’t try to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Instead of a thriving economic development hub, Innovista has instead turned into a dumping ground for existing university colleges and programs.

In fact, having moved the University’s Arnold School of Public Health into Innovista, Pastides boasted to the trustees that this “fully occupied” building is “teeming with Innovista activity” – although it’s not clear if the school of public health’s “activity” was any different from what it would have been doing in its old facility.

With no private sector prospects to speak of, Pastides was forced to tout the construction of two new taxpayer-funded parking garages, which are about as empty as the buildings they serve.

“There are also two parking garages in Innovista and, as you know, without the vital infrastructure of parking, growth could not occur,” he said.

Nor will it ever occur as long as we leave government in charge of creating it.

For a detailed recap of Innovista’s failed promises, click here.

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Written by Cotton Boll Conspiracy

August 10, 2009 at 9:20 am

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