The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Singing Innovista’s Praises while Parroting Incorrect Data

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coble

Columbia Mayor Bob Coble has been among Innovista's biggest supporters.

Columbia Mayor Bob Coble touted the benefits of Innovista in last week’s State newspaper but it’s difficult to lend credence to his take on USC’s $140-million research campus when he’s clearly out of touch with what’s going on in area technology circles.

For example, Coble never misses a chance to highlight the USC Columbia Technology Incubator, as he did in last Wednesday’s piece, but he seems unaware of what’s going on at the Incubator, which receives funding from the city of Columbia, along with the state and the private sector.

In Coble’s piece on Innovista, he writes that the USC Columbia Technology Incubator has “assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 jobs held by minorities and women.”

If that’s true, then the Incubator has been stuck in neutral for quite some time. Consider:

  • In an op-ed Coble penned for The State back in April he wrote that the Incubator had “assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 minority and female jobs.”
  • Last fall, he wrote to the Free Times newspaper and said that the Incubator had “assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 minority and female jobs.”
  • He said the same thing more than a year ago in another State op-ed, writing that the Incubator had “assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 minority and female jobs.”
  • And in May 2008, Coble again wrote in The State that the Incubator had “assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 minority and female jobs.”

However, according to Incubator officials, the project has created more than 660 jobs since its inception, including more than 170 minority jobs.

Given that the city of Columbia charges the Incubator an annual rent of just $1 a year for their Laurel Street location and that Columbia has provided $75,000 in cash and $10,000 in utility payments since the Incubator’s launch, it might behoove Coble to get up to speed on what the city is getting for its investment instead of simply parroting out-of-date information.

Of course, Columbia’s problems with numbers are well known. Highlights include: 

  • In 2007, a pair of outside accountants brought in to look at Columbia’s books found the city had not balanced its bank accounts in 18 months. The city was also paying some of the same bills twice and was overpaying some employees by not withholding enough money for Social Security benefits;
  • The city’s risk management fund went from a $31 million surplus in 2002 to a $3.4 million deficit five years later, with officials unsure of what became of the money. Earlier this year, the city council hired someone to find out what happened, at a cost of $30,000; and
  • During the last fiscal year, the city posted a general fund deficit of approximately $9 million.

The issue with the Incubator figures is this: If Mayor Coble can’t get it right on something as relatively small as the number of jobs created, how can we trust him when he sings the praises of Innovista, which has sucked down more than $100 million in taxpayer funds and produced nary a single private sector job?

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Written by Cotton Boll Conspiracy

August 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

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