Rock Hill tech hub will need Charlotte talent, study finds

05/30/2014 9:53 AM

05/30/2014 9:54 AM

Rock Hill will need to attract talent from Charlotte to make its Knowledge Park initiative viable, according to a new study commissioned by the South Carolina city.

Knowledge Park centers on the planned transformation of a former textile site, the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co., into a mixed-use development designed to attract technology-based businesses. Development of the site is seen as a key link in connecting Winthrop University and downtown Rock Hill. Knowledge Park also refers to an economic development strategy to bring high-tech jobs to the city.

The existing local pool of technology workers is not big enough to support the Knowledge Park effort initially, Creative Economic Development Consulting of Elkin, N.C., concluded.

Marketing the Charlotte labor pool gives potential Knowledge Park employers access to a larger pool of qualified talent, according to the study. Rock Hill’s talent pool “is not large enough to attract a medium- to large-sized technology company requiring highly educated/highly skilled talent,” the study states.

In addition, the study recommends that Knowledge Park be marketed to companies with 50 to 100 employees that require a mid-level set of technology skills. Possible prospects include information security, Web development and data processing.

The study also recommends leveraging the existing talent pool, which has experience in education, health care and manufacturing.

The shortfall of talent is not a surprise to Knowledge Park supporters, who early on identified a qualified labor force as a challenge.

The S.C. Department of Commerce recently awarded the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. a $250,000 grant to start a pilot program identifying and training more local technology workers.

Lou Pantuosco, a labor economist at Winthrop University, said the hope is retaining people with talent or getting people with talent to move to Rock Hill.

“It’s a slow process to earn a reputation,” he said. “We’re not the only place trying high-tech.”

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