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For the first time in its 29-year history, the South Carolina Rural Summit will be held in Orangeburg County.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright said he is “happy and thrilled” the summit will be hosted by the county.

"That means a lot of people are looking at Orangeburg County," Wright said. "I think we have a chance by hosting this to really show what we have, what we are doing to make a difference."

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Roquemore Auditorium will be the site for the summit. The summit will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 4 and run through Tuesday, March 5 at 12:30 p.m.

"It is a big deal," Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said.

He said Orangeburg’s selection is a testament to the growth the county has seen over the past few years and how it is being proactive in “tackling the issues facing our community.”

"No one is perfect," he said. "We are trying to establish a game plan to address issues that make us better in smaller, bite-size pieces so we can improve and ultimately win more manufacturing projects and win more commercial, housing and retail.”

Robinson said the county's new hotels and facilities like Roquemore Auditorium show the county has made it.

"Now we can host conferences and conventions," he said.

The summit, which formerly was known as the Governor's Rural Summit, is sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Commerce. The governor is usually in attendance at the annual summit.

All of the state's 46 counties were given the opportunity to host the summit and Orangeburg County stepped up and offered its services, S.C. Department of Commerce Director of Marketing and Communications Adrienne Fairwell said.

The summit seeks to provide community leaders, economic developers and state officials the opportunity to come together and learn about innovative methods to improve rural South Carolina.

Additionally, the summit serves as a venue to honor individuals for work they've done to advance their communities.

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said it, “means a lot to our city to host such a great summit for the entire state.

"It could mean some economic advantages for our county."

Highlighting this year's summit will be keynote speaker, entrepreneur and author John Hope Bryant.

Bryant is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, Inc. the largest not-for-profit provider of financial literacy, financial inclusion and economic empowerment tools and services in the United States.

He has been named by American Banker magazine as 2016’s “Innovator of the Year”; Inc.’s “The World’s 10 Top CEOs” (honorable mention) and one of Time magazine’s “50 Leaders for the Future."

Bryant is also chairman and chief executive officer of Bryant Group Ventures and The Promise Homes Company, the largest for-profit minority-controlled owner of single-family residential rental homes in the U.S., and co-founder of Global Dignity.

The last five U.S. presidents have recognized his work, and he has served as an advisor to the last three sitting U.S. presidents from both political parties.

He has received hundreds of awards and citations for his work, including Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award and the John Sherman Award for Excellence in Financial Education from the U.S. Treasury.

Other speakers include Spartanburg-based Move Consulting leadership development specialist Elizabeth Jende Chevalier; S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt and S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, to name a few.

Early bird registration of $225 is available until 5 p.m. on Feb. 1. After 5 p.m., registration increases to $250 with cut-off registration on Feb. 10.

The event will be limited to 160 people.

When registering, individuals should RSVP for March 4’s Sunset on the Edisto event. This event will feature an oyster roast, gumbo, barbecue and more.

Registration for the summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on March 4.

Registration and tickets can be purchased by visiting www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-south-carolina-rural-summit-tickets-54372620973.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.


Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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