Foreword by Ed Sellers
By Ed Sellers
Chairman, South Carolina Council on Competitiveness
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
This is the 2008 State of Black South Carolina, published by the Columbia Urban League. Its fundamental purpose is to address issues facing African American South Carolinians. Its goal is to raise awareness, promote discussion and encourage solutions to help advance the well-being of African Americans and all South Carolinians. The book is a thoughtful analysis of critical factors driving ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities throughout our state and it offers insights and recommendations for how we might work toward remedying some of the disparities.
I am thrilled to have been asked to write the foreword for this 2008 Edition. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and the founding Chair for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, I spend a large part of my time in both organizations focusing on people, partnerships and productivity. Finding ways to bridge the ethnic and socioeconomic gaps that challenge our state’s competitiveness against the nation and the Southeastern region is critical to our ability to grow and thrive. I am one of many business and political leaders across the state who are focused on and passionate about creating and improving opportunities for all South Carolinians, especially African Americans.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is one of the state’s largest and fastest-growing companies. We have a widely diversified workforce, 40% of which is African American. Our employees are the single driving force behind the company’s growth and success over the years, and Blue Cross would not be where it is today without the talent, skill and dedication of all its employees. Improving the educational and economic well-being of African Americans and all South Carolinians is crucial for growing and sustaining a productive workforce that will help South Carolina companies continue to grow and provide well-paying jobs. As an example, at Blue Cross, one of our greatest competitive strengths is our technology and information systems capabilities. We have an internal Information Technology school which has graduated over 200 people in the last four years. Fifty percent of those graduates are African American. That wasn’t intentional. We just hired and trained the best people we could find. This is just one example of how Blue Cross is working to eliminate some of the ethnic and socioeconomic gaps within our employee ranks.
The concept for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness began in 2003, fueled by a sense of frustration and passion about the state of South Carolina’s economic standing relative to the rest of the nation. At that time, multiple business organizations and government entities, including the Department of Commerce, the Palmetto Business Forum, the Palmetto Institute and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce came together to form what is now known as New Carolina, the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. More than 50 leaders from all over the state formed the first Board of the new Council, which together with partners is helping to drive the movement toward a New Carolina -- a South Carolina with a brighter future and competitive winning economy. Today, over 250 individuals are actively engaged in committees and task forces working to raise the average annual income of all South Carolinians across all sectors, industries and races.
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