Erwin Maddrey

  1. 90 second interview link (Youtube)
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  2. One 3 minute fully edited “interview highlights” link (Youtube)
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  3. 800-1000 word edited interview for print features
  4. Bio

    Hometown: Winston Salem, North Carolina
    Education: B.A. Davidson College; MBA, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    Occupation: President, Maddrey and Associates; Philanthropist
    Other Notables: Current Furman University Trustee; Serves on the Boards of: Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina, KEMET Corporation, and Delta Apparel Inc.; Former President, COO, and Director of Riegel Corporation (now part of Mount Vernon Mills); Co-Founder, Delta Woodside Industries; Currently serves as Chair of the Greater Greenville Forum, Chairman of the SC Governor’s School of the Arts Foundation

  5. Lead-In Quote
    “… We have to move the educational needle so that we are training people for $70,000, $80,000, $90,000; $100,000 a year jobs, instead of training them for $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000 a year jobs.”
  6. Photograph of Subject
  7. Sidebar for interviewer: Phil Noble lives in Charleston and is president of a global technology firm. He has launched several innovative non-profit initiatives, including Envision SC which he co-founded with College of Charleston President, George Benson. phil@philnoble.com
  8. Envision SC Sidebar

    Envision South Carolina is a statewide initiative where some of the state’s brightest innovators and thinkers share success stories and insightful perspectives aimed at motivating and engaging others to do the same. The goal of Envision South Carolina is to inspire the Palmetto State to become world class in technology, education and business, while simultaneously encouraging residents of all ages to “dream, learn, and share” ideas on www.EnvisionSC.org, with our media partners and with others around the world.

  9. Envision South Carolina Logo

Erwin Maddrey Interview

Envision South Carolina Presents:

E. Erwin Maddrey II 

Though he originally hails from North Carolina, over the course of the past 30 years, Erwin Maddrey has undeniably, built a legacy of service and entrepreneurship that rivals any native.  He has served on over 50 Boards, many of which are based right here in the Palmetto State.

As a Co-Founder of Delta Woodside Industries, Maddrey helped create one of the state’s largest and most profitable textile entities in the Upstate.  These days, Maddrey devotes much of his time to philanthropic efforts and is devoted to helping South Carolina grow.

Recently this textile insider and expert took a moment from his packed daily schedule, and met with Phil Noble and Envision South Carolina in his adopted hometown of Greenville to discuss South Carolina’s struggling textiles industry, education, and good business practices, among many other topics.

NOBLE: Did the Textile business, particularly in the Upstate and the textile folks, did they miss the boat?  Did we as a state, the political and economic leadership, learn a lesson with textiles and now we are with the right mindset, engaging in the global marketplace? 

MADDREY: I think the attitude is better, but there’s still this thinking that if I make it cheap enough everything is fine.  The whole economic development stuff in this state for a lot of years has been pointed at we’ll bribe somebody to come here and use our cheap labor as compared to saying we’re going to take our money, put it into our colleges and advanced education, so that we have the smartest people in the world, who are going to get the most money when those companies come here…  And it’s not just Ph.D. type people.  I’m talking about good technicians.  South Carolina was in a real leading position when the Tech schools started.  When we got technical schools started in this state, we were ahead of most states, and we did a lot of good brining businesses in.  But since then we’ve kind of drifted.  Tech schools are talking about they have to have English.  They have to have all of the supplemental stuff and so companies that need highly trained technicians have trouble getting them here… We’re not preparing people coming out of schools for what they have to have to succeed.  And as a result, people who are…. not financially succeeding; they’re not paying a lot of taxes, they’re not making a lot of money and guess what, South Carolina’s a poor state.  That’s why it’s poor.  We’ve attracted companies that are looking for low cost production…

NOBLE:  Is all of this stuff up and down the I-85 Corridor; is it still low cost production, but it’s just higher than what it was, so we feel better about it, as compared to Germany, Switzerland, or Canada?

MADDREY:  It’s real important to look at what these plants are making.  In many cases they are down towards the bottom of that particular company’s product line as far as inventory.  If you look at the Greenville area; the Upstate area, the wage rate has been declining for about 10 years.  10 years ago those textile jobs were paying a lot more than some of these other plants that are around here.  And regardless of whether it’s compared to a German plant or a New England plant, those are low wages…

NOBLE: Are we engaging in the next level up of sweat shops? Are we making a quantum leap or are we just ratcheting up the floor in terms of our labor?

MADDREY :  I don’t think we’re doing quantum leaps.  There are examples, don’t get me wrong.  Across the board when the total wages are dropping as opposed to…. I’d probably compare it to the United States average wage…. We’re falling further and further behind.  The last couple of years it’s kind of leveled out at about a 20% discount, but before that it was getting a little bit worse every year.  So maybe it’s going to level and start to move up, but we really don’t know.

NOBLE:  …How do we need to make a realignment to aim to be world class?  What are the factors that we have to align?

MADDREY:  One key factor is time.  If you look at the impact of globalization and let’s just use China and South Carolina as examples.  When you globalize by making things wherever the best cost is, you get the cost advantage first and then you get the leveling of that.  In other words the cost advantage would come in quicker and the savings advantage would come along later.  The inflation rate is rising much higher in China than it is in the United States.  After a number of years, I’m not saying the labor will be exactly equal, but that differential will get smaller).  And we’re already seeing it.  We’re seeing companies leaving China going to places like Vietnam… those kinds of places.  You can almost build a case, if you leave out Africa for the moment; that the labor cost has basically been squeezed out.  You’re now seeing revolts in China over wages that’s going to put upward pressure on those people.  The second thing which is really what we can do, because the timing thing we can’t really do anything about that is we have to move the educational needle so that we are training people for $70,000, $80,000, $90,000, $100,000 jobs, instead of training them for $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000 a year jobs.   …We’re turning out graduates from schools and colleges, sure, but how many M.I.Ts do we have in this state?  How many Cal Techs and places like that; that are all there because of major investments in the professors that are there and the labs that are there and those kinds of things.   I think we’re so convinced we have so little money, this is a Legislative move; there’s so little money we’re so poor we can’t afford to teach people…

John Rivers

  1. 90 second interview link (Youtube)
    Embedded Code
    <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/ZhJOnppC29g” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
  2. One 3 minute fully edited “interview highlights” link (Youtube)
    Embedded Code
    <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/KX-gLCBtMlw” allowfullscreen></iframe>
  3. 800-1000 word edited interview for print features
  4. Bio

    Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina
    Education: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
    Occupation: President & CEO Rivers Enterprises; Philanthropist; Entrepreneur, Social Advocate and Fundraiser
    Other Notables: The Rivers Family owned WCSC, Inc. (sold 1997); Former Chair South Carolina Educational Television, Past Board Member Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston Industrial Association, the Charleston Travel Industry Development Council, and the Citizens & Southern National Bank of SC, (organizer of the newly established Bank of South
    Carolina).
    Website: riversenterprises.com

  5. Lead-In Quote
    “It’s really important that everybody who has the ability to invest in their community make that investment.”
  6. Photograph of Subject
  7. Sidebar for interviewer: Dr. Brian McGee is Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the President. Dr. McGee previously served as chair of the College’s Department of Communication. A member of
    the College of Charleston faculty since 2004, he is a professor of communication and a faculty
    associate in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston. You can
    contact Dr. Brian McGee at: mcgeeb@cofc.edu

  8. Envision SC Sidebar

    Envision South Carolina is a statewide initiative where some of the state’s brightest innovators and thinkers share success stories and insightful perspectives aimed at motivating and engaging others to do the same. The goal of Envision South Carolina is to inspire the Palmetto State to become world class in technology, education and business, while simultaneously encouraging residents of all ages to “dream, learn, and share” ideas on www.EnvisionSC.org, with our media partners and with others around the world.

  9. Envision South Carolina Logo

John Rivers Interview

Envision South Carolina Presents:
John M. Rivers Jr.

John Rivers’ family has long been an integral part of the city of Charleston. Take a walk with him through the President’s office at the College of Charleston, and it’s impossible to not feel a sense of awe and respect, as he points out past family members who have overseen the institution.

Today, Rivers continues in his family’s tradition of philanthropic and advocacy work, and is
currently or has been a member of over 50 Boards. After speaking with John Rivers for just a few moments there is one thing that becomes blatantly clear: John Rivers loves South Carolina and has dedicated his life to enhancing the state’s education system, South Carolina Educational Television, business development and every other area his expertise may be sought.

Rivers recently sat down with the College of Charleston’s Dr. Brian McGee to offer his insight and perspective on building a world class and globally connected South Carolina for the future.

MCGEE: How would you describe South Carolina to someone who didn’t know the state well…?

RIVERS: It would be real simple…South Carolina is the best. We have so many things that are good here and we are often portrayed as a bozo state. And a lot of the negative things that happen in our state are the things that get publicized but little things, that are really huge things (do not), like the quality of education offered by the College of Charleston, offered by Clemson, offered by our Medical University for example. There really is nothing finer. And what we need to do, in my humble opinion, is that we need to focus our resources and use a rifle shot instead of a shotgun approach as to how we do things. And we need to build clusters of excellence. Again taking Clemson as an example and what they’ve done with their ICAR Project. And looking at Greer and what has gotten done with the BMW plant. That’s a wonderful example of what can be done economically. Look at the University of South Carolina and aerospace and what they’re doing. Look at what we’re doing here in cancer research at the Medical University. Look at the College of Charleston and the quality of students we’ve attracted…

MCGEE: You have not only been a successful business leader and entrepreneur and visionary for this community throughout your business career, but you’ve also been a leading philanthropist and volunteer. How do you see philanthropy and volunteerism being something that should be important to the future of this state?

RIVERS: I do think it’s essential. I think that a community is only as good as the people who live in that community. I was always raised with the idea that, “to whom much has been given, much is expected, and expected to give back in return what we’ve received.” I am always looking for ways that I can be more philanthropic. Unfortunately I can’t do all of the things that I want to do. Going back to what I said originally, “People make the place.” A person has got to make a decision. Is it better to support the symphony or an arts program or scientific research at the Medical University, for example, or building a park or a greenway, is it better to do that or to engage in what I call self-indulgence and have a 160 foot yacht, that’s got a crew of 16, how many state rooms, how many G-5 airplanes that you have. That’s a personal decision. My personal decision is that I think I should live within certain parameters and not do everything that I can do just because I can do it. I’ve got to look beyond myself. And that’s what I teach my children…. It’s that old cliché, the letter “I” is not in the word “we,” or “us,” and the word “our.” I think it’s really important that everybody who has the ability to invest in their community make that investment.

MCGEE: …What do you think our prospects are in terms of moving the state forward and becoming “world class” in every respect; the envy of all of the other states and a global player?

RIVERS: That is a big question, but I think it all starts with leadership and the tone that that
leadership sets for the rest of the state. In today’s environment that really has got to come from our Legislative Branch. The government setup back in 1875, when Wade Hampton brought “order” to chaos after the Civil War (was) with a weak governor and a strong Legislature so that we would never, presumably, or the state would never have a minority in a position of leadership. I think it goes back to the idea of restructuring our state government and getting our state government to set the tone for what the priorities for the state should be. And once that’s set at the state level, I think that each community needs to set its own goals and objectives. The goals and objectives for Greenville, for that particular region, may be different than the goals and objectives that are set in Charleston, or Spartanburg, or Florence, or Aiken….However, all of those need to be knitted together as part of the fabric that will let us accomplish the goals that are setup by the Governor and the two Legislative Branches that we have. To me that’s where it all starts….I think we have the natural resources, the physical natural resources here. The big thing for me is to be able to attract the intellectual capital and the real financial capital that we need to really grow. Where we’re headed right now with again, using Boeing, using BMW as examples, we have opportunities that no other state has. And because of our history of really not having capital and not making a lot of mistakes that a lot of states made in the last 100 years, I think we somehow have a fresh canvas to paint on. And if we can get our priorities straight and be sensitive to our environmental needs, and create an environment that will attract that intellectual capital and that investment capital, I think that our potential is really unlimited… I’m very optimistic about what’s happening…

MCGEE: Knowing what you know, what advice would you give to young South
Carolinians?

RIVERS: The very young ones, I would say read. Learn to read and read everyday, every night. Get your parents to read to you. Read to your parents…

Walter Alessandrini Interview

Envision South Carolina Presents:
Walter Alessandrini

Success. Perhaps no other word can truly define the career of Walter Alessandrini and his
professional pursuits throughout the years. He has served as CEO of major international
corporations, and in each case under his stewardship, those companies have prospered and grown.

As President and CEO of Union Switch & Signal, Alessandrini moved a portion of the
company’s operations from Pittsburgh, PA, to Columbia, instantly becoming a fixture in the
professional and civic community of the state capitol. His successes there led to his becoming CEO of Pirelli Cables and Systems, North America where his leadership and vision immediately impacted the company’s bottom line and ultimately made it into a financial success. Stints as President and CEO of Avanex and Chairman and CEO of the recently sold Ometric followed.

Alessandrini admittedly recognizes that he has “flunked his retirement several times,” but that is as much a testament to his innovative thinking and willingness to take risks where he deems it necessary, than anything else.

Recently Alessandrini sat down with Phil Noble and Envision to discuss among many topics, the new Silicon Valley, his Italian roots, and of course South Carolina’s need to be willing to take more risks on its quest to become world class.

And for the record, he’s no longer retired… again.

NOBLE: As you’ve said to me earlier, you’ve retired several times but keep flunking your retirement. Why did you decide to get involved with South Carolina companies again as opposed to Silicon Valley or anywhere in the world you could be?

ALESSANDRINI: I really believe in South Carolina and the potential this state has. I always
felt what happened with Silicon Valley, which was not by accident, but it was by determination, could happen in South Carolina… We have some fabulous learning institutions here. We have a beautiful place which attracts people. We have very strong work ethics. To me the idea was you’ve got to start and set an example; build some success, and then when people realize that it’s possible, then they start to do something. So in part for this reason, Ometric was started in 2005…. Ometric, after 5 years, was successfully sold to a Fortune 100 company. This is a clear example that you can get things done here and very successfully. Now I’m helping another startup, quasi-startup, company in Greenville which is in the Cloud business. I’m also helping to start a company which is dealing in 3-D printing. I believe there are lots of opportunities here.

NOBLE: What is it that keeps South Carolina, as you say, from becoming that Silicon Valley? What do you think is holding us back?

ALESSANDRINI: I believe that events….developments that happen in places like Silicon
Valley… first of all they require very strong leadership. If you identify Frederick Terman
as the Father of Silicon Valley… he found himself in this “Cathedral in the Valley:” that’s
where Stanford was. It was in the middle of nowhere. And he started to go and reach out
and bring in people, and change the university’s traits from being a teaching institution to an institution that was actually helping start-ups. It took the three C’s: Creativity, Cooperation, and Communication; together to get this all done. You need that leadership. I feel that sometimes we don’t have that kind of leadership here. We tend to be a little too fragmented. I believe we should have regional and state interests at heart rather than the Greenville, the Columbia, and the Charleston interests. We should really avoid that fragmentation, which is not in our own interests. And then you have other things which will develop. For instance, we don’t have a culture of speed… that is one of the benefits to living in South Carolina. However, today in any business, you have to be very fast. That’s really a basic competitive advantage or weapon that you have. And the other thing is I don’t think we have the big culture of risk taking. It is very common in areas like Silicon Valley, you startup a little company and people will jump ship from big companies with benefits… and all that they have and jump in and take risks, because they believe if that works it will make a big difference in their lives. In South Carolina, this culture of risks… I don’t think it’s widespread; probably limited to fewer people.

NOBLE: How do you spur creativity? You don’t think of the South, other than literature, as being a creative place.

ALESSANDRINI: …I believe that creativity can be taught. My personal opinion is that we
do the opposite. We stifle creativity, particularly in small kids with regards to their education, because we want to regiment them…. So I believe that his can be taught. So you can help people develop the creative process. Of course it has to start with learning institutions, which often times don’t seem to be very creative themselves and are often compartmentalized in their department interests … that’s something that you can spur, I believe.

NOBLE: What would you tell a businessman who is thinking about making an investment somewhere in the world, why he should come to South Carolina?

ALESSANDRINI: … First of all it depends on what investment it is. We clearly have a very
strong expertise in manufacturing. Manufacturing was seen in the past as a way of creating jobs. I think that now we should look at manufacturing as an expertise and a competitive leverage that companies can have, even if it produces fewer jobs because of automation. We have tremendous work ethics. I had manufacturing plants all over the world and South Carolina, I know, was an extremely bright spot…We have an infrastructure that can really help a company…As I said before, you have a lot of people who want you to be successful here, so they can help. Sometimes it takes just a few phone calls and people will try to solve a problem; make sure that your company can move on without (too much) red tape or things like that. And Plus it’s a beautiful place that attracts people.