Hayne Hipp Interview

Envision South Carolina Presents:
Hayne Hipp

Hayne Hipp has a vision for a greater South Carolina and it evolves around discovering and fostering the next generation of leaders around the state. To this end, Hipp founded the Liberty Fellowship, a program of seminars, service projects and Forums conducted in partnership with The Aspen Institute, Wofford College and Hipp himself.

Through the years Hipp has served as a Trustee for numerous Boards and organizations, but now the one-time CEO of Liberty Corporation devotes the bulk of his time to philanthropic efforts and developing those who he believes have the potential to make a lasting impact on South Carolina.

Hipp knows what it takes to be an effective and respected leader and gladly shared this and his thoughts of South Carolina’s “World-Class” pursuits recently with Phil Noble at Greenville University Center; a place he helped found.

NOBLE: What are our assets and what are our liabilities in terms of being competitive in this new world?

HIPP: Our assets are our people. Their positive attitude. Their approach to life. Their appreciation for where they are. The opportunities for which they seek. Our liabilities are mostly the creation of our own minds. There are some technical things that we need to deal with but I don’t think there’s anything significantly holding us back.

NOBLE: You think our people are significantly, qualitatively different than say Mississippi, or Texas or California?

HIPP: Yes I do think so, because South Carolina’s not a state, it’s a community. And a relatively small one at that. We can reach decisions, individually and collectively and we can do something about them quickly. As opposed to a place like California when you look at that size. Or a place like Mississippi when you look at the liabilities that they have on the educational front; the racial front. Just basically a poor economy. Or Texas, which is split right down the middle between being hardcore, rigid approaches on the conservative side and hardcore liberal approaches on the liberal side. We’re not burdened with those superficial distractions.

NOBLE: How do we in South Carolina overcome the geographical divides that separate us; the Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee, Lowcountry mentalities?

HIPP: South Carolina to a degree is still dealing with what I call the “silos of arrogance,” and they have held this state back for too many generations. I think we are beginning to address those “silos of arrogance;” which would be race, politics; conservative versus liberal; Democrat versus Republican. There would be urban versus rural. There would be religion. There would be Upstate versus Lower State. If we push our way through those and become more inclusive, and build that coalition and address those “silos of arrogance” that have held this state back for so many generations, that’s when we will have a very significant breakthrough.

NOBLE: The belief is that we can’t have economic development without improvements in education. If that is the case and I accept that it is, why is it that we still get the BMWs, or the Boeings; we still get the growth up the I-85 corridor?

HIPP: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson; this I-85 corridor, historically has been pro-business; has aggressively recruited businesses. Part of its success, at least in my lifetime, has been this collaboration between the government entities whether its county council, city council or a region and the business people and the people within the communities who are active. So there has been a real working relationship, and you can see that in the civic improvements in the communities, whether it’s a fine arts center or a community center. They know how to market; they understand that value; they know how to sell. Charleston does too to some degree. Columbia does as well to a lesser degree, but they’re at least aware of it. When you talk about “we’re doing fine,” you‘re talking about small areas in the state. We’re still plagued with the “Corridor of Shame.” You can step 30-35 miles outside of Greenville and find ample poverty. Ample lack of opportunity. So we can’t say we’re doing fine until we can include more people than are presently being included.

NOBLE: What was your thought process in creating the Liberty Fellowship? You clearly wanted to make an impact on the state by producing great leaders.

HIPP: It was a series of positives and negatives. On the positive side, my wife and I had been extremely fortunate and lucky to be here in South Carolina. We had a great family, great business and we loved where we are. On the negatives, it was a recognition that if we didn’t make changes in the status quo, or address some of the issues facing this state, we as a state weren’t going to get there. We were going to tip over. So we said, “With how we have been blessed, what could our payback be? Where could our participation be to make sure that we begin to address these issues?” So we decided that we would invest directly into the bloodstream of this state. Directly into the young leaders of this state who have the potential to make that change. This is a long term investment. This is a 10; 20 year investment. This is bringing together the young leaders, with a diversity perspective, with a wide range of thought and giving them the opportunity and the platform to sit down on a very concentrated basis in four seminars, five days each. All of those artificial barriers and “silos of arrogance” begin to break down. Then they decide what they can do individually and collectively to go about making the changes in the state.