Thanks to a combination of vision and luck, the Enterprise Campus at Midlands Technical College and its Business Accelerator are rocking and rolling. Three independent businesses, each having made the decision to relocate to the Business Accelerator off Farrow Road, have created a synergistic relationship that has propelled South Carolina to the center of the alternative fuels arena.
Tom Ledbetter joined Midlands Technical College in 2003 as director of corporate services and was recently named associate vice president/executive director of the Enterprise Campus. One of his duties is to entice businesses to locate their offices on this campus, not only to serve as business models for students and to attract similar businesses to the state, but also to create onsite-learning centers where students can develop the skills they need to embark on their careers. In return, the businesses have access to a talent pool to which they can teach skills and eventually provide jobs. Tom explains, “The intent is to partner with established companies that are trying to develop products that have growth potential that yields jobs with futures.”
Tom Ledbetter, director of corporate services and vice president/executive director of the Enterprise Campus, is tasked with enticing businesses to the accelerator to serve as business models for students, attract similar businesses to the state and create onsite-learning centers where students can develop skills they need to embark on careers. Photography by Brett Flashnick/Flashnick Visuals, LLC.
Sam Logan, Jr., Glen Mosser, Jr., and Ron Seftick all made decisions, for various reasons, to locate their businesses to this campus. Not realizing how important each business would be to the other, they created a symbiotic professional quadrangle in conjunction with MTC and its students. These businesses are becoming each other’s best customers and have provided the college’s students with training in some of the most progressive job and economic areas of the future.
Glen Mosser, Jr., graduated from Eau Claire High School in 1963 then earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of South Carolina. He worked with IBM at Cape Kennedy as a test engineer on the Saturn V launch vehicle for the Apollo program. “I participated in the early manned missions, including Apollo 11, the first moon landing,” he says. In 1975, Glen moved back Columbia to work with his father and brother in the family business, Space Roofing and Sheet Metal, Inc. In 1984, they started Space Metal Fabricators, an engineering firm, machine shop, metal fabricator and robotics integrator. Tom approached Glen in 2009 and proposed that if he leased space on the technology campus, it would give the college the opportunity to showcase this type of business in South Carolina, plus it would provide engineering students with an applicable training environment for a particular skill set. “We love that many of our techs are trained through Midlands’ Machine Tool Technology program,” says Glen.
Glen Mosser, Jr., of Space Metal Fabricators, is happy to have a presence at the Enterprise Campus because he is able to provide engineering students with an applicable training environment. Photography by Robert Clark.
Sam Logan, Jr., is a 1970 graduate of Sewanee and a 1978 graduate of the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, Calif. He served as a Marine Captain and Naval Aviator. In 1993, he founded LOGANEnergy Corporation with an eye toward becoming the world leader in fuel cell energy solutions. Today, Sam is CEO of the company and of LOGANEnergy Limited, UK, and his business is the leading provider of fuel cell solutions to the Department of Defense. He and his wife of 47 years, Lizbeth, live in Atlanta, but the company chose to expand its presence in the Midlands through the formation of a South Carolina LLC, “because South Carolina has a strong focus on fuel cell technology, and also because of location, technical support, financial incentives and creative networking. The Enterprise Campus provides us with space, a safe working environment in a very collegiate atmosphere, and colleagues with a shared objective in areas of specialized expertise … in our case to create cleaner, more effective systems that provide enhanced security for business continuity.”
Ron Seftick, originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., earned a degree in economics from Washington & Jefferson. He and his wife, Linda, moved to New York City in 1974, when Ron was offered a job with General Electric, and then to Chicago in 1987, when he was named vice president of Zenith Controls. Ron’s jobs took him all around the world, and he took on several large roles with several companies before he was recruited as CEO of Trulite Technology. MTC’s “whole package” offering was the reason behind Trulite’s decision to move its manufacturing operations to Columbia, while maintaining an advanced engineering group in Northern California. “MTC’s vision – including the Business Accelerator and its state of the art facilities, an available model shop that would be the envy of a Fortune company as well as a fuel cell technician program which creates and provides a ready workforce – was a motivating factor in our decision to locate in South Carolina. The vision of this campus is to train and offer students a job to walk in to after a two-year program. Or, if students want a four year degree, they can finish up at the University of South Carolina and come back here to work,” Ron explains. “The entreprenuership, vision and support of everyone in South Carolina has been a real eye opener for me and has been a key reason we are so focused on the ultimate success of the company. The support at Midlands has been extraordinary and Tom Ledbetter is a true visionary.”
Sam Logan, Jr., CEO of LOGANEnergy Corporation, expanded his company’s presence to South Carolina because of the state’s strong focus on fuel cell technology. Photography courtesy of Sam Logan.
So how do these businesses interrelate? Tom says, “MTC is providing the space, Space Metals is providing the production, and Trulite and LOGANEnergy are providing the need.” LOGANEnergy integrates its power electronics and energy storage packages with fuel cell power systems to provide enhanced energy security to its customers’ critical power applications. Trulite develops and designs an actual fuel cell product which is passed on to a business like LOGANEnergy, which specializes in designing and developing fuel cell projects. Space Metals is an engineering, robotics, and metal manufacturing company that helps Trulite and LoganEnergy with design and production and any other engineering help they need.
One of Space Metal’s many tasks is to design and manufacture the tooling needed to assemble and test the cartridges for Trulite’s hydrogen fuel cells. Trulite’s research and production of hydrogen fuel cells is one of the most promising and technologically and economically advanced alternative fuel choices for the world. “Hydrogen fuel cells have all the properties of a battery but all the benefits of a generator in that they can be refueled,” says Ron. “And they are extremely safe, can be used indoors or outdoors, and water vapor is the only emission. These portable hydrogen fuel cell generators are voltage and frequency agnostic and can be scaled globally.”
Trulite’s vision and products lend confidence that there truly is a viable alternative fuel source being produced in Columbia that the rest of the world is noticing.
“The race is on to create new technologies that won’t pollute, and South Carolina has the ability to be the incubator for driving this,” says Ron. “South Carolina was the only state with the vision from beginning to end, plus the whole concept of campus, technical training and engineers. Columbia is a hub for a fuel cell infrastructure highway with BMW in the upstate and Boeing in Charleston. It is also a right to work state, containing several military bases. South Carolina is just all inclusive.”
According to a report recently released from Pike Research, “The global fuel cell industry revenue climbed sharply during the period 2008 and 2010, increasing from around $260 million in 2008 to nearly $670 million two years later – an increase of more than 250 percent with strong growth anticipated over the next six years.” MTC has created a business collaboration that, in addition to its nuclear program, which was just awarded a $3.9 million grant, is a progressive and successful venture that has heads turning. This unique pyramid arrangement, with Space Metal Fabricators, LoganEnergy and Trulite forming the three sides, MTC’s nuclear program forming the base and MTC’s Enterprise Campus forming the core, is an interesting creation, and time will reveal its impact on our city, state, nation and our world.