FLORENCE, S.C. – Ben Dillard, president of Florence-Darlington Technical College, is receiving national recognition for his entrepreneurial leadership at the college.
Dillard was named the 2017 Entrepreneurial President of the Year by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship. He will receive the award this afternoon at the organization’s annual conference in Tampa, Florida.
“I think the thing that is so important to me is that it’s not specifically for me,” Dillard said. “It recognizes the efforts of our entire college.”
Dillard said that to truly be successful, people have to be innovative. He said Florence-Darlington Tech has a culture of entrepreneurship.
“You can very easily connect what we’re doing here to entrepreneurship,” Dillard said.
Dillard said that in today’s world, entrepreneurial thinking for community colleges is a necessity.
“With state funding continuing to decrease and the desire to keep tuition as low as possible, we must be entrepreneurial,” Dillard said. “It is amazing how many entrepreneurial opportunities we have when we really concentrate our effort.”
In 2016, Florence-Darlington started offering a certificate in applied science with a major in entrepreneurship. However, the school’s entrepreneurial initiatives extend past a traditional classroom lecture.
The Gould Incubator located on campus currently houses 22 start-up businesses. Dillard said this is one of the projects he is most excited about.
“All of these businesses are viable,” Dillard said. “They’re giving resources back to the community.”
Dillard said businesses become established and move to a new location. Then, new businesses fill the empty spaces. The success rate of the Gould incubated businesses is 97 percent.
Dillard said he has always had an appreciation for innovation. Growing up on a farm in the upstate of South Carolina, Dillard said, entrepreneurship was instilled in him. His family made their own living, and he had to pitch in.
Before becoming a college president, Dillard worked for Dow Chemical Company and Greenville Technical College and owned three small businesses. As he blends backgrounds in business and higher education, Dillard said, he strives to create a culture of innovation that benefits the entire region.
However, he said any entrepreneur who leads well has to listen to others’ ideas.
“Any entrepreneur who believes that they can make it on their own probably will fail,” Dillard said.
He said the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center (SiMT) is a successful example of innovation through collaboration.
Originally, the school’s board had a vision for a facility to teach and train as well as generate revenue for the college.
“The vision has now become a reality in every way,” Dillard said.
The SiMT provides clients with equipment such as plastic and metal 3D printing, 3D virtual reality technology and a social media listening center. The services offered at SiMT help businesses and entrepreneurs in 40 states and nine foreign countries.
Dillard became the college’s president in 2013. He said the college was ripe for innovation when he took leadership, but it had been affected by the recession.