Individual connections are needed to power the future of Charleston, according to one of the founders of a new organization formed to bring community leaders together.
Charleston Leaders formed last year because it was strongly believed there was a missing factor in how networking was done in the city and region, technology company owner Larry Collett said.
"I have been in the business for seven years and involved in many organizations, but one of the things that I felt was missing was that individual connection," Collett told Palmetto Business Daily.
Collett said the founders of Charleston Leaders wanted to gather leaders of the community -- those close to the City Council, chief executive officers and entrepeneurs -- and see what they could do for the community without people trying to sell them a good or a deal.
Charleston Leaders now has close to 80 members, many from the business community. Collett cites Josh Martin as an example of how the organization has attracted individuals from a range of backgrounds. Martin is a senior adviser to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, and is a founding member of the Leaders organization.
Collett says his organization is unique in that it creates a space for leaders of the community to gather and speak openly in a relatively relaxed atmosphere.
"In our day-to-day jobs, we are taking care of business, but we want to meet in a relaxed atmosphere," he said. Meetings are held monthly, but there are plans for additional quarterly breakfasts and panel discussions.
The issues discussed by the leaders are often ones that consume other panels and thinkers in the city.
"Traffic is a big issue," Collett said, adding that the extension of the Interstate 526 Mark Clark Expressway is a frequent topic of conversation among members.
Commercial development in general is an issue. Collett wants the mobile application developer he leads, netGalaxy Studios, to expand with new space close to downtown. But it has been hard, he says, to find space near where his employees live.
While the organization is attracting new members, Collett is primarily concerned about getting true leaders of the community into a room; quality rather than quantity, he added.
In its mission statement, Charleston Leaders states that the speedy growth of Charleston means there is a need for leaders to connect to "make a positive community impact in the Charleston Metro area."
"Charleston Leaders creates and identifies opportunities for business within the broader business community," it further states. "Charleston Leaders creates unique opportunities to connect others with the right people to move their business forward."