FLORENCE, S.C. -- Community partnership has become a ubiquitous term, a cliché bandied about by people who know it sounds important but just aren’t sure why.
Of course, the leadership of small and medium-sized communities throughout South Carolina knows why. In places large and small, progress occurs most frequently when civic leaders collaborate to solve problems and advance notable ideas. That’s been true in Florence and the Pee Dee region for the past two decades, and Francis Marion University has been proud to have played a role in championing these changes.
One area of endeavor will illustrate the point. We’re often asked why the university has been so successful raising funds for large capital projects. The answer is simple. We have cultivated a wide range of community partners – the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation, the local legislative delegation, the city of Florence, the Darla Moore Foundation – along with leaders from industry, health care and education. We’ve planned together, worked together and created new facilities and innovative programs that none of us could have developed on our own.
This is the face of progress, forged by cooperation and bolstered by friends such as S.C. Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman, Florence Mayor Stephen Jr. Wukela, Dr. Eddie Floyd and similar luminaries across the region.
This isn’t a great revelation, as most will recognize. But it is a simple truth that is worth stating and needs repeating. Look at any substantial building or program that’s been established here over the past couple of decades – the Performing Arts Center, the library system, health education programs, the growing network of roads, the revitalized downtown, The Continuum in Lake City – and it is obvious that two or more prominent actors have been hard at work.
Francis Marion University has grown along with the Pee Dee because of the support we have received and the support we have rendered. This is how partnerships work and how communities with limited tax bases prosper.
Any significant progress in Florence and the Pee Dee in the years ahead is likely to follow a similar road, the road that FMU has followed over the past 20 years. Sometimes it’s a little tenuous, uphill (even in the Pee Dee) and a little bumpy. But because it’s lined with strong friendships, a cultivated vision and a shared burden, it usually ends at a desirous place.
That’s the path to progress. That’s how a community is changed for the better.