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March 9, 2012

Old building gets a new name

Workers began putting up letters Thursday to rename a landmark downtown Columbia building.

Workers began putting up letters Thursday to rename a landmark downtown Columbia building.

The Tower at 1301 Gervais – formerly the Wilbur Smith – will be renamed IT-oLogy @ Innovista when workers finish installing the new signs today.

IT-oLogy is the nonprofit partnership of companies, academic institutions and organizations united to address the nationwide shortage of skilled information technology professionals. It provides K-12 programs intended to get students excited about IT careers, provides internships for undergraduate students and offers continuing education opportunities to IT professionals.

Innovista refers to USC’s research campus, which is intended to attract or grow companies based on discoveries made and products created by the university’s researcher scientists.

“This marks the fruition of one of our original visions: a district with the strategic clustering of IT companies in one locality,” Innovista director Don Herriott said in a release.

IT-oLogy – developed by its lead partners, USC and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina – moved into the building in 2010 after USC’s efforts to build a private research building at the corner of Assembly and Blossom streets fell through. Two private developers were fired for being unable to build private research buildings in the research campus proper and attract large companies. So USC officials redefined Innovista to include any high-tech firm in the general vicinity of USC’s campus with a relationship to the university. They also placed more emphasis on growing new companies through incubators and existing buildings, rather than attracting large high-tech companies to new buildings.

Two IT firms – VC3 and TM Floyd & Co. – located in the building in conjunction with IT-oLogy. Since then, university and IT-oLogy officials said, the partnership has spawned six start-ups: iGeoPulse, Enduring FX, Pandoodle, Palmetto Computer Labs, Live2Create Interactive and Voterheads.

USC and IT-oLogy officials said in a release that clustering IT companies in a single location, such as the former Wilbur Smith building, would build a synergy that would attract other firms.

“Our goal is to bring the IT community together in a collaborative environment to develop the IT pipeline through programs at all levels,” Lonnie Emard, executive director of IT-oLogy said in a release.

The new name on the landmark tower also was spawned because Wilbur Smith merged last year with Cambridge, Mass.-based CDM. The company did not change its name at the time, but has been known since Jan. 1 as CDM Smith, according to Danielle Gadow, lead business development specialist with the company.

The company remains in the building, but Gadow could not say whether it has the same number of workers now that it did at the time of the merger.

The high-rise itself was purchased in September by In-Rel Properties of Lake Worth, Fla., for $19.5 million. Other tenants include Colliers International, the S.C. State Chamber of Commerce and The Palmetto Club, which recently merged with the Summit Club. Officials said at that time that it was 93 percent occupied.

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