GE chief headlines a packed week of Charleston business conferences


Conference season in Charleston is picking up with a few big-brain get-togethers this week and the big speaker-list reveal for another. Ready?

On Wednesday, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, an A-list captain of industry and part-time Kiawah Island resident, will give the keynote speech at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Conference.

The event also will include a panel discussion including local business executives and the chamber’s business forecast, presented by Mary Graham, who leads the organization’s research team. Admission to the conference, which is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is $105 for members and $160 for others.

Also on Wednesday, TEDx Charleston, a licensed but independently run iteration of the popular Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences, will reveal who will be presenting at its May 15 event at the Pure Theatre. The theme of the conference is “Reinvent,” and the selected scientists, artists and other thinking folk will speak for 18 minutes on a topic of their choice.

Organized by local business consultant Edith Howle, TEDx Charleston also is now accepting applications for its 100 audience members.

“And to be clear, the reason we plan to curate the audience is to ensure diversity,” spokeswoman Kira Perdue wrote in an email.

On Thursday, there’s CODEshow. Sponsored by the Charleston Digital Corridor and its member companies, CODEshow will feature speakers from tech companies such as Google presenting on programming languages like AngularJS.

The corridor’s director, Ernest Andrade, has described it as a natural next step in its education campaign which also features computer programming crash courses. Registration for CODEshow, which is limited to 200, is $249, but there are student and group discounts.

And starting Friday and going over the weekend, the Medical University of South Carolina is playing host to the National Postdoctoral Association’s annual conference. It’s the first time in 11 years the conference has been held in the Southeast, according to MUSC. About 300 people from nearly 150 research institutions from around the world are expected to attend, said Ray Greenberg, MUSC president.

Here’s the latest on the Ruth’s Chris watch. Steakhouse franchise owners Mark and Nancy Oswald, who have been looking for the perfect location in downtown Charleston for nearly three years come May, thought they had finally landed a spot in February. They were negotiating for the former ’Cesca Ristorante and Trattoria at 5 Faber St., a tucked-away establishment off East Bay Street that closed last month.

Ideally, they want 10,000 square feet with access to parking. ’Cesca wasn’t quite that big, but the Oswalds thought they could make it work. A public parking garage on Cumberland Street sits next door. The couple’s goal was to turn the upstairs into a private room.

“Unfortunately, our inability to work through some second exit issues required by that renovation meant we would be unable to maximize the seating and create the customized private dining space and number of seats we need,” Nancy Oswald said.

So it’s back to square one. Several other sites in downtown Charleston keep popping up as potential sites, but for now they’re all rumors. “We are now revisiting other properties and hope to have an announcement soon,” she said.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is looking once again at expanding its Charleston marine terminal to handle more coal, an executive said at a conference this week.

Only this time it would serve exporters of the fuel, rather than importers.

The hitch is that the Texas-based company is waiting for a dedicated customer to justify the investment in the Shipyard Creek site, according to a report from Platts, which provides news and other information about the energy, petrochemicals and metals industries,

Will Browning, commercial director for Kinder Morgan’s southeast region and overall coal business lead, alluded to the expansion Thursday at a conference in Florida.

“We don’t build on speculation, we do it in lockstep with our customers,” Platts quoted Browning as saying “Right now we have a good sense of demand of exporting coal out. Hopefully we can do something in the future.”

Kinder Morgan ran into stiff opposition a few years when it sought to expand its local coal import business. Neighbors complained about dust, increased train traffic and other issues. The company ultimately got the approvals it needed but scrapped the Milford Street project when the economy faltered.

Golfers and spectators will enjoy the greens during the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament on Hilton Head Island this spring, but they will be enjoying the tournament through green power.

For the fifth year, the PGA Tour event at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 15-21 has teamed up with Palmetto Electric Cooperative and state-owned utility Santee Cooper of Moncks Corner to make the event 100 percent green-powered. RBC Heritage will purchase the power from Palmetto Electric, which is provided through Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper generates its green power from renewable energy sources, including landfill biogas, solar power and wind power within South Carolina. It’s the only utility generating green power and offering it for sale in South Carolina, and Palmetto Electric was one of the first cooperatives in the state to offer green power to its customers, starting in 2001.

In addition to purchasing green power for this event, RBC Heritage has dedicated space for a booth on Heritage Lawn, near the iconic 18th fairway, to educate spectators about renewable energy.

An expert on real estate abroad and founding member of the European Real Estate Society will speak at the College of Charleston on “Real Estate Valuation: An International Perspective” this month.

Nick French, a professor of real estate and the program director of the MSc Real Estate programs at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, is recognized as an expert in the area of property appraisal and valuation.

The presentation, held March 20, is part of the Carter Real Estate Center Speaker Series and is in conjunction with the fifth annual Adam Smith Week running March 18-22.