Up Close with Erika

May 06, 2019

Up Close with Erika image

In the world of Economic Development, the acronym BRE is commonly used for Business Retention and Expansion. If you’re talking BRE, you’re making sure that all of your existing companies are happy, satisfied and essentially their needs are being met with hopes that they’ll have the need to grow their operations.  Over the past month or so, I’ve discovered that BRE for me takes on a different meaning. For me, BRE is Born, Raised, and Educated –all in South Carolina. And as we take this week to celebrate Economic Development, with my BRE in mind, it’s easy for me to understand why I am so passionate and have such a great love for the growth of this region.  I was born in Denmark, SC—a rural town of about 3,000 people in Bamberg County. The youngest of 4 girls—or as I so often remind my sisters, the baby AND the best. My parents were and still are great! My dad emphasized the importance of sound education, and my mom put a microphone in my hand at the tender age of 2. Both talked about morals, values, family --and I’m still trying to figure out what “Lead your beef to bad market” means.
My formative years of school were just that--formative. This is where I was actively involved in just about everything I was introduced to—okay, not drugs- but creative arts and opportunities of expression. This is also when I started to take notice of things that were missing; when I started noticing gaps. As I interacted with kids from other schools I realized that they were a little more prepared than I was. Some had access to more resources and even things like better books.  I noticed that some communities were better than mine.  Some had more stores, different options and a variety of places to eat, worship, and work. Despite the lack, thanks to my village, I stayed on track and excelled in many areas, through high school and even as a student at Lander University.
Over the last 15 years, my journey in public relations and marketing has taken me all around this state and around the United States. I’ve seen many highs and enough lows to keep me motivated. I understand my responsibility to pay it forward… not that I ‘got to’ but that I ‘get to’. Prior to working in economic development, I really didn’t understand how it all works. I had no clue that economic development is what essentially yields to commercial and community development. Once upon a time, I avoided industrial parks—now I glide pass them intentionally. When I am held up by a train, it only means that a constant flow of enterprise and freight is moving. When I close my eyes at night, I’m grateful that I get to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. It is my goal to make sure our region stands out because indeed it IS outstanding. Because my rearing, education and employment has taken me from the low country, to the upstate, and the midlands—when SC wins, so do I.


Erika D. Williams