OUR VISION

Create a vibrant entrepreneurial business climate within the region through economic development emphasizing organic, sustainable growth. Enhance the economic vitality, diversity, and dynamism of the region.

HISTORY

The Don Ryan Center for Innovation (DRCI) was established in mid 2012 as a 501(c)(3). The corporation's mission was to function as a business incubator to grow Bluffton's and the surrounding regions economic base by helping innovative start-up or early stage companies. The organization incubated 29 companies and expanded into partnerships with Beaufort County Schools, USCB, TCL, SCAD and the City of Beaufort to promote and support innovation and entrepreneurship for the purposes of economic development.

The Bluffton Public Development Corporation (BPDC) was the Town's 501(c)(3) established in late 2012 by town leaders to pursue economic development within the Town. The corporation's mission was to accept, buy, sell, develop, mortgage, and transfer real and personal property including development rights. Its two other objectives were to assist in the town's economic development and undertake activities designed to promote and support the May River and other watershed cleanup efforts of the town. The corporation was an arm of the Town and was formed because by law, a municipality cannot execute specific financial transactions.

THE PRESENT

Both organizations matured and evolved to reflect the needs of the Town and the region.

Since both worked in the realm of economic development Town Council authorized the merger of these entities by adoption of a resolution on December 13, 2016 into a single entity know as the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, Inc.

This new entity fosters and promote economic development in six general areas:

  1. Business Incubation

  2. Co-working offerings (The HUB)

  3. Education & Outreach

  4. Business Attraction, Expansion & Retention

  5. Workforce Development

  6. Business Startup/Concierge Services

WHO WAS DON RYAN?

Don Ryan, co-founded CareCore National (now eviCore healthcare) in 1994, and under his leadership it became one of the leading specialty benefits management companies. After bringing the company to Bluffton, Ryan became involved in the efforts to recruit similar companies to the area. Don donated the existing space to the Center which is now named in his honor.

LEADERSHIP

Trent Williamson

Chief Executive Officer

Trent Williamson is Chief Executive Officer for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation (DRCI) after serving as the organization’s Vice President for Economic Development. He previously worked for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and Metro Atlanta Chamber. He created partnerships with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Tech, Georgia’s University system, and Georgia’s utility providers. He was responsible for managing projects and building strategic partnerships with twenty-nine neighboring counties. Trent is passionate about the Lowcountry and helping businesses thrive. In his role with the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, his focus is threefold: attracting the right businesses to Bluffton, aiding new businesses get started and supporting current Bluffton Businesses. During off hours, Trent enjoys spending time with his wife, McCauley and their hound dog, Hank. He can usually be found on the water or watching an Auburn game. War Eagle!

Charles Wohl

Vice President of Innovation

Prior joining the Don Ryan Center for Innovation Charles was the Executive Director of Texas Capital Network Inc. Previously he launched HTC North, a technology-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem and incubator in The Woodlands and surrounding area local community that included developing new clients for the Houston Technology Center (HTC), supporting the mission of HTC’s partner, HARC. Included in his work was the design of a unique series of regularly scheduled events named Innovators in the Woods which attracted entrepreneurs, investors, civic leaders and service providers. The program further added faculty and students from Sam Houston State University and a cadre of bright high school students interested in learning about the business of technology as a way to encourage STEM education. The HTC North clean-tech incubator built on Charles’ record of achievement in technology driven industries and leveraged his experience in domestic and world markets building and leading successful product and business development initiatives. As an intrapreneur within major corporations, a small business consultant and serial entrepreneur, Mr. Wohl is skilled in product development, market entry, sales, licensing, and operations management. Charles complete his undergraduate degree at California State University, Long Beach and post graduate and graduate degrees at the University of Southern California. He is a named inventor on numerous patents and a member of the Institute of Navigation (ION) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Charles is active in the Texas start-up community serving as a mentor and judge for numerous programs at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Rice University along with the Regional Clean Tech Open program.

Jessica Sferlazzo

Community & Operations Manager

Jessica Sferlazzo joined the Don Ryan Center in May 2019. She brings over 10 years of experience in developing, launching and leading retail sales operations. This included management of multiple units at both the regional and national level. Jessica’s strengths include event planning, marketing and branding. At Spartina 449, a Bluffton headquartered company, she was responsible for opening the 1st retail store location and subsequently opened and managed an additional 7 retail stores throughout the Lowcountry and Southeast.

Originally from New Jersey but always wanting to head South, Jessica followed the advice of her high school tennis coach and attended East Carolina University where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Merchandising with a double concentration in Apparel and Interior Design. After graduation she decided to make Bluffton her home and has resided here for over 10 years. In her spare time she enjoys spending every weekend she can on the May River with her husband Anthony and their Boston Terrier, Maverick.

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