Anita Zucker is a woman of many faces. Recognized as one of the wealthiest people in the world, this former Middle School teacher and educator is now the Chairperson and CEO of the InterTech Group Inc., a Charleston-based company founded by her late husband, Jerry Zucker; as well as a noted philanthropist, education advocate and business stalwart of the South Carolina's business community.
Recently Zucker, the former President of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, sat down with Envision South Carolina's founder and visionary, Phil Noble to discuss her idea of a truly greater South Carolina.
NOBLE: You're now a CEO....
ZUCKER: When my husband Jerry and I came to South Carolina 34 years ago, I was a teacher. Who knew that four and half years ago, I would have to become chairperson and CEO of a globally owned, family-owned holding company. That has truly changed my life. But I'm making the most of it.
NOBLE: Where did you teach?
ZUCKER: I was a seventh grade English and Social Studies teacher at Lambs Elementary School in North Charleston. I taught three classes of each. It was different from my days of teaching in Florida because there I taught fifth grade. It was a challenge at Lambs because seventh grade is such an important developmental stage in a young person's life, but I loved it.
NOBLE: InterTech is truly a globally connected entity. What are the rough allocation of your holdings in South Carolina and the rest of the world?
ZUCKER: We have operations here in Charleston and we're currently building a new plant which will be up and running sometime in the first quarter of next year. We have another facility in Rock Hill. We are committed to trying to do business with other partners in South Carolina, and we really try to work within those partnerships to keep a lot of business here. We have businesses all along the East Coast and throughout North America, both north and south of the
border. Our major manufacturing operations are in North America. And of course we have businesses around the world.
NOBLE: With so much of manufacturing shifting to developing nations, do you sometimes have to pay a price to stay here in South Carolina?
ZUCKER: You do pay a price. However the good news is we're all working hard on this. Those of us in the business community, in my opinion, are now aligned and everyone is beginning to understand that it's about education. We have to provide the best opportunities and access to education for our children. We have to allow them to experience what goes on in the world. So that it makes it worthwhile for us to stay here. We have to have people that are trained with different competencies; that can be used in any advanced manufacturing arena. Whether it's aerospace, automotive, marine, or whatever we, being businesses, may need. We need to have students who can take the skill sets that they are given and use those skills in any industry. And that can happen. We have to create skills that are transferable.
NOBLE: What areas do you think within education should we focus on the most in order to accomplish this?
ZUCKER: We really have to work hard at training students in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And if we can make certain that we are providing the best educational opportunities to young people, then businesses can and will come and stay in South Carolina. But we have to create world class education for our students and make certain that they begin to have knowledge of the world, because we have to be appealing to the entire globe.
NOBLE: Is it safe to surmise that you believe that education is the key to South Carolina being a world class, globally connected state?
ZUCKER: I absolutely believe that. Again, we have to provide opportunities and today with technology, students can see the world. They're able to connect with other students from across the globe.
NOBLE: One thing that anyone who is ever fortunate enough to meet you immediately realizes is that you are truly committed to improving our education.
ZUCKER: I am extremely passionate about education for all of the people of South Carolina. The fact is if we want to compete globally it is essential that we enhance our education and it all begins at birth.
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