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New endowed chair at USC to support supply chain research

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The four-year relationship between Continental Corp. and the University of South Carolina has been a fruitful one, and now it’s taking the next step.

A $2 million grant from the S.C. Commerce Department will fund a new endowed chair position at the Darla Moore School of Business. The Continental Endowed Chair in Global Supply Chain Management and Management Science will support cutting-edge research and training in the business school’s nationally renowned Operations and Supply Chain Center.

Formed in 2005 to help companies improve performance while providing students with real-world experience, the center has completed 235 projects that have saved partner companies more than $200 million. Seven of those projects, focused on logistics and distribution, have been with Continental, which began working with the center in 2013.

“We have gotten such incredible value out of these projects,” said Todd Pearce, vice president, controller of Continental Tire the Americas and a 1997 graduate of USC’s top-ranked international business school. “To find a situation where we get to work directly with professors and students and they actually give us the solutions to our problems and tell us what to do just seemed like sort of a perfect marriage between the university and Continental.”

The endowed chair will be filled as early as 2020 following a national search, the university said.  

Pearce, who also serves as chairman for the Operations and Supply Chain Center, is not Continental’s only homegrown connection. George Jurch, general counsel for Continental Tire the Americas, obtained a bachelor’s, master’s and law degree from USC and was also on hand for Monday’s announcement during the center’s Fall 2017 Industry Summit.

“We have a lot of resources here in South Carolina,” said Jurch, who said 1,800 of 20,000-plus U.S. workers are in the Palmetto State. The German company, which is made up of five divisions, bases its tire operations in Fort Mill and has a tire manufacturing plant in Sumter and a fuel systems facility in Fountain Inn. “This seems to be a natural fit for getting the research and cutting-edge technology to go to the next level of business in the supply chain area.”

Pearce and Jurch addressed a crowd at the USC Alumni Center, joining university President Harris Pastides and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt in celebrating the new professorship and its furthering of South Carolina’s growing reputation as a hub for advanced manufacturing.

“We have transformed ourselves,” Hitt said. “Our image around the world has really stepped up. Wherever we go in the world, South Carolina is seen as an advanced manufacturing state.”

Officials hope the endowed chair can help the university plug holes in the state’s education-to-workforce pipeline. Its announcement comes on the heels of Friday’s five-year research partnership among USC, Clemson and Samsung, which is ramping up operations at its new manufacturing plant in Newberry.

“This shows our commitment and continued investment here with the university,” Jurch said. “We have bigger plans for lots of other things to do with the university, not only here in the business school but also with other parts of the university. This is our next step in the continuing partnership.” 

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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