Avedis Foundation unveiled a new speaker series Monday, bringing in Bill Millett, an accomplished South Carolina businessman, to stress to local leaders the vital role of investing in Pottawatomie County children.

Avedis Foundation unveiled a new speaker series Monday, bringing in Bill Millett, an accomplished South Carolina businessman, to stress to local leaders the vital role of investing in Pottawatomie County children.

Millett, president of Scope View Strategic Advantage –– based out of Charlotte, South Carolina –– has more than 30 years experience in economic development.

He came to offer a compelling look at what impact investment –– or the lack thereof –– really has on a community.

“What your workforce will look like in 2036 is being shaped in no small way by what is happening with your youngest citizens today, and their experiences in educational, social and emotional and other developmental areas,” he said.

Millett said the competition for quality jobs and rewarding lifestyles for today's kids across Oklahoma is growing up on at least four other continents.

“While the United States has held steady over the years in education, the rest of the world has upped their game –– which means we are treading water,” he said.

He cited statistics that show the U.S., compared to other countries, now ranks 24th in reading proficiency, 28th in science, and 36th in math.

“Other countries have more honor students than we have students,” he said, “and they revere their teachers,” he said.

The bottom line is that education plays a crucial role in economic development.

Millett said he has spent much of his career assisting corporations that are looking for the right location for new expanded facilities.

“They want to know what an area is doing now to ensure a competitive and skilled workforce 15-20 years out,” he said.

If they are going to spend millions in a community, they intend to be there awhile, he said.

“These companies are increasingly viewing education differently,” he said, “not as kindergarten through high school, but more like birth through retirement.”

It starts with the earliest days and months of life, he said.

If people refuse to be complacent, and Pott. County invests in its most prized resources, it won't have to pay later with higher dropout and crime rates, plus losses in economic development, he said.

“If I had to give 200 adjectives to describe Avedis, complacent would not be one of them,” he said.

“I've seen foundations that have been in effect for two or three decades that do not have the advocacy, the passion or the proactivity that Avedis does. It's impressive,” Millett said.

The foundation may still be in its infancy, but it has certainly earned the label of child prodigy.

Avedis President Michelle Briggs said the foundation has awarded right at $23 million –– so far.

She said from the beginning –– after spending the first year getting established –– they have acted as a private foundation –– even though they didn't have to award money yet –– becoming involved in about 150 projects over the past two years.

“Avedis is a transitional foundation,” President Michelle Briggs said. “We sold our community hospital and are transitioning from a public charity into a private foundation. From an IRS viewpoint, it takes about five or six years to transition, so we are at about three and a half years into that process.”

She said of the differences between a public charity and a private foundation, a charity gets a majority of its money from fundraising, whereas a foundation does not –– and foundations are required to give away five percent of their assets per year.

 

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