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March 10, 2020

As one of the largest employers in Richland County, it’s no wonder that BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has been one of the major supporters of the Leadership Columbia program from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce

Since 1995, 72 employees from BlueCross and its subsidiaries have graduated from the Leadership Columbia program. And five more will join the ranks of those graduates this year. 

“BlueCross is a significant contributor to all facets of this community, from economic development to community outreach, arts and culture. Leadership Columbia keeps potential leaders within the organization in tune with what is going on in the community where we all live and work,” says Ami Coats, assistant vice president for Corporate Marketing and Communications and a 2003 graduate of Leadership Columbia.

Coats joined the program because she was young and relatively new to the Columbia area. She had come to Columbia as a graduate student and wanted to understand more of what the city was like as a professional. 

“It was a way to experience the city in a different way,” she says. “To me, it’s a great way to get a behind the scenes look at how the parts of the community work together. At the same time, you get exposure to 60 other people across other industries that you wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to interact with.” 

She stayed on to join the Leadership Columbia board for nine years and served as chair in 2008. 

The Leadership Columbia program gives participants an opportunity to learn about the dynamics of the city being a business hub, municipality, state capital, location for a large military base and multiple universities. The program allows professionals to better understand how things get done, Coats says. 

“When you understand that, you quickly realize you need to build a diverse network to get involved and make things happen in the community. Leadership Columbia is the fast track to make that happen. It also becomes a feeder program to get knowledgeable, proactive people involved in the Chamber after graduation,” she says.

For anyone on the fence about applying for the program, Coats says to go for it. 

“There’s not one bit about it that you won’t be happy you did it,” she says. 

The deadline to apply for next year’s Leadership Columbia class is March 17. Find more information here.

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Class of 2020 Leadership Columbia Hover image
Previous class of Leadership Columbia Hover image

BlueCross has had more than 70 employees complete the Leadership Columbia program. Above, five more employees will complete the program this year. Below, a full class of the program visit the State House. 

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