By Andy Owens
SC Biz News CEO and Group Publisher Grady Johnson is leaving the business he helped found after 26 years.
An entrepreneur who owned several businesses before joining the Charleston Regional Business Journal in 1995 with founder Bill Settlemyer, Johnson started as a salesperson.
Johnson led SC Biz through a massive expansion in 2008. The company launched the Columbia Regional Business Report in the Midlands and took over GSA Business Report in the Upstate of South Carolina. SC Biz also began expanding its reach with statewide events and an economic development magazine, SCBIZ. The company went through several owners during and after the Great Recession.
Bill Settlemyer and his wife, Sarah, who was a head nurse at the Medical University of S.C., founded the Charleston Regional Business Journal by pulling cash out of her retirement account and starting the business in an extra bedroom of their home. Settlemyer published the Business Journal for six months and realized they needed help.
“I was the editor, the publisher, the finance person, the salesperson, the whole thing — which is ridiculous, but that is what I was doing,” Settlemyer said. “Everything was a panic-loaded blur until Grady showed up.”
Johnson ran a surf shop in Mount Pleasant for a decade after graduating from Clemson University. He also owned a business selling automobiles and exporting antique cars.
He knew nothing about advertising, but he wanted to get off the road as a sales consultant.
“I love startups, and I really liked publishing, and I liked small business because I was a small-business junkie,” Johnson said. “So this was all of those things. I was really excited by the thought of something that dealt with businesses.”
Today, the company is owned by BridgeTower Media and is part of a national group of business-to-business publishers serving commercial interests in more than 25 markets from coast to coast. SC Biz News now includes the N.C. Lawyers Weekly, S.C. Lawyers Weekly and The Mecklenburg Times in Charlotte.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Grady and the teams he’s managed over the years have had a material impact on the state’s business community,” said Adam Reinebach, CEO of BridgeTower, which bought SC Biz in 2017. “The news coverage, the events and the economic research we’re doing in South Carolina are second to none, and the reputation we enjoy with our clients and readers is a direct result of the seeds Grady planted decades ago.”
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many wonderful people and so many businesses for over more than a quarter of a century,” Johnson said. “I’m leaving behind so many great memories. The state’s business climate has changed a lot during that time, and mostly for the better. We have a strong economic base that values small- and medium-sized businesses. I am gratified that SC Biz will continue to play a critical role in connecting businesses to customers and each other well into the next 25 years.”