Finalists Announced for 2017 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants

    Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration, partnerships and strategic planning across the Upstate, has announced the finalists for the 2017 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants.

    The five finalists were chosen from a total of 22 applications submitted for the two grants available in 2017. Hughes Investments is contributing at least $10,000 per year to the program with two recipients each year receiving $5,000 to support a new vibrancy initiative in the Upstate. The program began in 2013 in conjunction with a series of Community Vibrancy Workshops hosted by Ten at the Top. Since the inception of the grants program, Hughes Investments has contributed a total of $57,000 to community vibrancy initiatives in 17 communities across the Upstate.

    During the Ten at the Top Celebrating Successes Brunch on November 16th the five finalists will each provide a brief overview of their initiative before the 2017 recipients are selected and announced. The cost to attend the brunch is $35, prior registration is required. The event will be held from 11:30 am -1:30 pm at the Greenville Marriott. To register go to

    Here are the five finalists (applying organization, project name and brief summary):

    Art of the Horse – City of Landrum – In celebration of the 2018 World Equestrian Games being held in nearby Tryon, NC, the city will be displaying as public art a life size painted fiberglass horse. The city is looking to use the Elevate Upstate Grant to allow for the display to become a permanent component of the public art in the City of Landrum.
    Farm to Fork Dinner – Abbeville County Farmers Market – The Abbeville County Farmers Market is looking to host a “farm to fork” dinner to highlight the vital role of local farming and farmers markets in creating local vibrancy in Abbeville.

    Food Truck Plaza – Main Street Laurens USA, Inc. – As a part of a larger Downtown Master Plan for the City of Laurens, the Food Truck Plaza would be a dedicated space within the city where food trucks would be located for residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of dining experiences. The plaza will include colored shade sails, brick pavers and picnic benches as well as power and water for the food trucks.

    Art Wall at Monarch Park – City of Seneca and Blue Ridge Arts Council – As part of the Eagle Scout project for a local student an art wall has been created in Monarch Park, located within walking distance of Main Street Seneca. The Elevate Upstate Grant would be used to commission three-dimensional butterfly art for the wall and park.

    Bee smART – Greenwood Arts Center – The City of Greenwood received the Bee City USA award in 2016 and would use the Elevate Upstate Grant to develop educational and interactive art programs designed around the Bee City designation.

    The selection committee for the Elevate Upstate Grants Program includes Phil Hughes (President, Hughes Investments), Ingo Angermeier (SmartPulse), and Terence Roberts (Mayor, City of Anderson).

    Creating a Sense of Place Helps Grow Economic & Community Vibrancy

    Creating a Sense of Place Helps Grow Economic & Community Vibrancy

    By Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

    There was a time in America when regardless of the size of the community, the commercial heart of any town or city was its downtown or main street. These commerce centers were typically oozing with energy and vibrancy as they included stores, banks, restaurants, the post office, local government buildings and many other components of an active community.

    As communities began to spread out in the 1960s and 1970s, many main streets and downtowns went from being the epicenter of the community to a forgotten and often dangerous place where few good things happened and most dared not venture.

    Having only lived here in the Upstate since 2010, I have a hard time imagining a time when Downtown Greenville was not a vibrant showpiece. However, I have heard from many who did grow up in this area that for many years the main street was little more than a vehicle thoroughfare for people passing from one part of town to another.

    Of course, today Downtown Greenville is lauded as a national model for creating both community and economic vibrancy and is a one of the more attractive features for making the Upstate a tourist and business destination.

    Many main streets, downtowns and neighborhoods of all sizes across the Upstate have a rich history of being the local epicenter for their community. When Ten at the Top developed the Our Upstate Vision through the engagement of more than 10,000 Upstate residents in 2010 and 2011, one of the areas identified as being important for the Upstate was to maintain and grow the vibrancy of our individual communities, downtowns and neighborhoods.

    While not every downtown has prospered to the level of Downtown Greenville, there are many other places across the Upstate that have recognized that returning vibrancy and commerce to their downtown core and neighborhoods is a key strategy in growing their economic base as well as developing a “sense of place” for their local residents and visitors.

    In 2013, Ten at the Top and USC Upstate partnered to develop “Great Ideas for Community Vibrancy”, which highlighted 50 examples from across South Carolina and the United States of communities and neighborhoods of all sizes that had cultivated their local vibrancy through a project, event or initiative. We then brought representatives from 10 of those programs to the Upstate and held four community vibrancy workshops across the region.

    In conjunction with those workshops and to help with creating new vibrancy initiatives across the Upstate region, local developer Phil Hughes established the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy grants. The original commitment was for $10,000 per year (two grants of $5,000 each) for five years.

    Since the first grants were awarded in 2013, Hughes has actually provided $57,000 in funds for vibrancy initiatives in 17 communities across the Upstate.

    Because vibrancy, sense of place and local needs are different in all communities, the projects funded through the program have also been very different, but all have helped reinvigorate main streets, neighborhoods or even organizations across the Upstate.

    Included amongst the projects was creation of the Greer International Festival, which though it was funded only once through Elevate Upstate has become an annual event in Greer with an estimated economic impact of more than $100,000 for the local community. The City of Laurens created their Finally Friday music series in 2015 through an Elevate Upstate Grant and the monthly event has become a key component of the Main Street program in Laurens.

    Though Ram Cat Alley has long been a staple of Downtown Seneca, it was through a grant to the Blue Ridge Arts Council that they were able to create a series of artistically painted cast iron cats that now dot the landscape of the community and have become a favorite scavenger hunt for children in the area as the cats are regularly moved from place to place in town.

    Those projects represent only a handful of the vibrancy initiatives that have popped up across the Upstate due to Phil Hughes and the Elevate Upstate program.

    For 2017 the grant process brought 22 applications that have now been narrowed to five finalists. Those potential projects are for new vibrancy initiatives in Landrum, Seneca, Abbeville, Laurens and Greenwood. Each finalist will make a final “pitch” during the Ten at the Top Celebrating Successes Brunch on November 16th and then the 2017 grant recipients will be announced that day.

    If you would like to learn more about the Elevate Upstate Grants, Ten at the Top’s Community Vibrancy initiatives or register to attend the November 16th Celebrating Successes Brunch, please visit the Ten at the Top web site (

    Connecting Our Future: Working Together on Transportation and Mobility in the Upstate

    Connecting Our Future: Working Together on Transportation and Mobility in the Upstate

    By: Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

    Imagine living in an Upstate region where no matter which city, town or county you lived in or your level of income, you knew that you had access to dependable and affordable transportation that could take you to your job, appointments or shopping and then back home again in a timely and relatively easy manner every single day.

    While many of us are fortunate enough to have daily access to our personal automobile, chances are it takes you noticeably longer to get from place to place today than it did even five years ago. In fact, within the Upstate region, 94% of all people who work travel to their job using an automobile, with 85% driving alone and 9% car-pooling. That works out to somewhere around 690,000 vehicles on the roads across the Upstate every day just to get people to and from work.

    A recent study by INRIX reported that the average motorist in Greenville spent 11.5 hours in 2016 stuck in congested traffic. They also estimate that traffic congestion costs the average motorist $1,200 per year in wasted gasoline and time.

    However, while the biggest issue related to transportation for many of us is congestion, there are others within both the urban and rural areas of our region who simply do not have reliable personal transportation. While there are many places across the country where public transportation helps alleviate access issues, that isn’t really the case here in the Upstate.
    Across the region, only 0.4% of all workers (roughly 3,000 of the more than 750,000 people working in the region) utilize some type of public transportation to get to their place of work. Those without dependable transportation often struggle to find or maintain employment because they can’t easily get to a job location.

    So to reach our imagined future of a region where transportation is available and timely for all, access and congestion become two prominent issues that must be understood and addressed.
    In partnership with more than 20 transportation and community partners, Ten at the Top is coordinating a year-long effort known as Connecting Our Future to develop a vision, strategic goals and impactful actions that can ultimately make it easier to move people and goods across the Upstate while reducing congestion and increasing mobility opportunities for all residents.
    Since 2010, the Upstate has added more than 60,000 new residents, which based on employment numbers means every day there are between 30,000 and 40,000 more cars on our local roads than there were seven years ago.

    Between now and 2040, the region is projected to add another 321,000 residents and 256,000 new jobs. That means unless we start doing something differently in terms of how people get to work every day, by 2040 we will have nearly a million cars on the road every day just to get people to work (not counting school buses, trucks or people traveling for appointments or shopping).
    When I moved to the Upstate nearly eight years ago I heard from many people that they were glad to be living in a region with a solid and growing economy, but that they didn’t want to see this region consumed by some of the same characteristics of sprawling growth, traffic congestion and endangered natural resources as our neighbors in Charlotte or Atlanta.

    The reality is that while we are not quite to the point of either of those areas, most of our current policies and investments put us on a collision course with that future. Models from the recent Shaping Our Future growth study showed that if we continue our current land use trends over the next 25 years, we will more than double the amount of land used for our built environment by 2040.

    Transportation and specifically how we move people and goods from place to place is an important component of that land use and an area where doing things differently can have a significant impact on how we grow moving forward.

    Communities that have successfully addressed transportation and mobility issues have typically done so through developing partnerships that include the business community, transportation stakeholders, local governments and other community partners. We hope through Connecting Our Future to develop a coalition of stakeholders who not only create a connected vision for mobility and transportation, but will work together to identify and implement strategies and solutions that will help make this a region where we no longer have to just imagine that every resident can get from where they are to where they need to go in a timely and affordable manner.

    If transportation and mobility are important to you, please join us for the kickoff of Connecting Our Future on October 18th from 9:30am—2:30pm at the TD Convention Center. Details are available at