Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2019 Mid-Year

Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2019 Mid-Year

Reaching the midpoint of 2019 and thus Ten at the Top’s 10th Anniversary Year provides a great opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done so far this year as well as all that is yet to come.

The new year began with a notable milestone as in January we moved out of the Upstate SC Alliance office into our own office location after having rented space from the Alliance since the beginning. While we appreciated the great hospitality from UA, having our own location is a great signifier that after nearly a decade, TATT is becoming more established and ready to branch out and reach new heights in our role as a convener and connector around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life in the Upstate.

The move is just one example of why I believe the “best is yet to come” both for Ten at the Top and for the Upstate region.

In many ways, the work of TATT over the last decade has been an ongoing process to build relationships and trust among Upstate stakeholders and identify opportunities to grow our collective capacity and impact issues that cross jurisdictions and stakeholder areas.

Perhaps very appropriately, given that this is our 10th Anniversary year, so far 2019 is proving to be a year where the groundwork we have been laid in several focus areas is now culminating in actionable opportunities that have the capability to create long-term impact.

Connecting Our Future

For the last two years, Ten at the Top has been coordinating the Connecting Our Future initiative focused on improving mobility and connectivity across the Upstate. This effort includes transportation providers, local governments, non-profits and area businesses and focuses around the goal of improving the movement of people and goods across the Upstate region.

There are many stakeholders involved in mobility, and the issue impacts every Upstate resident in some tangible manner.

After building an advisory committee of stakeholders that finalized an Upstate Mobility Vision in 2018, so far in 2019 the focus of the Connecting Our Future effort has been to identify opportunities for short and long term collaboration around key elements of transportation and mobility as well as creating the framework for an Upstate Mobility Alliance. Expect to hear more about this effort in the second half of 2019.

Entrepreneurial Support Providers Network

Mobility and access to transportation plays an important role in providing opportunity for all residents to gain employment and achieve success. We have learned over the last several years that another viable way for people to gain financial stability is through entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

In South Carolina, roughly 95% of all businesses are small businesses with 20 or fewer employees, so it is critical for the economic success of our communities to have an ecosystem that helps cultivate new opportunities for those looking to start a business or build on an entrepreneurial idea.

The Upstate has many resources that support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but one of the ongoing challenges (as well as opportunities) is in creating ways for people who historically have been disconnected from these resources to know about and utilize resources that can help them achieve personal success. According to the Kauffman Foundation, women and individuals from low-wealth communities are under-represented as small business owners and often are unaware of services and opportunities available to them.

For the last couple of years, Ten at the Top has convened quarterly meetings of the Upstate Entrepreneur Support Providers Network, which includes individuals and organizations that work directly with entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The Network provides an opportunity for idea sharing, consistent messaging about small business resources and the development of strategies that can increase capacity.

In 2019, the Network is focusing on strategies to connect the disconnected across the Upstate with available resources while also building the overall awareness of the role small businesses and entrepreneurs play in growing the Upstate economy.

In the coming months, the Network will be holding a number of workshops in disconnected communities across the Upstate while continuing to develop resources that can support all who are looking to start or grow a business in the region.

Education Spectrum

Another component of achieving personal success is through having a collective culture that values education. For several years, Ten at the Top has convened meetings of various groups of educators at the K-12 and higher education levels.

In 2018 we hosted a pair of meetings between K-12 public school superintendents, college and university presidents & provosts, as well as leaders from the business community. The group identified two potential opportunities for working across the education spectrum: career pathways and the K-12 teacher shortage.

In partnership with the Public Education Partners, in late 2018 the Education Spectrum Group chose to initially focus on the K-12 teacher shortage by looking at specific elements of the shortage. Over the last eight months, three work groups have studied the overall challenges and identified potential initiatives and actions that can be implemented by individual districts or collectively across the region.

Over the next four months, the work groups will be refining those ideas and will be presenting them to the larger Education Spectrum Group at a workshop on November 4th.

Community Vibrancy and Upcoming Events

Supporting community vibrancy and the development of a sense of place in urban and rural communities has been a staple focus area for TATT since the very beginning of the organization. In 2019 TATT and Hughes Investments will provide the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants for the seventh year. To date, 24 communities have received a total of $80,000 in funds to support vibrancy initiatives.

In 2019, TATT also relaunched a regional events and activities calendar through the #UpstateVibe365 campaign. This site provides a one-stop place to find more than 300 events happening across the region each month while also connecting users to interactive regional asset maps featuring a number of different regional resources.

In addition to these initiatives, TATT is continuing to convene the Upstate Professional Planners Group, the Upstate Senior Issues Group and the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee.

As part of our 10th Anniversary Celebration, TATT is hosting a special workshop in each Upstate County with the topic being related to something of specific interest within that county. The first workshop was held in Laurens County in June, and the second is scheduled for July 23rd in Union. Be sure and check our events page for future workshops over the remainder of 2019.

If you have not had an opportunity to attend one of TATT’s Pizza & Beer Redefined Events, which are an exclusive low-key networking opportunity for board members and funding partners, we will have two additional events later this year.

We are also very excited about our annual Celebrating Successes – Great Things Happening Across the Upstate Brunch, which will take place on November 20th at the Greenville Convention Center. In addition to recognizing individuals and companies that make the Upstate special, we will also be awarding the 2019 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants.

This event will also serve as TATT’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, so we are planning some other surprises and hope you will plan to join us.

While we acknowledge and appreciate the many partners and great work that has occurred so far this year, we must consider this work as building blocks for ongoing efforts to grow the Upstate’s collective capacity.

I personally want to thank everyone who has been involved with TATT so far this year, whether as a funding partner, board or committee member or participant in some of our regional initiatives. You are critical not just to the success of Ten at the Top, but also of the Upstate region.

I look forward to our collaborative ongoing efforts to ensure that the Upstate continues to be recognized as a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family.

We truly are stronger together.


Greer’s Noah Guthrie Comes Home to the Upstate

Greer’s Noah Guthrie Comes Home to the Upstate

If you’re looking for something to do on Friday night, head over to Woodruff for a free concert by Greer native Noah Guthrie—a singer/songwriter who achieved viral fame with a YouTube cover of “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” and then went on to be cast on the hit TV show Glee and last year was a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent. Noah’s star is still rising, and after his free concert here, he heads off on his Hell or High Water tour, with dates in the UK, the Netherlands, and several U.S. cities.

In 2015, Ten at the Top writer Deb Peluso introduced us to Noah after his season on Glee. If you missed it then, read on:

It only takes one viewing of Noah Guthrie’s YouTube hit, I’m Sexy and I Know It, to know his sultry, blues-filled voice is like no other. It’s no surprise that this 20-year-old’s soulful take on LMFAO’s pop hit  garnered him more than 23 million views.


But he didn’t rest on the laurels of his successful covers, including Ariana Grande’s “Problem,”  “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” Last year Noah released Among The Wildest Things, his debut album, co-writing the majority of the thirteen original songs. That same year, Noah secured  a place in Glee history when he was cast in the final season.


Glee was such an amazing experience for me,” Noah said. “It was a completely random thing that come up in my life and I’m very glad it did.”


Being raised in a musical family built the foundation for Noah’s future. Both of his parents are singers and exposed both Noah and his brother, Ian, to music since birth. David Guthrie, Noah’s father, recognized that Noah had an ear for music from the age of two or three. “He has much better chops than I ever had!” David said. It’s Noah’s sincere, unexpected powerhouse of a voice that has fans, critics, and audiences in awe.

The Guthries’ home was always filled with a steady mix of blues, jazz, country and R&B. “The Muscle Shoals sound is very much a part of both [Noah] and Ian’s history and influence,” David said. That passionate, bluesy style is mirrored in the artists Noah admires as an adult.


Noah has been touring the U.S. and will be performing through the end of 2015. He gets a tinge of homesickness  on occasion, but often has his father and brother on the road with him, giving him a piece of home wherever he travels. Noah said, “I miss the mountains most when I’m gone, definitely the mountains.”


He is eager to put out new music soon and speaks highly of his fans. Noah said, “I want to give a big thank you to any of my fans reading this, you guys make my world go round and I appreciate your support every day.”

Be sure to catch Noah on tour and keep up-to-date with him on Facebook.

Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

One of last year’s winners was the 96 Mill Village Association’s Movie in the Park series.

Every year in June, Ten at the Top opens the application period for $5000 Elevate Upstate grants, given out every year for programs, projects, and initiatives that promote community vibrancy.

Since 2013, Hughes Investments, Inc. has provided $80,000 in funds to 24 local communities as part of the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grant program.

What is community vibrancy, anyway? Think of the things in your own community that make you proud to live where you live, that get you out of your house and interacting with your neighbors. Things that make your streets more attractive and celebrate what makes your community unique. Those are things that make your community vibrant.

Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investments, says, “The Elevate Upstate Grants are for those wishing to bring new life to their communities—a spark, a fresh idea, a new tradition—something that will excite the public and bring people together from all walks of life in a new way.”

One of the winners from 2013, the first year the grants were awarded, has become a popular annual event in Greer.

Past Elevate Upstate grant winners include public art projects, interactive outdoor education, downtown music, a food truck plaza, and more. The key element is that the proposed initiative will increase community vibrancy and sense of place and benefit the community as a whole. Take a look at the list of past winners here, with some video clips that explain the projects.

Do you have a community vibrancy project that could use some funds to get off the ground? Do you want to find out more about how to navigate the process of applying for an Elevate Upstate grant? On July 16th, we’ll be hosting an Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop here at our event facility, and we’d love to see you there.

The town of West Pelzer capitalized on its designation as a bird sanctuary and created an educational art installation of bird houses along Main Street.

You’ll hear from Mary Anne Goodman from the Ninety Six Mill Village Association, who successfully applied for a grant to fund a community movie night. You’ll also hear from Coie Switzer and Curtiss Hunter from the Union Environmental Art and Music Festival, who were runners up and received a matching grant—and how they got the support they needed to launch their event a year ahead of schedule.

For those interested in applying, an interest form is due by August 1st and the completed applications due by September 16th. Two grants of $5,000 each will be awarded at Ten at the Top’s annual Celebrating Successes event in November, where finalists will have the opportunity to present their proposed project before a final judgment is made.

Article by Sharon Purvis