Given that the population for the Upstate region is projected to reach 1.75 million by 2040, it is not surprising that the recently released Census Bureau population estimate showed that the Upstate added nearly 20,000 new residents between July 2017 and July 2018.
There are certainly some who will read those numbers and suggest it is just further confirmation that we are growing too fast and need to shut the doors to make sure we maintain the quality of life for those already living here.
As someone who has lived in and studied regions struggling with declining population and economic crisis, it is my opinion that the great community vibrancy and strong economy here in the Upstate is directly tied to the fact that we are a region where people want to move and stay, thus resulting in consistent population growth over the last half century.
Changing policies to specifically discourage population growth would likely have unintended consequences that could directly contribute to a decline in economic viability and quality of life while likely having limited actual impact on the total population numbers for the region.
Instead of focusing on potential policies that could hamper positive growth, for more than a decade, leaders from across the Upstate have been promoting and encouraging efforts that embrace the Upstate as a vibrant and growing region—one that supports policies, investments and practices that help us shape future growth, instead of being shaped by it.
We are at a key juncture in the future of the Upstate. The increase in traffic congestion and land being used for development in many of our counties is now noticeable and starting to impact daily life and decisions across the region.
Fortunately, there are a number of opportunities for the Upstate today to significantly impact our future growth, without trying to limit the number of new residents within our communities.
How We Move People and Goods
Much of the discussion over the last decade in the Upstate and all of South Carolina around transportation has been focused on our deteriorating roads and bridges. The investment in improving our roads that was approved by our state legislators in 2017 was a key milestone, but was only one of many steps that must be taken if we want to efficiently and affordably move people and goods across the state for years to come.
Many local communities in South Carolina, but none in the Upstate, are enhancing their road maintenance and improvements with local financial support. Providing local funding is one way communities can ensure the most utilized roads within their community are able to keep up with traffic demand while remaining safe.
In the Upstate, 94% of people get to their daily job by using a personal vehicle. While we will likely never be able to create public transportation systems that can be used by everyone, just providing alternative transportation methods that reduce the number of people in the region who get to jobs using a personal vehicle to 85 or 90% would have a dramatic improvement on our roadways.
Providing Your Voice on Comprehensive Plans
The South Carolina statutes call for cities and counties to create and revise a comprehensive growth plan every ten years. These plans are designed to serve as a guide for communities to make decisions around appropriate growth within their community. Many of our communities are currently in the process of updating their plans.
Almost all elected officials regularly say that they make their decisions based on the input they receive from their constituents. One key element of the comprehensive plans is community input. If you have questions, concerns or ideas about how your community should try to shape local growth over the next decade, participating in one of the many meetings being held in your community is a great opportunity to share your insight.
If you are interested in the comprehensive planning process within your local city or county, I encourage you to check their web site for upcoming meetings and updates throughout the planning process.
Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Nearly 90% of all workers in the United States and 95% in South Carolina work for businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Studies have also shown that being an entrepreneur or small business owner is one of the greatest ways for someone to advance their economic status and in many cases emerge from the historic cycle of poverty.
During a recent visit to the Upstate, Andy Stoll from the Kaufman Foundation said that the communities that will have the greatest overall economic success and stability are those that are able to create a culture where all potential entrepreneurs and small business owners are aware of and have access to what they need to be successful.
The Upstate region is fortunate to have a large number of entities that provide support for entrepreneurs and small business owners. There are many Upstate residents who have the potential to become small business owners, but are likely unaware of the resources available to them. Continuing to develop and enhance connections between available resources and potential small business owners and entrepreneurs is another opportunity for our region to help support growth while building a strong economic foundation that gives everyone opportunity.
Ultimately, what future we leave for our children and grandchildren will be determined by local and regional priorities and investments. Rather than turning our backs on growth and suffering the consequences, if we can embrace the fact that we are a vibrant and growing region and continue to have public dialogue and support investments that shape that growth in a positive and sustainable manner, we can ensure that the Upstate remains a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.
You can learn more about Ten at the Top and how you can become involved in regional growth initiatives at www.tenatthetop.org.
Big changes are happening in Greer. One of South Carolina’s fastest growing cities is getting a major makeover. The project is known as “CenterG” for the synergy it will bring to Greer. Greer CPW has worked since the summer of 2017 to replace or rehabilitate sewer and water lines prior to the city’s work, giving much of the area known as Greer Station new underground utilities now.
In a recent article from the city of Greer, Greer City Administrator Ed Driggers mentioned, “This is one of those projects that we do about every 75 to 100 years and it just happens to be the time to do it,” he continued to mention that, “It is aging infrastructure and it will be a very complex project on which we are partnering with Greer CPW. We’ve been working with our downtown merchants for a couple of years now, advising and preparing them for this.”
In hopes of enhancing people’s experience downtown, the city is taking a design that is very unique. This new infrastructure will not be traditional—the design is called a shared street design. It has no curb and gutter and is a paver street rather than an asphalt street. Their goal is also to maintain two-way traffic for vehicles and pedestrian access in that area as well as parallel parking.
The streetscape will be funded by city resources. The $10.8 million-dollar project will include a shared street design, brick pavers, landscaping, new curb and gutters, ADA accessibility, and new lighting on Trade Street.
Matt Sossamon, Project Manager at Sossamon Construction Company, Inc., stated to Nickelle Smith of WSPA, “We’ve done a number of streetscapes throughout the Upstate —Daniel Morgan Square in Spartanburg, Fountain Inn, Abbeville, we’ve done a number of them.” He continued, “We understand the concern that the business owners have in the downtown and we’re going to do our best to minimize the inconvenience as much as possible.”
The city of Greer is encouraging folks to follow the construction process atwww.futuregreer.com and is working to communicate that despite the construction, all businesses are open and we need to continue supporting them.
Spartanburg’s Chamber of Commerce is serious about supporting its local businesses, creating the Spartanbucks program to encourage spending in the community. So far, 24 local merchants have signed on to the program, and $40,000 worth of Spartanbucks have been purchased—with that much more pledged to be purchased between five different companies.
While individuals have purchased Spartanbucks in the form of gift cards, the bulk of what has been purchased and committed has come from corporations for employee gifts and bonuses. Just as important, though, is getting merchants to sign on so that recipients have a number of options to choose from in spending their bucks.
Shauna Axelrod, executive assistant at the Spartanburg Chamber and Spartanbucks point person, says, “As we grow this, it’s ideal that we grow both merchants and employers. We’d like to make it as big as possible, and at the end of the day, it’s just putting a lot of money back into the community, which is great.”
Right now, in the beginning stages of the program, the participating merchants are almost all in the downtown area, but Axelrod says she hopes as the program grows, merchants across the county will participate as well.
Many of the merchants are restaurants, but Spartanbucks can also be spent at the Chapman Cultural Center and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, as well as at local retail stores.
Recipients will get a link sent either to their phone or their email, and that link will contain the list of participating merchants. With the link, they’ll have either a printed gift certificate or an electronic one on their phone, and that gives the merchant a credit card number to run.
On the merchant side, the credit card number is sent to the store via a link, and once a ten-cent transaction is run using the number, they are set up with the Spartanburg Chamber as a participating merchant—so customers can’t simply use that credit card number at Wal-mart or another non-participating store.
For level 1 chamber members, the cost is $100 per year; for those at level 2 and above, it is complimentary as part of their chamber investment. Non-members may also participate for an annual fee of $250.
The back end of the program is run through a company called Yiftee, which provides Local First gift card services for any community that wants to commit to keeping money local, supporting local businesses. There is a per-merchant fee, and Yiftee requires 12 participating merchants to set up the program. The Spartanbucks program is a simple one, with no physical cards, but branded merchant cards are available through Yiftee for a monthly fee.
To become a participating merchant or to find out more about using Spartanbucks as an employee reward system, contact Shauna Axelrod at (864) 594-5011 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie Smith • USC Union • Development & Marketing Director
Starting in the fall semester of 2019, USC Union will be able to deliver the USC Aiken Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This new expansion will allow students to study all four years in Union and Laurens, including coursework and clinicals. A new science and nursing center will capitalize on the growing USC Union campus. The goal is to attract more nurses to our area in order to impact local healthcare workforce needs.
USC Union strives to make meaningful, top-quality education both accessible and affordable. Continued success and growth of USC Union depends on our ability to evolve with changes. In today’s world, technology is a critical component of any educational program, and incorporating cutting-edge technology will ensure that our students have the resources necessary to succeed.
In order to successfully achieve this goal, the campus will need upgraded biology and chemistry laboratories, additional online classroom capacity, and additional nursing faculty. Union County has provided a building on Main Street in Union to accommodate this expansion, but extensive renovations are necessary.
Students will use virtual reality to build familiarity with scenarios in a controlled environment by “doing rather than seeing.” Virtual labs are used presently at Harvard and Stanford. Students will learn using unique state-of-the-art virtual reality. They will be able to explore with lifelike 3D models that cover the entire human body. This teaching style drives student engagement and will accelerate learning. It will also give instant feedback to the student during the simulation.
Renovations in the new science and nursing building are needed to accommodate the invaluable educational tool that will assist students on their path of receiving their nursing degree. Virtual labs are safer and preferable because there are no chemicals or vent hoods. The labs also increase access and reduce costs. Research space will support student and faculty projects to drive learning by allowing hands-on experience. The additional space in the nursing building will enable USC Union to recruit top faculty and students.
USC Union’s Development and Marketing Director, Annie Smith, said, “The growth at USC Union is significant for our county and especially our downtown. It is remarkable to see how our campus has developed in just a few years and my wish is that every single person in Union will stand behind USC Union to help us grow even more.”
For over 50 years, USC Union has housed a small library downstairs in the USC Union Central Building. It offered students the tools and resources they needed for research and any computer services. The library hosted workshops and maintained a comprehensive collection of resources that support the academic offerings of USC Union’s curricula.
One block from USC Union is the Union Carnegie Library. It is housed in the oldest library building in South Carolina, which was given by Andrew Carnegie. The library recently went through an extensive renovation and restoration of the original historic section. This added more space for children and teens, as well as additional space for meeting and workshops. During the renovation, USC Union’s campus was a satellite location, and a strong partnership was formed between the two.
“The agreement between USC Union and the Carnegie Library is a positive for the university, the library, and the community. It enables the university to expand services and hours in a beautiful location. It frees up space on campus for much-needed classrooms and faculty offices. It provides the Carnegie with working capital. It allows the community to see that two government agencies can combine efforts in order to provide better service for all while cutting overall expenses,” expressed Dr. John Catalano, USC Union’s dean.
With two libraries being situated within a block of each other, it made sense to move the USC Union library system to Carnegie. The partnership benefits faculty, staff, students, and the community as a whole. Carnegie offers more resources, technology, computer usage, and much more. Their extended evening and Saturday hours will greatly benefit the students, especially during exam times.
Rieta Drinkwine, Director of Union Carnegie Library, stated, “We are incredibly excited about this collaboration and the new ways we will be able to serve the community together,and we hope that this collaboration will serve as template for other similar partnerships across the state. USC Union is doing wonderful things for Union, and we are glad to be a part of their efforts.”
Once emptied, the USC Union library will free up over 6,000 square feet. Future plans for the area consist of a foreign language active learning lab, four large classrooms, three office spaces, and additional storage. The area will be designated for humanities faculty, including foreign language, literature, and philosophy. The move and renovations will support USC Union’s growth without having to build a new building.
USC Union has also acquired an older post office building across from campus on Main Street. Once the Science and Nursing building renovations are complete, the post office building will become the USC Union Fine Arts building. It will house a printing press room, gallery area, a kiln room, office space for two artists, studio space, and a large lecture room. Thanks to Lockhart Power, the parking lot at the Fine Arts building also has two car-charging stations. City of Union and the Union County were the first local governments to participate in the state’s Plug In South Carolina campaign, and USC Union is proud to be a location. The initiative is a push to bring attention to the charging stations installed throughout the state.
If you are interested in learning more about USC Union or to donate to the campus, please contact Annie Smith, Development & Marketing Director at email@example.com or (864) 424-8055.
The qualifications for the awards are that
the company must be headquartered in South Carolina, have been in operation for
at least 3 fiscal years, and have reported revenues of at least $3 million in
the most recent year; judging is based on financial and employee growth over a
Those Upstate companies that were honored at
the luncheon reflect the larger trend of growth in our area. The companies
a financial services firm: WCM Global Wealth (Greenville), a diversified financial services firm specialized in providing exclusive financial products and services
two staffing firms that cater to technology groups: The Hiring Group (Greer), a technical staffing and recruiting firm, and Intellectual Capitol (Greenville), a staffing and technology services company that provides technology assessment and consulting, strategic staffing, and application development
three companies in the technical/engineering/manufacturing sector: Clear Touch Interactive (Greenville),a leading provider of multi-touch interactive flat panels for education,government, and businesses; NextGen Supply Chain (Greenville), providing consulting, engineering support, andsupply chain management services to advanced manufacturing industries such as aerospace, automotive, and medical devices; and Thomas Mechanical (Laurens), a mechanical contractor specializing in commercial/industrial HVAC services, fabrication, process piping, engineering, and maintenance services.
two contracting and construction companies: Harper General Contractors (Greenville), a full service general contracting and construction management firm offering preconstruction, building information modeling, design-build, construction management at risk, LEED construction, and design-assist services; and Clayton Construction Company (Spartanburg), a general contractor that will provide preconstruction planning, project coordination, post-construction follow-up, and a range of other services based on the project.
two real estate companies: RealOp Investments (Greenville), a commercial real estate investment company; and National Land Realty (Greenville), a full-service real estate brokerage company specializing in farm, ranch, recreational, plantation, timber, equestrian, waterfront, and commercial land across the country.
a fitness company: 9Round (Simpsonville), specialized fitness centers that bring kickboxing fitness training to the average person in a convenient, affordable, 30-minute, full-body circuit format.
and a food company: Duke Brands (Greenville), the holding company for Duke Foods, a manufacturer of ready-to-eat dips, spreads (most notably Duke’s Mayonnaise), and bakery items, as well as the Duke Sandwich Company restaurants.
Additionally, the following awards were
handed out: Harper General Contractors, headquartered in Greenville, was
presented with the South Carolina Economic Impact Award. The Rising Star was
awarded to Global Sales Group (Easley). South Carolina Excellence in Business
Awards went to A3 Communications (Irmo), Duke Brands (Greenville), PCI Group (Fort
Mill), and Quality Business Solutions (Travelers Rest).
to all of these companies for their growth and for their contribution to the
grown of the Upstate and of South Carolina.
By Erin Ouzts, TATT Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality Task Force Chair
While much of the publicity related to jobs and economic development is often centered on larger employers, the reality is that small businesses and entrepreneurs are critical to the economic success of any community or region.
In the Upstate, many people are working to cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports individuals and small businesses. Engaging the support providers for this key economic engine has been a focus of Ten at the Top and the Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality Task Force since the early days of the organization.
Over the last year, our Entrepreneur Support Providers Network has been hearing from local and national leaders on how to continue growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Upstate.
People, trust, values, culture. How do these attributes make our Upstate region entrepreneurs, founders and business owners more successful?
When Andy Stoll, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Senior Program Officer in Entrepreneurship and overall entrepreneurial ecosystem development leader in the U.S., talked with our Entrepreneur Support Providers by Skype last November, this is what he said we needed. As you can imagine, our practical Upstate advisors, coaches, lenders, investors, SBDC & SCORE representatives, incubators, accelerators and every organization that supports entrepreneurs were a little uncomfortable with this. We were also a little uncomfortable with the region’s lack of awareness of the amazing work we do to build a thriving base of support for our entrepreneurs.
As engagement with the Economic and Entrepreneurial Vitality driver area has grown, we knew we depend on our personal networks to match our entrepreneur clients to the appropriate network. Then we gathered professionals from around the 10 counties and realized there were many resources we didn’t know about that could be exceptionally helpful. The challenge became: How do we actively connect these new links to our network and provide appropriate resources for entrepreneurs?
Stoll explained that entrepreneur ecosystems allow entrepreneurs to more quickly access the knowledge and funding they need, shortening their time to success and potential need for additional funds. To provide unobstructed pathways, we professionals need to know others in the network, understand the strengths and special skills each brings, take the time to connect entrepreneurs to the right person, and trust our peers. When I asked how to do this, he said one of the best ways is to do something together.
What could we all do together, yet separately, to support our local entrepreneurs and increase awareness Our Entrepreneur Support Providers Network (soon to be Entrepreneur Ecosystem)? How about a regional Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration? That might work! In 2018, our ESP meetings have been geared toward individual events held within each community yet promoted collectively on shared platforms to shine a light on the extent of the many organizations involved in supporting entrepreneurs, founders and growing companies.
Ten at the Top has a Regional Resource Map with Ecosystem members’ location and information easily accessible. In the Know Upstate is the regional calendar for the events. The Global Entrepreneurship Week and Ten at the Top brands on our materials will identify us as connected.
The following resources give more information about entrepreneurial ecosystems: