Dean Small FeatheredBy Dean Hybl

    Wanting to provide interested Upstate leaders with an opportunity to see first-hand what is being done by communities across the Upstate to enhance their economic vitality and quality of life, last year Ten at the Top began to hold “Getting to Know Our Neighbors” bus tours of counties across the region.
    During our most recent trip to Pickens County, we discovered a county where city, business and education leaders are all working hard to enhance their internal product and opportunities for the future.

    Though the Mayors like to tease about their competitive history, the reality is that the cities of Easley and Pickens recognize that they are directly connected and that through collaboration they can make each other stronger, and thus provide better opportunities for their residents as well as residents from across the county. The Doodle Trail, which will celebrate its first anniversary next month, is a great example of how partnerships can have a positive impact for everyone.
    While the Doodle Trail is primarily an amenity for local residents, it does provide some tourism opportunities in a county that fully understands that tourism is a huge economic opportunity. As part of the tour we had the opportunity to see Hagood Mill, which is just one of many special places that is being showcased as a local and regional tourism destination. We also toured Red Owens Sports Complex, which is a tremendous asset both as a place for local kids to enjoy sports, but also as a destination location for large national sporting events.
    We also had the opportunity to learn about some of the community outreach being done through the Dream Center in Easley and efforts by Baptist Easley Hospital to grow a healthy community.

    Clearly, leaders within Pickens County recognize that education is part of the answer to their future economic success. The investment that has been made in the public school system over the last five years is quite striking. We were treated to lunch at the Pickens County Career & Technology Center prepared by students in their culinary program. Since 2012, Pickens County has built not just the Center, but also four new high schools. The result is an opportunity to create innovative learning opportunities for all students in Pickens County.
    Connecting education with the manufacturing base is also important in Pickens County and the group Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County has played a key role in reinforcing connections between the business community and education. The Pickens Innovation Center is also filling a valuable role supporting entrepreneur and small business development in the community. Longstanding companies like Blue Ridge Electric also play a valuable role in supporting both the economic and community vibrancy within the county.

    The emphasis on education and innovation is not just limited to the k-12 schools in Pickens County. Our tour also included tours of Southern Wesleyan University and Clemson University.

    Though significantly different in their scale and scope, both schools are charging into the future with the goal of providing first-class education opportunities for their students. There is quite a lot of construction being done at both schools as they look to how they can build on their long histories while keeping an eye on the future.

    Overall, it is clear that local communities, business leaders and educators across Pickens County are committed to providing their residents with job opportunities, education, recreational and quality of life resources that will ensure all residents have the ability to succeed and enjoy life in Pickens County.
    Our next Getting to Know Our Neighbors tour will be to Spartanburg County later this summer, so be sure to stay tuned and join us on the bus.


    Dean serves as the Executive Director for Ten at the Top