by Dean Hybl, executive director of Ten at the Top

    There is little question that the first eight months of 2020 have provided all of us with personal and professional challenges that go beyond general expectations. In fact, I have no doubt that history books will be written about 2020 for many generations to come.

    As I think about 2020, one of the things that has been most impressive has been seeing leaders from across the region quickly adjust to dealing with unimaginable adversity. Their willingness to move forward down a path filled with uncertainty makes me think of a quote attributed to that well-known American philosopher, Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    From the very beginning of this health crisis that has led to the greatest economic crisis since the great depression, community and business leaders have been confronted with many “forks in the road.”

    Rather than balk at the challenges, I have witnessed many leaders assess the challenges and quickly move forward down the road they believe will provide the greatest opportunity to overcome the immediate challenge and best support the community.

    A crucial component of a great leader is to be willing to analyze options, take risks and make necessary decisions even when the outcomes are unclear. However, they also must recognize that developing partnerships and being flexible enough to make adjustments on the fly are often critical to achieving success in an ever-changing environment.

    Through a non-urban county listening tour as well as conversations with community and business leaders from across the Upstate, we have realized that while there have been immediate challenges created as a result of the pandemic, in many cases the crisis has magnified issues that were already on the radar, especially in rural and low-wealth communities.

    Those issues include:

    • Access to Transportation—Lack of transportation has kept people from accessing hot spots for e-learning, meal distribution, and jobs
    • Broad Band & High-Speed Internet—Lack and expense of high-speed internet is a barrier to communities in all counties
    • Entrepreneur and Small Business Support—COVID-19 has spotlighted the fragility of small businesses and struggles to access and utilize business resources
    • Support for Seniors—Challenges related to COVID-19 have magnified the lack of resources to support our growing senior population
    • Workforce Training & Talent Attraction—While the unemployment rate has increased due to COVID-19, the Upstate must still focus on ensuring a skilled workforce and attracting talent for business & industry
    • Equality of Opportunity—The pandemic has magnified the inequity around opportunity for people in low-wealth and rural communities
    • Public Safety—The social unrest that has occurred in parts of the country illustrate the importance of creating a united Upstate where law enforcement officials and residents work collaboratively to ensure the safety of everyone

    Ten at the Top and many other community organizations, local governments and businesses across the region have been working on initiatives to impact most of these issues since long before the pandemic.

    In many ways, the pandemic has validated those efforts while also illustrating just how crucial it is to continue taking steps that successfully address them.

    By continuing to move forward in this time full of “forks in the road,” Upstate leaders are taking the steps needed to ensure we address both the short-term and long-term issues so that once the crisis subsides, all communities, businesses and residents will be stronger together.

    For more information about current Ten at the Top initiatives as well as the full summaries from the Upstate Listening Tour, go to