Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

    Depending on the minute, I could probably argue equally that 2020 has flown by faster than normal or that 2020 seems like the year that will never end. Either way, there is no disputing that 2020 is a year like none other and certainly one that they will be writing history books about for decades to come.

    When the year began, historically low unemployment and a continuing strong growth in the Upstate’s economy provided great clarity about what issues were important to prioritize.  At Ten at the Top, our primary focus areas at the beginning of the year included: Talent Attraction (most specifically around the K-12 teacher shortage), Mobility & Access to Transportation; Senior Needs, and Connecting Disconnected Communities to Resources for Starting & Growing a Business.

    We were also looking forward to the 5th anniversary of the Pique Young Leaders Summit to be held in March and the 2020 Upstate Summit with best-selling author Richard Florida as the keynote speaker in September.

    Click on the image to see an enlarged graphic.

    As we all now clearly know, the best laid plans are no match for a global pandemic.

    Beginning in early March, TATT joined most other businesses, local governments and non-profit organizations across the country in pivoting focus towards the growing global health crisis as well as the economic crisis that quickly developed as a result of the shutdown of non-essential in-person businesses.

    As an organization that uses convening and connecting as a way to engage the community, Ten at the Top was able to very quickly redirect our primary focus to how we could help compile and share information needed by Upstate organizations and residents during this time of crisis.

    On March 16th, TATT created the Upstate COVID-19 Community Link Repository that ultimately included links to more than 100 health, utility, education, business, government and many other resources across the Upstate.

    An increased presence on social media as well as weekly e-newsletters with specific resources and insight from a variety of sector leaders from across the region provided additional opportunities for TATT to connect with Upstate residents and to share important community information.

    Recognizing the need for a continued platform to keep stakeholders connected during a time of social distancing, TATT quickly began a series of virtual workshops for our Entrepreneur Ecosystem work group. We also began a TATT CHAT virtual workshop series that provided regular opportunities for stakeholders from across the region to connect with each other and hear updates on key issues impacting the region.

    Building on previous efforts to build interactive regional asset maps, in partnership with Clemson University and Upstate United Ways, TATT developed an interactive regional food access map to help identify available food resources across the region for people dealing with food insecurity.

    As a result of these efforts, Ten at the Top has reached a broader audience across the Upstate throughout the first half of 2020.

    TATT’s social media reach (through Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter) eclipsed 375,000 impressions and 44,000 direct engagements. The TATT Website saw a 31.91% increase in sessions during the COVID-19 crisis with nearly 49,000 sessions and over 71,000 pageviews so far in 2020. In addition, TATT electronic newsletters resulted in nearly 35,000 views and more than 5,000 clicks.

    Moving TATT’s convening platform from in-person to virtual proved to be a positive opportunity to engage a wide range of participants from across the region. TATT hosted 27 virtual meetings with 832 total participants. In addition to the TATT CHAT and Entrepreneur Workshops, TATT also hosted an Upstate Virtual Listening Tour where stakeholders from the seven non-urban counties in the Upstate provided insight into their focus and concerns as we move forward in the health and economic crisis. The result of those sessions was a summary report and several next steps.

    Though much of the focus of TATT staff during the second quarter of 2020 was on outreach, there was also continued work done to advance the focus areas identified at the beginning of the year.

    The Upstate Mobility Alliance was officially launched in January and Michael Hildebrand was hired as the director. The Alliance is convening four workgroups around various elements of mobility (Moving People/Public Transportation, Growing Mobility Investments, Active & Livable Communities, and Technology & Innovation). The Alliance is also supporting local efforts to advance transportation & mobility across both the urban and rural areas within the region.

    The Education Spectrum initiative looking at the K-12 teacher shortage announced the Teach at the Top campaign in late 2019 and began a social media presence in 2020. In addition, work is currently underway on a Teacher Gateway platform to provide connections to all the information needed by someone interested in becoming a teacher in the Upstate.

    The global pandemic and economic crisis illustrated the need for an Entrepreneur Ecosystem that connects service providers with opportunities to grow the awareness of programs available to support entrepreneurs and small business owners. In addition to hosting seven virtual workshops, the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem also has continued to identify opportunities to connect the disconnected with needed entrepreneur resources. In the second half of 2020, the focus on building awareness and understanding of resources will continue through multiple platforms.

    Another issue that has become a top focus in recent weeks is community safety following a number of deaths across the country at the hands of police officers and subsequent national protests around the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Under the leadership of Terence Roberts, the Mayor of the City of Anderson and 2020-2021 Chairman of Ten at the Top, in July TATT will begin convening a discovery committee to look at opportunities to increase the safety of all residents across the Upstate while supporting community unity. Please be on the lookout for more information and a set of recommendations during the second half of 2020.

    Unfortunately, the global pandemic has impacted TATT’s ability to host some of our signature events in 2020. The annual Pique Young Professionals Summit has twice been postponed and we are currently looking at alternatives to an in-person event for 2020. The bi-annual Upstate Regional Summit has been postponed until May 5, 2021, though we are pleased that Richard Florida will still be available to serve as the keynote speaker. The status of other TATT networking events and the annual Celebrating Successes event are currently in limbo with decisions to be made over the next several months.

    Though the first half of 2020 has provided all of us with a new set of personal and professional challenges that were unforeseen when the year began, there are many great examples from across our region of individuals, organizations and communities working collaboratively to overcome these challenges. By continuing to think creatively and work collaboratively, the Upstate will address the challenges ahead and ultimately emerge from this crisis with greater resolve and community strength to tackle future tests and ensure this region remains a special place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.