Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top

    By Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

    There is a sign in the window of the ROMA Ristorante Italiano in downtown Laurens that I think perfectly captures the strange and challenging journey that was 2020.

    It says, “Uncharted Waters Make Brave Adventurers.”

    While certainly the level of difficulty has varied based on individual circumstances, in one way or another we all became adventurers in 2020, doing our best to navigate a world that was suddenly flipped upside down by disruptions including a global pandemic, social unrest and economic hardship.

    When 2020 began, the course for the year appeared to be generally straightforward. With unemployment across the state and country at record lows, the focus was on talent attraction and reducing barriers to employment (most notably access to transportation and skill training).

    Then suddenly, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the landscape totally changed. The declaration of a global pandemic quickly resulted in stay-at-home orders, shortages of essential goods and a rapid rise in unemployment to historically high levels. The corresponding strains on our economy are still being felt and have created additional instability for many.

    Adding another level of tension and uncertainty were highly publicized incidents of police brutality that also brought the issues of personal safety and equality to the forefront.

    While we all have spent the last nine months maneuvering the same storm, we have each been in our own boat (spaced out 6 feet apart).

    Some of us quickly adjusted to working from home while our kids also had to deal with the challenges of virtual school. For others, unemployment, sickness or general instability have made the journey even more difficult.

    Throughout this time, we have been quite fortunate here in the Upstate, as I am sure is the case in other parts of the country and world, to have a brave group of adventurers who have overcome the challenges of uncertainty to instead take on the difficulties head-on.

    We recognized more than 130 of our “Upstate Unsung Heroes” during a Ten at the Top event in November, but there are undoubtedly many more people within our region who have been at the forefront of ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents over these challenging times.

    Whether as community leaders or front-line essential workers, there have been many “Brave Adventurers” who are leading the way into what is still an unknown and uncertain future.

    As we leave 2020 behind (thankfully), it sure would be nice to have a crystal ball that could help us sneak a glimpse at what the future has in store.

    As a nonprofit organization focused on building regional collaboration and increasing our collective capacity around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life, we at Ten at the Top are specifically focused on understanding how we can work individually and collectively to navigate the challenges ahead.

    To help us gain a clearer understanding of the impacts being felt across our region and state as well as what might be coming moving forward, Ten at the Top has solicited the input of 25 business, government and community leaders as part of an initiative we are calling “Focus on the Future.”

    Throughout 2021, we will regularly be reaching out to these community leaders asking for their input around ongoing issues as we look to maneuver through the continued uncharted course ahead.

    The first insights from this group can be read now on the Ten at the Top website, and the group will continue to share its perspective throughout the year.

    While an uncharted future that will certainly include more rough waves is intimidating and concerning, I believe we can take comfort in knowing that as an Upstate region we are blessed with many insightful leaders and brave adventurers that will help us get through this tough time and continue to stay on course for making the Upstate a leading place for all residents to live, learn, do business and raise a family.

    You can learn more about Ten at the Top and the Focus on the Future initiative at

    You can read the article in Upstate Business Journal here.