The end of the year is an annual opportunity to look back on successes and challenges of the past 12 months as well as ahead towards the promise of a new year.
For Ten at the Top, 2017 has been a building block year as we grow a clearer understanding around key issues facing the Upstate region.
As an organization created to encourage collaboration and regional partnerships on issues related to how we are growing as a region, better understanding current and future challenges and opportunities across the Upstate is critical for Ten at the Top.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.” In 2017 TATT and other partners took key steps to increase the amount of measurable information available for how the Upstate is growing.
The release of the Shaping Our Future Growth Analysis, coordinated through a partnership of Upstate Forever, TATT and the Riley Institute at Furman University, provided valuable information and a “wake up call” for the potential future cost of growth (both financial and in terms of land used for development) in the Upstate.
According to the trend model created for Shaping Our Future, the Upstate is projected to use more land for development (920 square miles) between 2015 and 2040 than was used from the beginning of time until 2015 (725 square miles). This while adding only about 320,000 new residents for a total population of 1.75 million by 2040.
What is perhaps most concerning is that the study showed that revenue to cover the expanded development footprint would cover only about half the projected cost-to-serve without additional taxes, fees or other sources of income. So, if we do not change our current growth patterns in the Upstate we are not only going to have sprawling growth that impacts our quality of life, natural resources and potentially our economic vibrancy, but we are going to have to likely tax ourselves at a higher rate to pay for it.
For Ten at the Top, this study has helped clarify some of the areas in which we need to focus our involvement and efforts to coordinate collaboration and a strategic approach towards how the Upstate addresses current and future growth.
While Upstate Forever is leading the efforts around growing awareness of the land use challenges, the Upstate Professional Planners Group coordinated by TATT is helping craft and share the message for what can be done by communities to impact change and grow in a more strategic manner. The first step is a series of workshops for elected officials starting in January.
Moving people and goods across the Upstate is another important component of the overall regional growth strategy. In 2017, Ten at the Top started coordinating an effort called Connecting Our Future that includes many partner organizations and businesses in looking holistically at mobility, connectivity and congestion reduction across the Upstate region.
According to the Census Bureau, 94% of all Upstate residents currently use their personal vehicle for transportation to get to work. That equates to about 700,000 vehicles on the road in the region every day simply transporting people to and from work. By 2040 that figure could be closer to a million cars daily.
There are currently many efforts, some federally mandated and others championed by non-profit or community organizations, that are related to some element of transportation, connectivity and mobility. Through Connecting Our Future, we are trying to ensure that all these efforts are working towards the same goals and when appropriate working collectively to build the Upstate capacity around moving people and goods.
Ultimately, once a shared transportation and mobility vision and actionable strategies are created it will take a coalition of business and community leaders to push forward efforts that have measurable impacts on the role of transportation and mobility in the overall growth of the Upstate region. In 2018, Ten at the Top will continue to work with local businesses, governments and community organizations in building partnerships that recognize the importance of collective investment in the future of the Upstate.
There are many additional “hot button” issues including workforce, child well-being, senior needs, our entrepreneurial ecosystem and others that Ten at the Top will be partnering with key Upstate stakeholder in 2018 to increase clarity on our current challenges and potential collective opportunities.
The current success the Upstate is enjoying both in economic and community growth is thanks to the time, energy and commitment of many leaders who have come before us. It is now up to all of us who call this region home to work together to ensure that the Upstate remains a special place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.