Upstate Virtual Listening Tour Summary

Upstate Virtual Listening Tour Summary

General Overview

While cities, counties, businesses and organizations across the Upstate continue to address public health and economic issues related to the global pandemic, Ten at the Top remains committed to serving as a regional convener and connector to help support local efforts and grow the Upstate’s collective capacity.

To help better understand the concerns and challenges being faced by communities across the Upstate, Ten at the Top recently completed a “Listening Tour” of the seven non-urban counties in the region (all counties except Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg). Each session included input from leaders from local governments, community organizations, businesses and other local stakeholders.

While each county had its own nuances and distinct approach to responding to the pandemic, there were a number of similarities across the region.

  • Most encouragingly, each county reported that overall the response to provide needed services to those facing immediate hardship has been successful in meeting the general needs of all residents, including children, seniors and college students. Another commonality has been a collaborative spirit as many local entities, including some that had not previously worked together, have collaborated to meet the needs of local residents.
  • Communication has been an important element and communities have used a variety of methods to ensure that residents are aware of programs as well as health services. Social media has played an important role in many communities, but with a significant portion of residents in rural counties not serviced by high speed internet, that approach has not reached all residents.
  • Accessible and affordable internet was a theme across the region. In some communities, school buses were deployed to help residents connect to internet, especially to assist students. However, with transportation also being an issue for some residents, reaching an internet hot spot was not always possible.
  • With many businesses shut down for an extended period of time due to the stay-at-home order issued by Governor McMaster, there is great concern about how quickly small businesses can recover. Many communities have worked with business service agencies to help ensure their business owners are able to connect to government support programs developed to reduce the impacts on local businesses. In addition, many local business organizations have been providing marketing and promotional support for local businesses.
  • One interesting commonality among the communities is that while COVID-19 has spotlighted issues including internet accessibility and fragility of small businesses in rural communities, there are also a number of issues that were of concern prior to COVID-19 that remain priorities across the Upstate.
  • Mobility and lack of transportation access has become a regional priority in recent years, especially for many residents of rural communities who are unable to improve their personal economic mobility due to lack of access to transportation. Skill training also remains an issue in many Upstate counties as the technical colleges, Workforce Boards and others continue to provide a critical service to help people gain skills needed for higher paying jobs.

During each session, members of the Ten at the Top team asked a specific set of questions around the topics of general collaboration, economic development & small businesses, infrastructure & mobility and social services, public health and education. Below are composite summaries of the general feedback heard across the region. You can also read each of the county specific summaries through this link.

Polling Questions

For all counties except for Cherokee, participants were provided with a series of poll questions and asked to rank on a scale of 1–10 (I being not at all met and 10 being totally met) their impression on the response for each category.

 

County AbbevilleCherokeeGreen-woodLaurensOconeePickensUnion
Number of Responses 7210158129
When it comes to social services and health care in your county, how do you feel your community’s personal well-being needs have been met?Avg.887887
Mean787786
Min563664
Max991010109
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your manufacturers and other larger employers have been met?Avg.7788987
Mean7787886
Min7675675
Max8810101098
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your restaurants and retail stores have been met?Avg.666766
Mean656665
Min533343
Max79101099
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your local (non-chain or franchise) small businesses and entrepreneurs have been met?Avg.6666765
Mean5665665
Min4641443
Max7691010108
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your schools, colleges, and universities have been met?Avg.677887
Mean677787
Min553364
Max78101099
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your local and county governments have been met?Avg.767887
Mean757886
Min525664
Max910910108

 

Collaboration

Questions asked by Dean Hybl, Executive Director

What role has collaboration played in communities across the Upstate as they respond to COVID-19?

Whether it be previously developed collaborative partnerships or ones created specifically to collectively respond to COVID-19, collaboration has clearly been critical in all communities during the pandemic. Collaboration has been used by different communities to share information, identify resources and implement needed services. The result has been a general feeling in most Upstate counties that the response to COVID-19 has been a team effort with everyone playing their own specific role in the effort.

Are there any examples of communities being pro-active in their approaches?

Prior to COVID-19, Pickens County had passed a state of emergency ordinance that called for city agencies to automatically coordinate with each other during a state of emergency. As a result, when a number of agencies had limited day-to-day work due to COVID-19, those employees were repurposed to help the community in various ways, including distributing meals on wheels, collecting food and assisting the United Way.

Economic Development & Small Business

Questions asked by Erin Ouzts, Entrepreneur Ecosystem Coordinator

In general, what was the state of small businesses & entrepreneurs in the Upstate prior to COVID-19 and how does that set things up for recovery? Generally growing, expanding and starting to thrive.  Many new businesses getting started.

What were some of the major impacts seen by small businesses during COVID-19Closings and shifting to curb-side delivery.  Scrambling to understand and get PPP and EIDL loans.  How to get funding for under-the-table workers and non-legally-registered organizations. Exposure of their lack of understanding of internet usage to get information and post updated information.  Challenges that came with not knowing where or how to look for and find information.  Lack of clean/updated financial documents led to extra work by banks and accountants.  Having fast enough internet at home, or even access at all, hampered attempts to do online activities.

Please share any unique programs or support efforts that were undertaken across the region.  $75k spent on advertising for “shop local”; technology audit; community-based loan funds popping up everywhere.  Sandwich board signs for downtown businesses.

What established resources were most helpful to small businesses & entrepreneurs during the crisis? SBDC, Chambers, county and city economic development organizations

What was the general experience and challenges around utilizing EIDL & PPP programs? Scrambling to understand PPP and EIDL loans.  Not having a big-bank relationship. How to get funding for under-the-table workers and non-legally-registered organizations. Challenges that came with not knowing where or how to look for and find information.  Lack of clean/updated financial documents led to extra work by banks and accountants.  Banks trying to process applications and answer questions while the rules were still being decided.

Is there a general lesson that COVID-19 has taught local communities and/or small business owners?  Have the business of our business in order (legal, financial, accounting); be nimble and able to shift resources to maximize opportunity for revenue quickly; know how to use the internet, social media, etc. to post AND find updated information.

In general, how have manufacturers and larger employers fared during COVID-19? Most have fared well. They are moving to smaller groups of employees at a time and are adjusting for social distancing.  Seems that other than getting through to unemployment office, getting the unemployment insurance was something most employees pursued.

Share examples of best practice efforts by counties to support manufacturers. SBDC weekly information sessions and webinars.  SBDC phone meetings and ability to set appointments online, plus loan programs, help with setting guidelines.

Please share any potential programs, collaborative efforts or other initiatives that could be implemented to support communities, businesses & entrepreneurs across the region. Community loan programs, technology training, advertising and promotion support, additional social media campaigns by city and chambers, webinars on how-to proceed through and implement the many changes.

Infrastructure & Mobility

Questions asked by Michael Hildebrand, Director, Upstate Mobility Alliance

Provide a general overview of rural mobility challenges in the Upstate. Generally speaking, the mobility challenges in our rural communities are focused in two areas: a lack of accessible public transportation options and minimal infrastructure such as sidewalks and bike lanes. These challenges limit access to work, medical, and other community resources.

What are some of the specific challenges related to mobility? Several communities currently do not have access to any public transportation system. In other communities that have a public transportation system, often these systems do not serve the entire county which leaves areas without any transit option. An additional challenge is the lack of transportation to educational opportunities. Finally, the lack of safe walking and biking paths limits access to employment opportunities.

As employees return to work, what have been some of the challenges to overcome? Communities are finding that financial and educational literacy is a challenge to returning to work. Additionally, since most information about job postings and work opportunities are online, the ability to communicate with potential workers has been an issue in communities that lack strong internet availability. Finally, finding transportation options to get to work has been a challenge.

What has been the experience around broad band across the Upstate? The lack of widely available broadband service is a major issue for most rural communities. Where broadband is available, the cost is a barrier for individual users.

Please share any potential regional efforts that could help support infrastructure and mobility challenges in rural areas across the Upstate. Efforts that provide education on the basics of computer and internet use would be helpful, especially as it relates to looking for job opportunities. Also help in identifying potential transportation solutions would be beneficial.

Social Services, Education, Health

Questions asked by Justine Allen, Events & Program Coordinator

Overall, what role did school districts play in supporting social service needs of students during COVID-19?

School districts provided meals, either by bus at schools and other drop off points, or by direct delivery to homes. School districts provided wi-fi hot spots for downloading of e-learning materials at schools and other central locations.

Schools made guidance counselors available, but not being able to spend time in person with students is expected to take a toll, as this is how concerns generally arise to be addressed.

Union Reads (Union High School program) is partnering with SCC on virtual parent literacy classes, including financial literacy.

What were some of the challenges faced by colleges/universities?

Some students were unable to travel to their home state or country when the schools closed, so they were accommodated with housing and meals, either on campus or with families.

There are concerns about students being part of the local workforce and consumer economy. Many students are unable to work due to closures and unable to access stimulus funds because they are still dependents.

Lander University’s Foundation started a crisis fund. Students apply for a max of $300 in vouchers for rent, utilities, transportation, gas. They will continue to raise money for the fund.

Financial Aid offices working with students who are struggling.

Were there any best practice examples of communities coming together to support community needs?

  • Covid for All in Cherokee started by several organizations working together in Cherokee.
  • United Way partnered with YMCA in Greenwood to expand food program.
  • Lakelands YMCA working with Laurens District 55 on a summer reading program and other initiatives tbd.
  • SC Empowerment distributes food boxes in Laurens neighborhoods.
  • Salvation Army in Pickens County assisting with funding, childcare, working with United Way.
  • Meals to You (Baylor program) extended outreach to SC during school year.

What are some of the ongoing challenges, especially related to keeping people in their homes amid increased unemployment?

Initially food shortages were an issue. Now more assistance is being requested with mortgages, rent, and utility payments. Will funds be available moving forward?

Did communities provide specific programs to support seniors?

Through United Way and other organizations, counties provided some sort of meal assistance through access points and home delivery. Computer literacy is an issue so resources available have not always been accessed. Many food vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables have not been requested so the assumption is that people do not know about them or are afraid to go out to pick them up. Some agencies put vouchers online for safely, but this posed a challenge because some seniors do not use or know how to use technology to find or access the vouchers.

How to reach seniors without using smartphones and internet?

Have any groups fallen through the cracks?

The only group identified was students of higher education.

What are some of the challenges, potential collaborative opportunities moving forward?

ChallengePotential Collaborative Opportunity
Dissemination of informationCounties get together to develop best practices for information distribution, including in times of disaster (no power)

 

Lack of internet access and affordabilityCounties get together to develop plan, lobby state/fed, and implement universal installation and affordability of broadband
Childcare
Seniors and technologyScale up training for seniors—e.g.,coordinate getting appropriate people in the counties together and train their people so their people can train seniors.

Just Call Bill mentioned as a resource

Andrea Smith at Senior Action also mentioned her staff doing lots of over the phone assistance.

Transportation – getting to jobs, getting to schools to get meals and wi-fi, seniors getting to food access pointsMobility Alliance

 

Next Steps & Future Opportunities

In general, the listening tour input reinforced that a number of the areas in which Ten at the Top has been focusing collaborative efforts including mobility & transportation, entrepreneur support and senior needs remain relevant during the current crisis.

Access to internet & broadband technology was also a major focus and while Ten at the Top will certainly support the continued expansion of availability across the region, that issue seems to have been identified as a state-wide issue that the state legislature will be focusing to address.

Below are some of the specific follow-up actions that TATT will be taking in the coming weeks to support some of the issues identified during the listening tour:

  • Rural Mobility Listening Session: The Upstate Mobility Alliance’s Moving People Task Force will be holding a special virtual listening session on July 13th with representatives from rural communities to better learn about specific mobility & transportation challenges in the non-urban areas within the Upstate. Following this session, the committee will develop a strategy for how to move forward in supporting greater access to transportation in the rural areas within the Upstate.
  • Entrepreneur & Small Business Webinar Series: To help address some of the specific challenges identified by entrepreneurs & small businesses, TATT’s Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem group will be holding a series of webinars with subject experts that will be available for viewing by small business owners & entrepreneurs. In addition, the group will continue to focus on “connecting the disconnected” with resources to help start and grow businesses in the Upstate.
  • Senior Needs Workshops: Due to COVID-19, TATT has been unable to hold in-person Senior Needs Workshops through the first half of 2020. Beginning in August, we intend to hold virtual workshops to continue to connect senior service providers and to especially understand how to support their needs during the current pandemic.

In addition to these three specific efforts, TATT will continue to look for opportunities to support communities across the Upstate in other areas that are impacted by the pandemic and corresponding economic crisis.

Continued Upstate Growth Presents Challenges and Creates Opportunities

Continued Upstate Growth Presents Challenges and Creates Opportunities

By Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

Given that the population for the Upstate region is projected to reach 1.75 million by 2040, it is not surprising that the recently released Census Bureau population estimate showed that the Upstate added nearly 20,000 new residents between July 2017 and July 2018.

There are certainly some who will read those numbers and suggest it is just further confirmation that we are growing too fast and need to shut the doors to make sure we maintain the quality of life for those already living here.

As someone who has lived in and studied regions struggling with declining population and economic crisis, it is my opinion that the great community vibrancy and strong economy here in the Upstate is directly tied to the fact that we are a region where people want to move and stay, thus resulting in consistent population growth over the last half century.

Changing policies to specifically discourage population growth would likely have unintended consequences that could directly contribute to a decline in economic viability and quality of life while likely having limited actual impact on the total population numbers for the region.

Instead of focusing on potential policies that could hamper positive growth, for more than a decade, leaders from across the Upstate have been promoting and encouraging efforts that embrace the Upstate as a vibrant and growing region—one that supports policies, investments and practices that help us shape future growth, instead of being shaped by it.

We are at a key juncture in the future of the Upstate. The increase in traffic congestion and land being used for development in many of our counties is now noticeable and starting to impact daily life and decisions across the region.

Fortunately, there are a number of opportunities for the Upstate today to significantly impact our future growth, without trying to limit the number of new residents within our communities.

How We Move People and Goods

Much of the discussion over the last decade in the Upstate and all of South Carolina around transportation has been focused on our deteriorating roads and bridges. The investment in improving our roads that was approved by our state legislators in 2017 was a key milestone, but was only one of many steps that must be taken if we want to efficiently and affordably move people and goods across the state for years to come.

Many local communities in South Carolina, but none in the Upstate, are enhancing their road maintenance and improvements with local financial support. Providing local funding is one way communities can ensure the most utilized roads within their community are able to keep up with traffic demand while remaining safe.

In the Upstate, 94% of people get to their daily job by using a personal vehicle. While we will likely never be able to create public transportation systems that can be used by everyone, just providing alternative transportation methods that reduce the number of people in the region who get to jobs using a personal vehicle to 85 or 90% would have a dramatic improvement on our roadways.

Providing Your Voice on Comprehensive Plans

The South Carolina statutes call for cities and counties to create and revise a comprehensive growth plan every ten years. These plans are designed to serve as a guide for communities to make decisions around appropriate growth within their community. Many of our communities are currently in the process of updating their plans.

Almost all elected officials regularly say that they make their decisions based on the input they receive from their constituents. One key element of the comprehensive plans is community input. If you have questions, concerns or ideas about how your community should try to shape local growth over the next decade, participating in one of the many meetings being held in your community is a great opportunity to share your insight.

If you are interested in the comprehensive planning process within your local city or county, I encourage you to check their web site for upcoming meetings and updates throughout the planning process.

Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Nearly 90% of all workers in the United States and 95% in South Carolina work for businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Studies have also shown that being an entrepreneur or small business owner is one of the greatest ways for someone to advance their economic status and in many cases emerge from the historic cycle of poverty.

During a recent visit to the Upstate, Andy Stoll from the Kaufman Foundation said that the communities that will have the greatest overall economic success and stability are those that are able to create a culture where all potential entrepreneurs and small business owners are aware of and have access to what they need to be successful.

The Upstate region is fortunate to have a large number of entities that provide support for entrepreneurs and small business owners. There are many Upstate residents who have the potential to become small business owners, but are likely unaware of the resources available to them.  Continuing to develop and enhance connections between available resources and potential small business owners and entrepreneurs is another opportunity for our region to help support growth while building a strong economic foundation that gives everyone opportunity.

Ultimately, what future we leave for our children and grandchildren will be determined by local and regional priorities and investments. Rather than turning our backs on growth and suffering the consequences, if we can embrace the fact that we are a vibrant and growing region and continue to have public dialogue and support investments that shape that growth in a positive and sustainable manner, we can ensure that the Upstate remains a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.

 

You can learn more about Ten at the Top and how you can become involved in regional growth initiatives at www.tenatthetop.org.

 

Greer Streetscaping Project

Greer Streetscaping Project

by Savannah Higgins, Ten at the Top Intern

Big changes are happening in Greer. One of South Carolina’s fastest growing cities is getting a major makeover. The project is known as “CenterG” for the synergy it will bring to Greer. Greer CPW has worked since the summer of 2017 to replace or rehabilitate sewer and water lines prior to the city’s work, giving much of the area known as Greer Station new underground utilities now.

In a recent article from the city of Greer, Greer City Administrator Ed Driggers mentioned, “This is one of those projects that we do about every 75 to 100 years and it just happens to be the time to do it,” he continued to mention that, “It is aging infrastructure and it will be a very complex project on which we are partnering with Greer CPW. We’ve been working with our downtown merchants for a couple of years now, advising and preparing them for this.”

In hopes of enhancing people’s experience downtown, the city is taking a design that is very unique. This new infrastructure will not be traditional—the design is called a shared street design. It has no curb and gutter and is a paver street rather than an asphalt street. Their goal is also to maintain two-way traffic for vehicles and pedestrian access in that area as well as parallel parking.

The streetscape will be funded by city resources. The $10.8 million-dollar project will include a shared street design, brick pavers, landscaping, new curb and gutters, ADA accessibility, and new lighting on Trade Street.

Matt Sossamon, Project Manager at Sossamon Construction Company, Inc., stated to Nickelle Smith of WSPA, “We’ve done a number of streetscapes throughout the Upstate —Daniel Morgan Square in Spartanburg, Fountain Inn, Abbeville, we’ve done a number of them.” He continued, “We understand the concern that the business owners have in the downtown and we’re going to do our best to minimize the inconvenience as much as possible.”

The city of Greer is encouraging folks to follow the construction process at www.futuregreer.com and is working to communicate that despite the construction, all businesses are open and we need to continue supporting them.

Spartanburg Chamber Creates Program to Keep Money Local

Spartanburg Chamber Creates Program to Keep Money Local

 

by Sharon Purvis

Spartanburg’s Chamber of Commerce is serious about supporting its local businesses, creating the Spartanbucks program to encourage spending in the community. So far, 24 local merchants have signed on to the program, and $40,000 worth of Spartanbucks have been purchased—with that much more pledged to be purchased between five different companies.

While individuals have purchased Spartanbucks in the form of gift cards, the bulk of what has been purchased and committed has come from corporations for employee gifts and bonuses. Just as important, though, is getting merchants to sign on so that recipients have a number of options to choose from in spending their bucks.

Shauna Axelrod, executive assistant at the Spartanburg Chamber and Spartanbucks point person, says, “As we grow this, it’s ideal that we grow both merchants and employers. We’d like to make it as big as possible, and at the end of the day, it’s just putting a lot of money back into the community, which is great.”

Right now, in the beginning stages of the program, the participating merchants are almost all in the downtown area, but Axelrod says she hopes as the program grows, merchants across the county will participate as well.

Many of the merchants are restaurants, but Spartanbucks can also be spent at the Chapman Cultural Center and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, as well as at local retail stores.

How It Works

Spartanbucks gift certificates may be purchased through the Spartanburg Chamber web site or by clicking here.

Recipients will get a link sent either to their phone or their email, and that link will contain the list of participating merchants. With the link, they’ll have either a printed gift certificate or an electronic one on their phone, and that gives the merchant a credit card number to run.

On the merchant side, the credit card number is sent to the store via a link, and once a ten-cent transaction is run using the number, they are set up with the Spartanburg Chamber as a participating merchant—so customers can’t simply use that credit card number at Wal-mart or another non-participating store.

For level 1 chamber members, the cost is $100 per year; for those at level 2 and above, it is complimentary as part of their chamber investment. Non-members may also participate for an annual fee of $250.

The back end of the program is run through a company called Yiftee, which provides Local First gift card services for any community that wants to commit to keeping money local, supporting local businesses. There is a per-merchant fee, and Yiftee requires 12 participating merchants to set up the program. The Spartanbucks program is a simple one, with no physical cards, but branded merchant cards are available through Yiftee for a monthly fee.

To become a participating merchant or to find out more about using Spartanbucks as an employee reward system, contact Shauna Axelrod at (864) 594-5011 or email her at saxelrod@spartanburgchamber.com.

Building the Future at USC Union

Building the Future at USC Union

Annie Smith • USC Union • Development & Marketing Director

Starting in the fall semester of 2019, USC Union will be able to deliver the USC Aiken Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This new expansion will allow students to study all four years in Union and Laurens, including coursework and clinicals. A new science and nursing center will capitalize on the growing USC Union campus. The goal is to attract more nurses to our area in order to impact local healthcare workforce needs.

USC Union strives to make meaningful, top-quality education both accessible and affordable. Continued success and growth of USC Union depends on our ability to evolve with changes. In today’s world, technology is a critical component of any educational program, and incorporating cutting-edge technology will ensure that our students have the resources necessary to succeed.

In order to successfully achieve this goal, the campus will need upgraded biology and chemistry laboratories, additional online classroom capacity, and additional nursing faculty. Union County has provided a building on Main Street in Union to accommodate this expansion, but extensive renovations are necessary.

Students will use virtual reality to build familiarity with scenarios in a controlled environment by “doing rather than seeing.” Virtual labs are used presently at Harvard and Stanford. Students will learn using unique state-of-the-art virtual reality. They will be able to explore with lifelike 3D models that cover the entire human body. This teaching style drives student engagement and will accelerate learning. It will also give instant feedback to the student during the simulation.

Renovations in the new science and nursing building are needed to accommodate the invaluable educational tool that will assist students on their path of receiving their nursing degree. Virtual labs are safer and preferable because there are no chemicals or vent hoods. The labs also increase access and reduce costs. Research space will support student and faculty projects to drive learning by allowing hands-on experience. The additional space in the nursing building will enable USC Union to recruit top faculty and students.

USC Union’s Development and Marketing Director, Annie Smith, said, “The growth at USC Union is significant for our county and especially our downtown. It is remarkable to see how our campus has developed in just a few years and my wish is that every single person in Union will stand behind USC Union to help us grow even more.”

For over 50 years, USC Union has housed a small library downstairs in the USC Union Central Building. It offered students the tools and resources they needed for research and any computer services. The library hosted workshops and maintained a comprehensive collection of resources that support the academic offerings of USC Union’s curricula.

One block from USC Union is the Union Carnegie Library. It is housed in the oldest library building in South Carolina, which was given by Andrew Carnegie. The library recently went through an extensive renovation and restoration of the original historic section. This added more space for children and teens, as well as additional space for meeting and workshops. During the renovation, USC Union’s campus was a satellite location, and a strong partnership was formed between the two.

“The agreement between USC Union and the Carnegie Library is a positive for the university, the library, and the community. It enables the university to expand services and hours in a beautiful location. It frees up space on campus for much-needed classrooms and faculty offices. It provides the Carnegie with working capital. It allows the community to see that two government agencies can combine efforts in order to provide better service for all while cutting overall expenses,” expressed Dr. John Catalano, USC Union’s dean.

With two libraries being situated within a block of each other, it made sense to move the USC Union library system to Carnegie. The partnership benefits faculty, staff, students, and the community as a whole. Carnegie offers more resources, technology, computer usage, and much more. Their extended evening and Saturday hours will greatly benefit the students, especially during exam times.

Rieta Drinkwine, Director of Union Carnegie Library, stated, “We are incredibly excited about this collaboration and the new ways we will be able to serve the community together,and we hope that this collaboration will serve as template for other similar partnerships across the state. USC Union is doing wonderful things for Union, and we are glad to be a part of their efforts.”

Once emptied, the USC Union library will free up over 6,000 square feet. Future plans for the area consist of a foreign language active learning lab, four large classrooms, three office spaces, and additional storage. The area will be designated for humanities faculty, including foreign language, literature, and philosophy. The move and renovations will support USC Union’s growth without having to build a new building.

Future Fine Arts Building

USC Union has also acquired an older post office building across from campus on Main Street. Once the Science and Nursing building renovations are complete, the post office building will become the USC Union Fine Arts building. It will house a printing press room, gallery area, a kiln room, office space for two artists, studio space, and a large lecture room. Thanks to Lockhart Power, the parking lot at the Fine Arts building also has two car-charging stations. City of Union and the Union County were the first local governments to participate in the state’s Plug In South Carolina campaign, and USC Union is proud to be a location. The initiative is a push to bring attention to the charging stations installed throughout the state.

If you are interested in learning more about USC Union or to donate to the campus, please contact Annie Smith, Development & Marketing Director at alsmith@mailbox.sc.edu or (864) 424-8055.

The Fastest Growing Companies in the Upstate

The Fastest Growing Companies in the Upstate

by Sharon Purvis

In October, a luncheon in Columbia, hosted by South Carolina Business Awards and presented by The Capital Corporation, celebrated the top 25 fastest-growing companies in South Carolina—and twelve of those companies are here in the Upstate.

The qualifications for the awards are that the company must be headquartered in South Carolina, have been in operation for at least 3 fiscal years, and have reported revenues of at least $3 million in the most recent year; judging is based on financial and employee growth over a 3-year period.

Those Upstate companies that were honored at the luncheon reflect the larger trend of growth in our area. The companies include:

  • a financial services firm: WCM Global Wealth (Greenville), a diversified financial services firm specialized in providing exclusive financial products and services
  • two staffing firms that cater to technology groups: The Hiring Group (Greer), a technical staffing and recruiting firm, and Intellectual Capitol (Greenville), a staffing and technology services company that provides technology assessment and consulting, strategic staffing, and application development
  • three companies in the technical/engineering/manufacturing sector: Clear Touch Interactive (Greenville),a leading provider of multi-touch interactive flat panels for education,government, and businesses; NextGen Supply Chain (Greenville), providing consulting, engineering support, andsupply chain management services to advanced manufacturing industries such as aerospace, automotive, and medical devices; and Thomas Mechanical (Laurens), a mechanical contractor specializing in commercial/industrial HVAC services, fabrication, process piping, engineering, and maintenance services.   
  • two contracting and construction companies: Harper General Contractors (Greenville), a full service general contracting and construction management firm offering preconstruction, building information modeling, design-build, construction management at risk, LEED construction, and design-assist services; and Clayton Construction Company (Spartanburg), a general contractor that will provide preconstruction planning, project coordination, post-construction follow-up, and a range of other services based on the project.
  • two real estate companies: RealOp Investments (Greenville), a commercial real estate investment company; and National Land Realty (Greenville), a full-service real estate brokerage company specializing in farm, ranch, recreational, plantation, timber, equestrian, waterfront, and commercial land across the country. 
  • a fitness company: 9Round (Simpsonville), specialized fitness centers that bring kickboxing fitness training to the average person in a convenient, affordable, 30-minute, full-body circuit format.
  • and a food company: Duke Brands (Greenville), the holding company for Duke Foods, a manufacturer of ready-to-eat dips, spreads (most notably Duke’s Mayonnaise), and bakery items, as well as the Duke Sandwich Company restaurants.

Additionally, the following awards were handed out: Harper General Contractors, headquartered in Greenville, was presented with the South Carolina Economic Impact Award. The Rising Star was awarded to Global Sales Group (Easley). South Carolina Excellence in Business Awards went to A3 Communications (Irmo), Duke Brands (Greenville), PCI Group (Fort Mill), and Quality Business Solutions (Travelers Rest). Congratulations to all of these companies for their growth and for their contribution to the grown of the Upstate and of South Carolina.