Focus on the Future: Key Topics for 2021

Focus on the Future: Key Topics for 2021

What is something within your area of focus you are particularly paying attention to heading into 2021? Why?

As a legislator, I have been focused on education. Covid has consumed much of my attention in 2020. It has also only highlighted the issues within education in SC. The states that are able to capitalize off the disruption will improve relative to other states. The states that cannot will suffer. – Neal Collins

Pundits and consultants are now saying that mid-size communities like Greenville will actually benefit from the ‘de-urbanization’ trend initiated by COVID 19.  We were already growing at an historic rate and these projections may create an even greater demand from folks fleeing the density of bigger cities in favor of places like the Upstate.  The need for consistent and sustainable land use planning is critical.  If we do not develop more reasonable land use patterns, we will jeopardize the very quality of life that we now enjoy and others find attractive. – Mark Farris

I am curious about various organization’s return to office space and what changes may occur with floorplans going forward.  Adoption of at-home work, in part or 100%, how does open space change, furniture needs change, wellness minded improvements at the office, focus on cleanliness and all the cost associated with these changes are all very interesting to me.  – David Feild

For obvious reasons, we are paying attention to what is happening with the virus spread and the intensity of the cases. This impacts our business from many avenues including a claims standpoint, providers ability to treat our members, as well as our groups ability to continue to grow and remain a viable business. Throughout the pandemic it has become apparent that the need to have access to telehealth will remain and this could be an area of growth for our providers, as patients and providers find the convenience of this method of care distribution to be easier and allows the access to be greater. – Angie Gossett

Headed into 2021 our organization will be focused on the 2021 South Carolina Legislative Session, which begins in January.  Legislative advocacy is the primary focus of SCMA, and there are a number of issues we will be engaged on ranging from workforce and education to economic development and regulatory issues.  We need to ensure that South Carolina’s competitive business climate remains strong, that we are cultivating and supporting our future and current workforce, and that we are always thinking one step ahead on behalf of our state’s manufacturing industry.  – Sara Hazzard

We are eyeing the speed at which a vaccine is available to the public at-large. In most audience surveys conducted by arts organizations, many individuals stated that they will feel comfortable returning to arts events at the level they did prior to COVID-19 when a vaccine is available. While we of course are paying attention to further monetary and policy COVID relief for the arts industry, the vaccine is the one item that gets arts groups back to “normal”. – G.P. McLeer

In 2021, I will be paying close attention to small businesses and entrepreneurial support.  2020 has been a very challenging year for local, small businesses and has required many adjustments in the way they operate.  Although many have been successful at staying afloat, I know there are educational opportunities and resources we can offer to help them better prepare for their future as a small business owner.  I understand the importance of these businesses to the character and unique offerings in our communities. – Amanda Munyan

Education/public secondary – virtual opportunities for secondary education students is an area of interest that I am particularly paying attention to as we move forward.  – Mamie Nicholson

Product Development.  The recent wave of economic activity in the southeast remains an oracle of what is to come, with residential, commercial and industrial development.  The Upstate needs to remain mindful of key industrial properties that will need to be preserved in and among other sectors.  Without the ability to recruit quality jobs and investment in our future, our overall growth will be limited.  – Katherine O’Neill

The Piedmont Health Foundation has long been focused on improving transit in Greenville County. The pandemic reminded us that transit is essential for essential workers.  Greenlink’s ridership didn’t drop nearly as much as many larger communities because its riders are so much more dependent on bus service. At the same time, Greenville’s population has continued to grow – even in 2020 as people moved here from larger cities.  So we believe that the work Greenlink staff have done to improve services and plan for the future will be even more vital going forward. – Katy Smith

Business operations and construction growth in the market. – Chuck Saylors

Overall business recovery, employment rates, eviction rates because these factors will impact our ability to raise funds and the level of need in our community. – Paige Stephenson

Has the raised awareness and discussions around racial equity and social justice impacted your business or area of interest? If so, how and what is the ongoing result?

This is a journey Prisma Health has been on for years.  However, the raised awareness has really created the opportunity for more open conversation.  It is a great culture to instill and get people out of their comfort zone to be able to talk and more importantly…LISTEN AND HEAR!  The journey has been one of education.  However, the raised awareness has allowed for not just education, but practice.  I am very pleased with our progress of learning, understanding and curiosity to continue working toward the full appreciation of one another coming from different backgrounds, situations and circumstances.  What a wonderful thing as we can all learn from one another to ultimately get to our common goals and achieve the missions and purposes of our organizations.  We all have a lot of healing to do, but we can do this together…as one people, one nation, but it HAS to be done with intentionality and purpose.  Again, I am very pleased with progress within Prisma Health thus far, but as with any improvement, we have work to do…TOGETHER! – Justin Benfield

The raised awareness regarding racial equity and social justice has definitely impacted the factors which I consider when approaching a policy decision.  For instance, we created a permanent position within the Sheriff’s office to manage cultural diversity issues.  In the past, I have been focused on those who were the loudest (i.e. “squeaky wheels”), but I now understand that some groups in our community are so marginalized that they do not even have the energy to speak up; it is the marginalized and the downtrodden that need our attention the most. – Paul Cain

Racial Justice and Equity took center stage for several weeks early in the summer as Clemson Football Players organized a peaceful march, in which we participated, after the deaths of George Floyd and Briana Taylor.  It was also the catalyst for the formation of a community group called CURE – Clemson United for Race Equity – which has continued to meet and is laying the groundwork for a series of community wide discussions on racial justice and equity. – Susan Cohen

Yes, in the political world, I would think one has to have blinders on to not be thinking about racial equity and social justice. I hope to do my part in continuing to raise awareness and hopefully having some legislative impact in this area. – Neal Collins

Yes – the awareness and discussions around racial equity and social justice have greatly affected the work in which I am involved in both private foundations and non-profits. This will be an ongoing conversation and will result in the way entities in which I am involved allocate funds. – Minor Shaw

Yes, it has been a component of our work. It has now being approached in a much more intentional manner. We are having different conversations within our team and at our board meetings and are developing a plan to operate as a more equitable organization. We have instituted an annual race equity training for our board and team members. Equity measures will be a stated measure in our investment decisions. By July 2021, we will have a formal anti-racism statement that will be publicly posted and guide how we operate. – Paige Stephenson

To view “Focus on the Future: Understanding the ‘New Normal'”, click here.

To view Focus on the Future Panelists, click here.

Focus on the Future: Key Topics for 2021

Focus on the Future – Understanding the “New Normal”

Many say that we are headed for a “new normal”. Do you think your business/organization/community has been changed forever or do you think things will eventually settle back to a similar style as existed pre-pandemic? Why?

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” …Winston Churchill.  I can say the way healthcare has shifted from this crisis has formed the “new normal”.  We have had to rely heavily upon more efficient ways of conducting business, with fewer resources.   Both have been points of discussion for years.  We were forced to implement more options around telehealth and we now see that expanding into many different subspecialties.  Additionally, the interfacility collaboration has proven hospitals are more capable of sharing resources, raising levels of care in the community hospitals and fully utilizing the assets available.  This will result in more use of community hospitals and decompressing the larger tertiary facilities.  – Justin Benfield

I have hope, especially with the latest news, that a vaccine will be successful and then distributed successfully. So, I have hope that life will return to pre-pandemic lifestyles. – Neal Collins

I am certain my business has been changed forever.  The pandemic has really provided a reason to fast forward my industry’s use of technology.  There has been dramatic innovation and adoption as it relates to a real estate tour, basic communication, and ability to collaborate with partners anywhere, anytime. – David Feild

I think our business has changed but will likely have some go back to working in the office. Most of our organization was sent to work from home, but not all chose to do that or had the ability to do that. We have worked to make sure that our clients and providers are not experiencing any delays or disruptions. I do think that we will have some employees remain as work from home employees after it is safe to go back into the office. Throughout this time it has been shown that we do have positions that are able to be a work from home position while still being effective and efficient. – Angie Gossett

I do think we have changed forever.   The pandemic has forced us to do things differently and with social distancing and masks so prominent in our lives, the way we conduct events, meetings, etc. will probably feature a virtual component it hasn’t before and this may continue for the indefinite future.  While I know everyone would love to go “back to normal”, I fear we will most likely be facing a new normal with the above explanation as just one example of doing things in a different, safer way. – Kelly McWhorter

I believe the new normal will be normal moving forward – it will be our way of life and hopefully, will lead us to a more inclusive, socially conscious society. – Mamie Nicholson

We will all see long term adjustments moving forward, not sure we could call it a new normal. – Chuck Saylors

I do think that the organizations in which I am involved have been changed forever. There is heightened awareness of the issues surrounding racial inequities and economic disparities. Funding will “follow” the awareness of the need to make positive changes in these issues. Also, I believe people have a new appreciation of the importance of taking more time for family and for friends – concentrating on what is important. – Minor Shaw

I believe that the more flexible work day and work attire that quarantine have allowed will continue post-pandemic.  I’ve also discovered that there are many meetings and conversations that we used to host or attend in person that have now shifted to zoom and that I think can stay virtual going forward (no need to drive across town for a 30-minute check in).  On the other hand, I do think we have so much pent up hunger to be together in real life.  So I imagine that in later 2021 or whenever it’s safe, we’ll see a lot of larger gatherings – perhaps a roaring twenties of the 21st century. – Katy Smith

I think that human nature is to seek routine and consistency.  I think that thinks will eventually settle back to a similar style to pre-pandemic.  People in the community are wanting events, interaction, and activities to reset to pre-pandemic.  I think that should the vaccine prove effective (or sadly reach herd immunity) that people will begin to venture back to programs, events, and activities.  We are still trying to find ways to engage them while remaining socially distance, and this may assist us in reaching groups that we normally would not have engaged. – Stephen Steese

I think things have been changed for us going forward. I believe there will be a push to do most workplace campaigns with a digital first approach, and we will need to develop engagement opportunities that meet corporate social responsibility goals to gain face-to-face access to employees during a workday. – Paige Stephenson

I think we settle back to a similar style. We are starting to see it over the last couple of months with prospect visits. – Stephen Taylor

I believe that a few things, such as cleaning protocols, will be permanently altered, but I feel that after a period of 2-3 years, most things will go back to “normal.” If an effective vaccine(s) are developed and are given to enough of the world population, then hopefully the return to normalcy can be achieved. – Tim Todd

Due to COVID-19, our office provided a remote work option.  Our staff continued to operate effectively and efficiently throughout our 10 weeks of remote work.  Our office has changed forever, because remote work wasn’t an option prior to COVID. – Trentsie Williams

As you look ahead, what is one thing you, your organization or business has implemented during the pandemic that you expect to continue long term?

Video-conferencing has become a mainstay of meetings that I attend for my law practice and my involvement on county council, as well as pretty much any other organization in which I’m involved.  Once the pandemic subsides, I expect in-person meetings to return, but not to the degree that such meetings existed pre-COVID.  When a meeting attendee has a potential scheduling conflict due to travel before or after a meeting, I would expect that the attendee would generally be able to mitigate such conflict via video-conferencing. – Paul Cain

The pandemic raised awareness services from various organizations, the City and the Chamber might be more efficiently coordinated to address strengths, weaknesses, and duplications.  It also began an ongoing conversation regarding “preparedness” – what do we need to address to be better prepared for challenges in the future.  I believe these discussions were very productive and will be part of our normal planning process going forward. – Susan Cohen

The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) has always been laser-focused on the needs of our state’s manufacturing community.  The pandemic compelled us to take communication with our members to the next level.  In the early weeks of the pandemic, the issues facing our manufacturers were truly unprecedented, and we worked around the clock to provide resources and the latest information to our members.  Today, we continue to provide information and assistance to our members in impactful ways.  – Sara Hazzard

I expect to continue doing business using a virtual platform at lease in a hybrid model and to continue to seek out opportunities to lift up and support the work that is currently being done and opportunities to improve. – Mamie Nicholson

As much as I appreciate in-person meetings, I foresee OneSpartanburg, Inc. still finding ways to use virtual meetings for efficiency and cost savings.  – Katherine O’Neill

Over the past few months I have hosted and participated in many virtual meetings.  Overall I am “Zoomed out,” but the pandemic and need for social distancing has required us to learn how to use our resources more efficiently.  I definitely miss the face to face meetings and human interaction, but this style meeting cuts down on travel time, planning, sometimes expense, and often brings better participation.  Although we have returned to some in-person meetings, which I would personally prefer, some are better suited using technology.  – Amanda Munyan

Being more mindful of client interactions outside a controlled environment. – Chuck Saylors

I think the use of Zoom (or other remote meeting technology) will continue to be a part of our daily lives post-COVID.  While many of us look forward to meetings in person, impromptu conversations in the break room and team gatherings after hours, technology certainly provides opportunities for us to effectively collaborate across town, across state lines and across oceans.  Relationships and personal interactions are critical to any business and Zoom has provided a way for us to stay connected – personally and professionally – while also keeping us safe.  – Liz Seman

Ability for remote work for interested team members. We think it is a key retention strategy and helps people balance/integrate their personal and professional lives. – Paige Stephenson

We began working remotely part of the time during the pandemic, especially when one employee tested positive for COVID-19. I believe that we will continue to work remotely at least part of the time from now on. I don’t foresee going totally remote, but it’s not completely out of consideration. – Tim Todd

Is there one thing either personally or professionally that you plan to implement in 2021? What is it and why?

GADC is embarking on a new strategic planning process.  While largely coincidental to the virus, it has been over a decade since the organization last did a strategic review. Our objective is to develop a longer range economic development action plan.  Trends tend to accelerate in times of crisis so we want to use this as an opportunity to better position Greenville to win new jobs and investment in a dynamic and sometimes unstable global economy. – Mark Farris

In 2021 the SC Arts Alliance, the only statewide arts advocacy organization, will conduct it’s signature Arts Advocacy Week 100% digitally. But what this move will do for us throughout 2021 is allow us to focus more on developing quality training content and information distribution related to advocacy. Legislative updates, advocacy skill building, and “nuts and bolts” education will be front and center as we look to really empower arts advocates across the state to make a difference in their community and this state. – G.P. McLeer

It is our hope to implement, plan, execute, and host a national conference for Greenwood.  This will be the first time we’ve ever had the opportunity.  In partnership with Spartanburg, Greenwood will serve as the host community for America in Bloom’s National Symposium. – Kelly McWhorter

More positive promotion for the need of what goes on within public education. – Chuck Saylors

The isolation of the pandemic has reminded me how much I have missed being (un-masked) face-to-face with my colleagues and friends.  While I have participated in Zoom happy-hours and other virtual events, I look forward to many intentional in-person conversations and celebrations in 2021! – Liz Seman

We are focusing on the vaccine and distribution.  The city has several groups that fall into the first or second category of this to be vaccinated.  We will have to make some tough decisions on if vaccines will be required or not.  We are also going to need to track how the vaccines are being accepted and given in the community to determine its penetration and percent treated. These numbers will help us decide on how some events, operations, or regulations should be amended or adjusted.  We will also be tracking the continued spike in cases in the Upstate, Pickens County, and our City.  – Stephen Steese

Better marketing. I think we focused to heavily on external marketing partners and need to focus on marketing in house. This is not all due the pandemic, but something that needed to be addressed. – Stephen Taylor

To view responses to the Focus on the Future: Key Topics for 2021, click here.

To view the list of panelists click here.

Focus on the Future: Key Topics for 2021

Ten at the Top – Focus on the Future

Regardless of the sector or location, 2020 has been a trying time for all Upstate entities. As we move into a new year, an uncertain future remains. To help us to better understand some of the ongoing challenges from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis, we have compiled a group of local, regional and state business, government and non-profit leaders who will periodically share their insights on a variety of topics and community issues. By sharing their struggles, successes and continued efforts they will help all Upstate entities better understand and navigate this uncertain future.

To view responses to Question Set Part I click here. To view responses to Question Set Part II click here.

Below are the Focus on the Future panelists:

Justin Benfield, Chief Executive Officer, Prisma Health – Laurens County Hospital

Paul Cain, Council Member, Oconee County

Susan Cohen, President & CEO, Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce

Neal Collins, Representative, S.C. House of Representatives

Mark Farris, President & CEO, Greenville Area Development Corporation

David Feild, Market President, Colliers International

Angie Gossett, Regional Marketing Director, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Sara Hazzard, President & CEO, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance

Madeleine McGee, Executive Director, Together SC

G.P. McLeer, Mayor, City of Fountain Inn; Executive Director, South Carolina Arts Alliance

Kelly McWhorter, Executive Director, Discover Greenwood

Amanda Munyan, President & CEO, Laurens County Chamber of Commerce

Mamie Nicholson, President, Self Family Foundation

Katherine O’Neill, Chief Economic Development Officer, One Spartanburg

Terence Roberts, Mayor, City of Anderson

Chuck Saylors, Trustee, Greenville County School Board; Vice President, MB Kahn

Liz Seman, Council Member, Greenville County; Chief of Staff, Furman University

Minor Shaw, Chairman, Daniel-Mickel Foundation

Katy Smith, Executive Director, Piedmont Health Foundation & Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy

Stephen Steese, City Manager, City of Easley

Paige Stephenson, President & CEO, United Way of the Piedmont

Stephen Taylor, Executive Director, Abbeville County Economic Development

Tim Todd, Executive Director, Discover Upcountry

Trentsie Williams, Director of Finance, Meg’s House