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


Ten at the Top Passes 400 Regional Engagements

Upstate, SC [October 27, 2014] – Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration, partnerships and strategic planning across the Upstate, recently conducted the 400th regional engagement (presentations, forums, meetings, surveys) since the organization began its current phase in January 2010. The activities have included more than 22,500 participants from across the Upstate region.

Ranging from issue-based task force meetings to presentations for community organizations or gatherings of hundreds of elected officials, community & business leaders and Upstate residents discussing key issues around the economic vitality or quality of life in the Upstate, each session has helped grow the spirit of collaboration and partnerships across the Upstate region.

The issues on which TATT has convened regional meetings and encouraged collaboration focus around the five driver areas of the Our Upstate Vision (which TATT developed through feedback from more than 10,000 Upstate residents). The specific topics on which TATT has convened meetings and forums include the value of education, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, senior issues, air quality attainment, water planning, transportation & infrastructure, workforce & skill development and local community vibrancy.

In September, Ten at the Top hosted its largest event, the Upstate Regional Forum, which brought together more than 800 leaders and interested residents from across the Upstate to look at where we have been as a region, where we are now and where we are going.

“Ten at the Top has strived to elevate the conversation about how working collaboratively across the Upstate region isn’t just a ‘good idea’, but is crucial if our local communities are all going to reach their full potential,” said current TATT Chairperson Carol Burdette. “Reaching 400 meetings and activities is significant because it illustrates that TATT is actively engaging stakeholders from across the Upstate to build regional trust and grow the capacity of the region to strategically address key issues that impact our economic vitality and quality of life.”

Ten at the Top was originally formed under the name Upstate Together in 2005 as an ad hoc regional committee with the goal of encouraging regional discussions on cross-jurisdictional issues. In 2009, the group hosted the Upstate Reality Check event that brought together more than 400 leaders from across the region. It was at that point that the name of the organization was changed to Ten at the Top and it was incorporated as a non-profit.

In 2009, Upstate leaders identified a lack of regional collaboration as a barrier toward future growth and success for the region. Of respondents to a survey conducted in advance of the September 2014 Regional Summit, 94% said that they believe regional collaboration is stronger today than it was in 2009, though 60% said it is still a potential barrier if we do not continue working to build regional capacity and partnerships.

The current work plan of community activities, meetings, forums and presentations began in 2010 following the hiring of Dean Hybl as executive director. Irv Welling served as the chair of Ten at the Top through 2011, followed by Neal Workman for 2012-2013 and Burdette for the current two year term. The board of directors includes more than 50 leaders from across the ten counties of the Upstate region.

Outreach Highlights:

• TATT has hosted three Regional Summits and nine Regional Forums on topics including: regional communications, senior issues, workforce & skill development, transportation & infrastructure and natural resources. The most recent summit, in September 2014, included more than 800 participants from across the Upstate.

• In partnership with other regional organizations, TATT has convened eleven Upstate Elected Officials Meetings that bring together city, county and state elected officials as well as business and community leaders to discuss key regional issues. Among the topics that have been addressed are: economic development, transportation, city/county/state/federal communications and water resources.

• Within the five driver areas of the our Upstate Vision (Human Potential, Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality, Sustainable Growth, Natural Beauty & Resources and Community Vibrancy), TATT has convened meetings of stakeholders from across the Upstate on many topics including: identifying barriers to educational success, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, senior issues, air quality attainment, water planning, workforce & skill development, tourism and preventive health care.

• TATT helped facilitate the development of the first long-term regional transportation partnership in the Upstate between GPATS (Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study) and SPATS (Spartanburg Area Transportation Study).

• TATT convened the seven United Ways in the region in an effort that has led to a region-wide messaging campaign around early childhood education. This marks the first-ever region-wide partnership by all the United Ways in the Upstate.

• In partnership with the Barbara Stone Foundation, TATT convened the first meeting of organizations that work with individuals with disabilities and special needs. The result has been a year-long effort to enhance communications amongst organizations and to increase programs available for individuals with disabilities and special needs.

• In 2010 TATT held a community workshop in every county in the region. In 2013 it held four Community Vibrancy Workshops across the region. Presentations have been made to organizations in every county in the region.


Upstate, SC [January 6, 2014] –Ten at the Top (TATT), a non-profit organization created to foster collaboration and strategic planning in South Carolina’s Upstate region, conducted 97 regional forums, meetings, presentations and programs in 2013, marking the most the organization has held in a single year since being incorporated in 2009. A total of 3,300 participants were engaged in the organization’s activities.

Since 2010, TATT has conducted 322 regional engagements with more than 19,000 total participants.

During 2013, Ten at the Top hosted regional meetings and discussions amongst stakeholders on a wide range of topics including workforce & skill development, transportation & infrastructure, senior needs, education, natural resources and community vibrancy. TATT conducted four regional forums, coordinated three meetings of the Upstate Professional Planners and partnered with other regional organizations to host two Upstate Elected Officials Meetings.

Ten at the Top also conducted a series of four Community Vibrancy Workshops across the region. The workshops included presentations from leaders representing 10 state and national examples of communities that have increased local economic and community vibrancy. In addition, TATT teamed with Hughes Investments to develop the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants, which in 2013 awarded $5,000 each to three Upstate communities to develop their own vibrancy initiatives.

Illustrating the organizations role as a regional convener, Ten at the Top helped the seven United Ways that serve the Upstate region come together for the first time to develop a region-wide program from start to completion to address an issue that impacts residents across the region. The result is the Upstate Born Learning Early Childhood Messaging Campaign in which the United Ways are working together to provide a consistent message across the region on the importance of early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five. The seven United Ways have signed a Memorandum of Agreement with each organization providing funding and staff support for the program.

Serving as the coordinator of the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, Ten at the Top coordinated the Clean Air Upstate Education & Outreach Campaign. Thanks to grants from Duke Energy and the Hollingsworth Funds and in-kind support from WSPA-TV and GSA Business, the efforts included the development of television PSA’s that were viewed nearly 6.9 million times. In addition, the program’s support of the Breathe Better (B2) no-idling program has resulted in an increase of schools in the Upstate participating in the program from 14 to 33 with schools from Anderson, Greenville, Greenwood, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties all participating in the program that result in ozone emission reductions as well as savings in diesel fuel and gasoline usage.

A full 2013 Ten at the Top program overview is available on the TATT web site.



Upstate, SC [December 9, 2013] –Ten at the Top (TATT), a non-profit organization created to foster collaboration and planning in South Carolina’s Upstate region, has announced its officers for 2014-2015.

Serving as officers for Ten at the Top for the next two years will be:

Chair: Carol Burdette, Chief Professional Officer, United Way of Anderson County

First Vice Chair: Hank McCullough, Senior Manager – Government Relations, Piedmont Natural Gas

Second Vice Chair: Sue Schneider, General Manager, Spartanburg Water

Secretary: Lisa Jones, Publisher, GSA Business

Treasurer: Erwin Maddrey, CEO, Maddrey & Associates

Development Co-Chairs: Sam Erwin, President/CEO, The Palmetto Bank; Terence Roberts, Mayor, City of Anderson

Immediate Past Chair: Neal Workman, Chairman, Trehel Corporation

The TATT Board of Directors is composed of public, private and civic leaders from across the 10-county Upstate region. TATT board members are charged with representing the region and their community in fostering trust and collaboration across the region on issues of regional significance, serving as an advocate for regional thinking within their specific city or county, assisting TATT in engaging elected officials, business and community leaders, and supporting general organizational functions.


Ten at the Top Wraps Up 12 Successful Community Forums Across the 10 Upstate Counties- Over 730 Attendees Shared Their Vision for the Future of the Upstate

Greenville, SC– Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration and planning in the Upstate region, has completed its latest community outreach activity during which 730 Upstate residents, community leaders, business leaders and elected officials participated in one of 12 Community Forums across the Upstate. Participants provided input on “What Matters Most” to them as part of the year-long initiative by TATT to create a Shared Upstate Growth Vision. At least one forum was held in each of the Upstate’s ten counties, with two forums being held in the more populous counties of Greenville and Spartanburg.

The Upstate is projected to add more than 250,000 residents and 200,000 new jobs over the next 20 years. In preparation for this growth, it is important for leaders and decision makers within the region to have an understanding of what residents value about the region today and what they see as priorities for the future in order to maintain and enhance the quality of life that makes the Upstate a wonderful place to live.

Since the beginning of the TATT visioning effort, nearly 9,000 residents across the Upstate have provided input through questionnaires, visioning exercises, community meetings and outreach presentations.

“The community forums provided a great chance to hear first hand from residents across the region as to what they value about living in the Upstate and what they see as being important as we continue to grow,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “In each county we met many people who are passionate about where they live and want to ensure that we continue to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents.”

All of the input received during the Community Forums, as well as the Regional Vision Summit that involved more than 400 participants on September 28th, is available for review on the Ten at the Top web site at

Anyone who was unable to attend one of the community forums but still would like to provide input about what matters to them as we look to the future may do so by going to and clicking on the “Your Voice Matters” icon.

All community input will be used over the next several months by the Ten at the Top Vision & Values committee as they develop the final Shared Upstate Growth Vision.

Current plans call for the Shared Upstate Growth Vision to be unveiled during a Regional Forum and Workshop on April 27, 2010 at the Carolina First Center. As is the case with all Ten at the Top events, the unveiling and workshop will be free and open to the public. Registration will begin in March 2011.