Focus on the Future – Understanding the “New Normal”

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

To view the list of panelists click here.

ACRE grants awarded to entrepreneur agribusinesses in the Upstate

ACRE grants awarded to entrepreneur agribusinesses in the Upstate

Kyle Player, Executive Director of Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE) talks about the ACRE curriculum and funding and introduces grant recipients Lover Farms in Pickens County and The RobinHood Group’s Farmers Market Flavors Ice Cream Company in Union County.

ACRE was established in 2017 with a goal to promote agribusiness in South Carolina, particularly innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers. ACRE helps small-business owners stay in business longer, reach more people, find new markets, and supplies grant funding. The main goal of ACRE is to support entrepreneurs in realizing their dream of having an agribusiness in South Carolina.

ACRE provides two programs to support entrepreneurship. The first is the Curriculum program, taught by the Clemson Agribusiness Extension Team. Businesses learn how to prepare a business plan and a business pitch. Upon successful completion of the program, a panel of judges selects multiple businesses to receive up to $5,000 each.

The advanced program offers larger grants and other support to those who have an established business or product but are struggling to get to the next step.

ACRE also offers free webinars and workshops to connect businesses with additional funding, provide business plan assistance, form connections with retail markets, and learn to create new revenue streams. Relationships are cultivated over years to help agribusinesses be the best they can be.

ACRE has assisted 600 South Carolina residents and funded $490,000 to 35 entrepreneurs over their first three years.

Kyle introduced Lover Farms and Farmers Market Ice Cream, two recent grant award recipients who have been through the ACRE curriculum.

Lover Farms

Brittany Arsiniega and Brit Hessler met last summer after Brittany had purchased a farm, her lifelong dream. Brit had been managing a farm in North Georgia and their skills (and names) seemed to match up well. The name of the farm signifies their love for the land, the animals, and the people they serve.

Brittany and Brit were excited about farming and other opportunities for people to come together. Brit is also an artist, herbal practitioner, and has developed classes and other opportunities for community building and resource sharing, teaching skills to take home and share with wider communities.

Lover Farms has a variety of products and services, including a CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Included in your weekly box of veggies are unique items like locally made jerky, natural soaps, tinctures, syrups, and screen-printed textiles.

Lover Farms is adapting as ideas are suggested. A CSA subscriber asked if he could bring his company to have a COVID-safe event, and this became a large revenue stream for the farm. Someone asked if they have underwear, so over the holidays their biggest seller was screen-printed undies!

Farmers Market Flavors Ice Cream Company

Elise Ashby of RobinHood Group manages the Union County Farmers Market. A couple years ago Elise offered to do cooking demonstrations to help farmers sell their produce. During the summer, someone mentioned ice cream and Elise remembered seeing okra ice cream on “Iron Chef”. Although she is not a lover of okra herself, she created an okra-blueberry ice cream and people loved it. Next she tried cantaloupe-tomato ice cream.

Elise wanted to encourage disadvantaged youth in Union County so she designed a program to encourage kids to garden and consume the produce. After receiving a grant from the USDA to start Farmers Market Flavors Ice Cream Co., Elise decided to go one step further and won a grant to get kids in the garden this spring and make ice cream in the summer. The kids will grow the produce, make the ice cream, and create marketing materials, packaging, and the website.

Kyle: What was most important thing you took away from the curriculum?

Brittany: It was so extraordinarily helpful to be forced to create spreadsheets with actual numbers; having to calculate what cost of goods sold was and how we were going to distribute our overhead costs, things like utilities and insurance, across our products, and then being able to see what we actually needed to charge. You can actually calculate the minimum amount you need to charge to cover your costs.

Brit: I just called Brittany the other night and said, ‘I just crunched some numbers!’ The program taught us to think more creatively about how we spend money and to value our own skills and time, and delegate some things to other people.

Elise: The accounting course and finance was the most challenging and the most important, but also important was the marketing aspect, packaging, labeling and creating a website. I am hoping that in creating, kids feel ownership, and find potential future jobs.

Kyle: How will your business benefit the Upstate?

Elise: I think ice cream benefits everybody. When you are feeling bad, get an ice cream! Farmers Market Flavors ice cream is something parents love getting for kids because it is healthy. Kids are eating a serving of three of vegetables. You can eat it for breakfast! It is the perfect food!

Brittany: In the short term, having a place that people feel safe gathering feels like an immense asset for our community. We have had family events and work events. The Furman Women’s lacrosse team is coming to do a teambuilding event. In a time when every social activity is loaded with guilt and danger, having a place where you can genuinely enjoy socializing feels really important. In the long run, we see the network of relationships that we are building just beginning to grow.

Uncharted waters make brave adventurers

Uncharted waters make brave adventurers

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 www.tenatthetop.org.

You can read the article in Upstate Business Journal here.

January 7th 2021 – TATT Chat Recap

January 7th 2021 – TATT Chat Recap

Scott Baier, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, John E. Walker Department of Economics, Clemson University presented “U.S. Economic Outlook”

Welcome – Terence Roberts, TATT Chair

Presentation – Scott Baier, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, John E. Walker Department of Economics, Clemson University presented “U.S. Economic Outlook”

County Updates

Anderson: Faith Line, Anderson County Library

  • In-person services scaled back due to the Anderson County COVID emergency declaration; curbside pick up is available and internet, print, and fax are on a call-first basis
  • New Children’s Area with garden is complete with a sensory garden
  • A story walk was held downtown in December using a local author’s book
  • Looking forward to developing makers space in the future

Greenville: Lisa Colby, Executive Director, Red Cross of the Upstate, redcross.org

You may qualify to donate plasma for coronavirus patients if you meet specific convalescent plasma and regular blood donation eligibility requirements. Find out here.

  • The Red Cross is a disaster response organization with 360 active volunteers in the Upstate and a small paid staff
  • In this active hurricane season volunteers helped recovery efforts and provided basic needs supplies
  • Volunteers from the Upstate traveled to Washington, Oregon, and California to respond to fires
  • Most work locally is supporting families after home fires (700 last year in the Upstate, with 2,000 people supported; 94 people supported just during the week of Christmas). Comfort and hygiene kits, financial assistance, shelter, replacement of medications and eyeglasses are just some of the items provided.
  • Post COVID recovery please visit a Convalescent Plasma Center to donate plasma

Click here to view the presentation.

Click here to view the recording of the event.

TATT Chat Recap, December 17, 2020

TATT Chat Recap, December 17, 2020

Welcome – Terence Roberts, TATT Chairman

Year in Review 

TATT 2020 Overview – Dean Hybl, TATT Executive Director

Upstate Mobility Alliance – Michael Hildebrand, UMA Director

Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem – Erin Ouzts, Ecosystem Coordinator

TATT Initiatives – Justine Allen, TATT Program Manager

County Updates

Abbeville – Stephen Taylor, Economic Development Director

Decrease in ROIs and unemployment hit 13.9% in May but decrease to 4.2% in October

Marketing focus in 2021 with assistance from Department of Commerce

Promise Campaign and workforce to be highlighted

Water study and public transportation study also in 2021

Oconee – Christine de Vlaming, Marketing Director, Keowee Key

Real estate is sold out at close to 4,000 residents

Keowee Key’s model of engaging volunteer professionals includes a videographer with drone capabilities, photographer, landscape designer, and project manager (see presentation during video recording for examples of their work)

Union – Annie Smith, Marketing & Development Director, USC Union

USC Union received a 88.2% success rating

Started a Bachelor of Science/Nursing degree with 16 upper division juniors and 16 upper division seniors on campus this fall

Granted 100K dollars for upgrades to facilities, including projecting microscopes

10K grant to stock a student food pantry (large need)

Athletic department competes in the national junior college league, NJCAA, and has added a women’s volleyball team

Acquired an old high school gym in Jonesville to be renovated into an indoor training facility which is huge for recruitment (only one in the league)

Union County has designated many new development regions to attract new families and business

Focus on the Future – Understanding the “New Normal”

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