Naturaland Trust Announces Release of Tommy Wyche Biography

Naturaland Trust Announces Release of Tommy Wyche Biography

Naturaland Trust is excited to officially announce the release of Renaissance Man: The Life of Tommy Wyche by Lynne Lucas. The book is now available at two local bookstores, M.Judson Booksellers in Greenville and Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, with all proceeds benefiting Naturaland Trust.

The late Tommy Wyche founded and led Naturaland Trust, South Carolina’s second oldest land trust, in championing the 40-year initiative that resulted in the protection of over 100,000 acres of the South Carolina mountains, which today include Caesars Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park and Jocassee Gorges.  In addition, he was one of the key leaders in the revitalization of downtown Greenville. Tommy had an astonishing range of hobbies and talents, including photography, writing, piano, tennis, patented inventions, beekeeping, hiking and canoeing.

“Lynne has done an outstanding job in documenting my father’s full and amazing life,” said Brad Wyche, Tommy’s son.

Before starting her own eco-friendly garden design and installation company in 2003, Lucas was a staff writer, copy editor and columnist for The Greenville News for 25 years. The 339-page book, commissioned by Tommy’s children, explores his contributions to conservation, the City of Greenville’s amazing transformation, the Wyche law firm, and advocacy for the arts. It also includes a foreword by former Governor Dick Riley, many family stories, insights into his one-of-a-kind personality, and dozens of color photographs.

“The range of his accomplishments is just breathtaking,” said Lucas. “Every time I thought I was about finished, I’d uncover or be told about another terrific story or effort he was involved in.”

Tommy had so much going on in different arenas at the same time that one of the biggest challenges, said Lucas, was corralling and organizing the narrative, when it became clear that a chronological telling of his life wouldn’t work. Instead, the book is divided into major parts by topic.

Renaissance Man: The Life of Tommy Wyche is $24 and can be ordered at M.Judson Booksellers by calling 864-603-2412 and Hub City Bookshop by calling 864-577-9349. After ordering, store pickup is available at both bookstores, or the book can be shipped directly to your home.


Building on Tommy Wyche’s extraordinary legacy, Naturaland Trust continues to work on acquiring and protecting special places in the mountains and foothills of South Carolina, including lands adjoining Jones Gap and Paris Mountain State Parks, lands along Scenic Highway 11, expanding the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and protecting critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

For more information, see

Q&A with Sky Foster, Manager, Corporate Communications, BMW Manufacturing

Q&A with Sky Foster, Manager, Corporate Communications, BMW Manufacturing

Sky Foster, Manager of Corporate Communications, BMW Manufacturing

Q: What were the primary factors that led to BMW shutting down production at the Upstate facility?

The health and protection of our associates was the primary factor that led BMW Manufacturing to stop production on Sunday, March 29. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the global supply chain and customer demand for cars.

Q: Do you all have short- and/or long-term concerns around some potential supply chain issues? If so, what actions have you all done to help offset them?

One of the greatest strengths of our plant is flexibility. Our procurement and logistics teams are very experienced in dealing with any supply chain issues, from bad weather to traffic situations. It was no different during the coronavirus pandemic, just intensified. Going forward, we will continue to be flexible and adjust our production as the supply chain dictates.

Q: You were among the employees who still were at the plant while the production line was closed. What was your primary focus during that time period?

As communications manager, my team and I had to communicate internally with our associates and externally to the media. Internally, we prepared videos, signage, a booklet and other materials to let associates know how we would protect them when they returned. Externally, we responded to media requests about our changing production operations and the global supply chain.

Q: Is BMW in conversations locally and regionally with other manufacturers regarding best practices when it comes to safety and social distancing?

Yes, BMW always seeks out best practices when it comes to the health and safety of our associates. Besides seeking the advice of the CDC and SC DHEC, we have contacts with many manufacturers and suppliers in the southeast to exchange ideas and best practices on a variety of topics.

Q: What are the most significant changes that you all have implemented to create social distancing and address health concerns?

During the non-production time, BMW implemented a variety of deep cleaning and safety measures. This included disinfecting equipment in all technologies, sanitizing workstations, remodeling layouts to enhance social distancing, and completing preventive maintenance on equipment. New guidelines and procedures have been implemented at the plant to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include temperature self-checks, modified seating for cafeteria and office areas, staggered lunch schedules, and expanded cleaning practices. Face masks are required for anyone who cannot maintain the required 6-foot social distance. BMW will continue to follow these and other CDC-recommended procedures.

Q: What changes do you see in manufacturing generally and at BMW in particular due to COVID-19 that are likely to be permanent?

The most likely change we see is fewer in-person meetings and more virtual meetings.

Q: Are you all back to full production yet and if not, is there any timeline for when that should happen?

BMW’s strategy for returning to production was a phased approach. We brought back one shift on May 4 and carefully managed our supply chain over the next four weeks. On May 31, our second shift returned. Over time, as the supply chain improves, our production will continue to grow. We’re not at full production yet, but we are on our way back.

Q: What is the status at the BMW Zentrum? Is there a timeline for reopening to the public?

The Zentrum museum is tentatively scheduled to reopen mid-summer with special safety and social distancing measures in place. Tours of the manufacturing plant will be announced at a later date.


Upstate International’s Language Classes Move Online and Reach New Students

Upstate International’s Language Classes Move Online and Reach New Students

Caren Senter, Communications Manager and Program Director at Upstate International

by Caren Senter, Communications Manager and Program Director at Upstate International

Learn a new language at Upstate International this summer! Our classes have gone virtual and people are loving the new experience, according to Christine Hofbauer, Upstate International’s language school director. UI has discovered that online teaching has some definite advantages, not the least of which is ease of use and time-efficiency with no need to drive to class. Hofbauer admitted that it was a challenge to get the teachers, all of whom are volunteers, to learn the new technologies necessary to transition to online learning. Fortunately, their passion for sharing their language and culture with others was all the motivation they needed and UI has managed to not only retain its teachers but also add new ones who are teaching from their home countries of Germany and Mexico.

To everyone’s surprise, once the initial technical issues were overcome, students have found that the learning experience is enhanced in a number of ways. For example, there is more time devoted to teaching and learning as there are significantly fewer distractions and it is easier to be on time for class without worrying about traffic and weather conditions. Of course, the weather has occasionally affected internet connections, so it isn’t perfect. The classroom is also surprisingly easy for the teachers to control online, giving each student equal opportunity to practice speaking, ask questions, and engage with one another. In addition, Hofbauer noted, the teachers are better able to share materials with their students through the use of Google docs, and they have easy access to the internet during a class and can share their screen immediately with their students. Moreover, students can use the chat capabilities to ask teachers questions without interrupting the class.

Hofbauer is thrilled that UI’s students are not just from the Upstate anymore, either. While UI has broadened its horizons out of necessity, it is broadening the connections among students and teachers. Of course, Hofbauer admits that everyone misses that before- and after-class social interaction that happens in person, but they are already hearing stories of new friendships being forged online. While, initially, some students may have been a little intimidated by the online format, they became more relaxed, more comfortable, and more focused in just a few short weeks.

Upstate International has been teaching languages since its inception over 20 years ago. It began with a simple English Conversation Club that met somewhat informally to allow recent expats, and other non-English speakers, to work on their English. Hofbauer got involved with UI 16 years ago, volunteering as an English Conversation Club facilitator. Today, UI offers anywhere between 15 and 22 foreign language classes each semester.

Membership levels have remained steady in spite of the transition to online.

Most prefer the in-person experience, but there are some that we have connected with who would not have otherwise found UI. Hofbauer says that one of the most surprising benefits to the transition we have made is that we can actually offer more classes since we are not confined to UI’s 4 classrooms.  Going forward, Hofbauer hopes to have more students utilize our services who are not located in the Upstate, and to increase our roster of teachers to include many more teaching from their home countries; the only challenge then will be scheduling classes that work in a variety of time zones.  UI and Hofbauer are embracing the new normal and plan to continue with live online classes as an option even once some in-person classes are allowed; a combination of both will provide the greatest access to foreign language learning for our community.

You can see the full list of languages and register for UI’s summer classes here.

Greenwood Arts Center Adjusts Amid COVID-19

Greenwood Arts Center Adjusts Amid COVID-19

Anne Craig, Executive Director of the Greenwood Arts Center, retired in March

by Anne Craig, Executive Director, Greenwood Arts Center, Retired

The Arts Center in Greenwood sits patiently in the Uptown awaiting reopening and return to some of our wonderful programs. Although the facility has been closed since mid-March, the staff has remained active with planning, corresponding, and social media outreach. The virus has caused this organization to look at all programs and readjust our calendar of events and classes. With the Governor’s directive in place, the Arts Center will reopen on June 8. Normally, the Center would present the Festival of Flowers Juried Exhibit during this time. The Festival has been canceled for this year; however, the 30+ topiaries will be on display in the uptown and the Center would like to be part of that visitor experience. So as our visitors stroll through uptown, they can also view amazing art. We moved our local exhibit to this June time slot to facilitate delivery of art and ease of organization. Finally we feel it is important to focus on our community of artists and explore the rich talents that they have to offer. This exhibit will also be available online for all to see. To encourage engagement, we will have peoples’ choice awards for the exhibit with voting onsite or online. We plan to offer our summer camps on a limited basis, 10 students with social distance in a large classroom. We feel it is important to ease back into our role of providing enriching arts education experiences to this community.

There are two more exciting exhibits planned for the end of 2020. First a Lego exhibit, The Art of the Brick, featuring artist Jonathan Lopes will open mid July and run to first of October. This exhibit features large scale representations of famous New Your landmarks. A Common Thread, Textiles Past and Present, will open in October in partnership with The Museum and focus on the rich textile history of this area. The exhibit at the Arts Center will feature modern textile artists. This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Elevate Upstate program.

Our online presence has been strengthened by website updates, Facebook posts, constant contact updates, and Instagram posts. The education staff has posted art activities to do at home as well as an interactive gallery tour of the current youth art exhibit. During this time, our annual report for 2019 was posted online and mailed to our supporters. The Center wants to stay involved in this community and offer educational activities to all.

Visit us on Main Street in Greenwood or online.

TATT Chat April 23, 2020

TATT Chat April 23, 2020

Welcome                                                                                      Terence Roberts


Initiative/COVID-19 Updates

Congressman Duncan was unable to be with us today because he needed to be present for a vote, but we hope to have him with us next week, when he will likely have even better information for us.

Entrepreneur Ecosystem – Erin Ouzts, Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem

Erin’s featured work group this week was the storytelling group, who want to tell the stories of who entrepreneurs are. They are not just the high-tech wunderkind start-up types, who only make up a very small percentage of entrepreneurs, but any small business owner.

Information about previous weekly UEE webinars can be found here.

Scams & Fraud – Vee Daniel, Better Business Bureau of the Upstate

Vee expanded on some of the information in this post, with additional information for employers and businesses who might have employees paying bills or making purchases for the company. Her recommendations are to be savvy when it comes to product claims; buy only from reputable stores and websites (there should be contact information on the website); preferably to buy from local, verifiable sources; and not to fall prey to phone calls claiming to be from banks or utilities asking for financial information.

 TATT COVID-19 Response Update                                  Dean Hybl

  • Upstate COVID-19 Link Repository                      Sharon Purvis
  • Upstate Virtual Listening Tour—we will be trying to schedule these for mid to late May for each of the non-urban counties.


County Updates

  • Abbeville – Tim Hall, from the City of Abbeville, discussed the challenges utilities have faced early on with the COVID-19  mandated changes to  operations and navigating how to deal with citizens who don’t have access to pay online or by credit card, as we were required to close lobbies and drive thru services. Abbeville and other utilities continue to honor the non-disconnect for critical services under the “state of emergency” and they will be working to assist small businesses with flexible payment plans to help them get back to normal revenue streams once things return to normal. He also mentioned the upcoming revenue challenges for smaller rural municipalities that will not be fully known for a few more months as the result of industries being closed during this time along with not being eligible for any COVID-19 related expenses via federal reimbursement in the current aid packages.
  • Union – Katherine Pendergrass, with Workforce Development in Union County, gave updates on the county’s 20-year comprehensive plan, which they have continued to work on and which should be complete in another week or two, and the county’s transit plan, which is coming together except for having a lead agency to take it on.

As good news from the county, she talked about Arthur State Bank, which assisted 40 small business owners with PPP loans, but there were also sad stories from other businesses who were struggling.

  • Oconee – Annie Caggiano, from the Oconee Economic Alliance, talked about the disaster recovery efforts in the wake of last week’s tornado in Seneca. Eighty homes are a complete loss, with another 170 or so having sustained significant damage. All told, there were a couple of thousand homes with some damage, which is a significant number in a small community.

Borg Warner, which was heavily damaged by the tornado, is working hard to get the plant reopened, she said.

Other counties are providing a positive update and community challenge, shared by Sharon Purvis:

  • Anderson (Pam Christopher, chamber of commerce) Encouraging: The county offices have been great about checking in with the municipalities and school districts daily, seeing what they need and keeping them informed

Challenging: The biggest thing is that even with all the money that’s been received, it’s not enough, and with the CARES Act money depleted, it’s left people and businesses needing more. Now they’re waiting for the next round of funding.

  • Cherokee (from Ken Moon, Cherokee County Development Board) Encouraging: The Dollar Tree distribution center is hiring an additional 100 people to keep up with demand

(from Frannie Stockwell, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce) Challenging: They are starting to see some businesses close, and others are unable to get the loans for a variety of reasons—either the funding is gone or they don’t qualify

  • Greenville (Teri Brinkman, Greenville County Schools) Encouraging: Today we served the 500,000th free meal to a child in Greenville County.  We have been providing free meals to children 18 and under since the first day of the closure, March 16.  We have expanded our location from 15 original schools to 84 sites, 69 of which are delivered by our buses, which stick around for two hours to provide free WiFi access to students in the area.

Challenge: Parents are disheartened and overwhelmed trying to balance work, home, economic stress, and supervising school work.  Students miss their teachers, friends, and routines.  Teachers are finding it is harder to teach and engage students remotely and to really know what they need.  Seniors are missing out on proms and are unsure what type of graduation ceremonies will be possible. Yesterday’s news that we are closed to in-person instruction the rest of the year was the right thing to do and not unexpected, but everyone is grieving just a little.

  • Greenwood (Angelle LaBorde, Greenwood County Chamber of Commerce): Encouraging: We are seeing economic development activity plus existing industry project expansion

Challenge:  We are working through details to create a recovery plan with all community partners.

  • Laurens (Jonathan Irick, Main Street Laurens): For the most part, businesses have stayed active, embracing online and delivery options, and the community has been very supportive of both retail stores and restaurants.

Challenge: Lack of funding—only one business was able to get a PPP loan, and one got an EIDL advance. Also, there is concern about how things are going to look with social distancing in the near future—how to have events and draw in customers.

  • Pickens (Cindy Hopkins, Easley Chamber of Commerce): Encouraging: People are adapting to a virtual/remote business model—it’s forced some to cross that bridge who had been reluctant, and they’re seeing an enhancement that will carry over to how they’ll do things long-term. Also, people are doing creative things to give back to first responders and medical personnel.

Unexpected challenge: Recycling centers/landfill have doubled and tripled their average intake—the average day is higher than the normal high weekend of spring cleaning, and they’re having to bring in extra containers and trying to man the centers.

  • Spartanburg (Alex Moore, United Way of the Piedmont): Encouraging: The responsiveness of multiple organizations, and collaboration. Spartanburg is always good at that, but this is really shining a light on the willingness to work together. Also, amazing response to COVID relief fund: over $220K raised, mostly from corporate donors.

Challenge: Confusing information/misinformation, helping people sort through it. What’s open? What’s not open? What are guidelines?

Adjourn                  Terence Roberts                                                                                                                             





TATT Chat April 23, 2020

TATT Chat, April 16, 2020

Opening Welcome & Observations – Terence Roberts, TATT Chair

  • Terence noted that people have expressed gratitude for Ten at the Top and what we’re doing to bring people together.

COVID-19 TATT Focus – Dean Hybl & Sharon Purvis

  • Dean talked about our continued focus on information awareness through the COVID-19 repository, the UpstateVibe365 newsletter, and social media.
  • Sharon talked about the guest posts in the UpstateVibe365 newsletter—trying to get a variety of perspectives in those posts, across the upstate and different sectors.

Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem – Erin Ouzts

  • The group that focuses on connecting the disconnected is working on trying to find out what people don’t know and connecting them to the resources they need.
  • Weekly virtual meetings continue; click here for information about past meetings

Overview of Unemployment Insurance Claims – Ann Angermeier, Upstate Workforce Board

  • Ann talked through slides that she presented, elaborating on the information she gave in her guest post from this morning’s newsletter.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is bringing a new group of people—the self-employed and those in the gig economy—to the UWB, because they are not normally eligible for unemployment. Those people may not receive payment until late April, she said.

The Current State of Air Travel – Scott Carr, GSP Airport

  • After a strong start in January and February where there were increases in airline travel out of GSP, March was down by 42%, and by April there were single digit passenger loads, with 20 daily departures
  • Nationally, traffic is down by 97%; future bookings down almost 100%
  • Air cargo is still doing well
  • View his presentation here

County Updates – Brief updates from TATT partners from Across the Upstate

Anderson: Carol Burdette, CEO, United Way of Anderson County

  • City, county, nonprofits, and other municipalities are all working well together
  • Homeless population has been provided with showering and handwashing stations
  • Rent, mortgage, and utilities assistance are a priority to keep people in their homes
  • Relationships and partnerships are key

Cherokee: Frannie Stockwell, Executive Director, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce

  • Both employees and employers have many unemployment questions
  • Difficulty with banks processing PPP loan applications
  • Great to see everyone in the community working together

Greenville: Dean Adams, Director of Communications, City of Travelers Rest

  • A small business that normally makes takeout containers made cardboard (food-grade, which can be sprayed and wiped down between uses) origami masks, and the FD and PD set up a drive-through mask giveaway, giving away more than 10,000 masks in 3 days
  • Echoed the sentiments of others, that groups are working well together to support the community

Greenwood: Heather Jones, CEO, Greenwood Partnership Alliance

  • News from Greenwood: Angelle LaBorde, President & CEO of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, has announced she is leaving to go to Lexington; Heather wanted to express appreciating for all of the things Angelle has done for Greenwood County
  • Regarding COVID-19, they are in the transition from response to recovery, with the Community Foundation, United Way providing human services, and on the business side, providing technical assistance to help businesses stay afloat
  • Focus on mental and behavioral health
  • Filming success stories for social media

Laurens: Justin Benfield, COO, Prisma Health—Upstate Southern Region

  • Healthcare is not exempt from financial difficulty
  • 70% decrease in elective care, 500% increase in expenses
  • It’s the surge more than the virus itself that’s causing the impact—so preparing for the surges is key
  • Expanding virtual visits
  • What does healthcare look like after COVID-19?
  • Shout out to partners—in particular, Joey Avery of Laurens County 911 Communications

Oconee: Morgan Holcombe, Oconee Economic Alliance

  • F3 tornado that went through Seneca did tremendous damage to the county’s largest employer, Borg Warner
  • Great community support, now dealing with tornado damage as well as COVID-19

Pickens: Ken Roper, Acting County Administrator

  • 8:30 a.m. huddle call every day except for Easter Sunday with all county departments and utilities, municipalities, and nonprofits allows everyone to be on the same page
  • Workers who are deemed “non-essential” stay on payroll, shift to doing volunteer work for Meals on Wheels and other nonprofits

Spartanburg: Todd Horne, VP of Business Development, Clayton Construction

  • Very proud of community collaboration
  • Chamber of Commerce and OneSpartanburg have created a “Back the Burg” campaign to give financial support to small businesses, which has already raised nearly $100,000
  • Another initiative to support restaurants is corporate catering to bring in lunches, and 25 companies have signed up so far