Reaching the midpoint of 2019 and thus Ten at the Top’s 10th Anniversary Year provides a great opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done so far this year as well as all that is yet to come.
The new year began with a notable milestone as in January we moved out of the Upstate SC Alliance office into our own office location after having rented space from the Alliance since the beginning. While we appreciated the great hospitality from UA, having our own location is a great signifier that after nearly a decade, TATT is becoming more established and ready to branch out and reach new heights in our role as a convener and connector around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life in the Upstate.
The move is just one example of why I believe the “best is yet to come” both for Ten at the Top and for the Upstate region.
In many ways, the work of TATT over the last decade has been an ongoing process to build relationships and trust among Upstate stakeholders and identify opportunities to grow our collective capacity and impact issues that cross jurisdictions and stakeholder areas.
Perhaps very appropriately, given that this is our 10th Anniversary year, so far 2019 is proving to be a year where the groundwork we have been laid in several focus areas is now culminating in actionable opportunities that have the capability to create long-term impact.
Connecting Our Future
For the last two years, Ten at the Top has been coordinating the Connecting Our Future initiative focused on improving mobility and connectivity across the Upstate. This effort includes transportation providers, local governments, non-profits and area businesses and focuses around the goal of improving the movement of people and goods across the Upstate region.
There are many stakeholders involved in mobility, and the issue impacts every Upstate resident in some tangible manner.
After building an advisory committee of stakeholders that finalized an Upstate Mobility Vision in 2018, so far in 2019 the focus of the Connecting Our Future effort has been to identify opportunities for short and long term collaboration around key elements of transportation and mobility as well as creating the framework for an Upstate Mobility Alliance. Expect to hear more about this effort in the second half of 2019.
Entrepreneurial Support Providers Network
Mobility and access to transportation plays an important role in providing opportunity for all residents to gain employment and achieve success. We have learned over the last several years that another viable way for people to gain financial stability is through entrepreneurship and small business ownership.
In South Carolina, roughly 95% of all businesses are small businesses with 20 or fewer employees, so it is critical for the economic success of our communities to have an ecosystem that helps cultivate new opportunities for those looking to start a business or build on an entrepreneurial idea.
The Upstate has many resources that support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but one of the ongoing challenges (as well as opportunities) is in creating ways for people who historically have been disconnected from these resources to know about and utilize resources that can help them achieve personal success. According to the Kauffman Foundation, women and individuals from low-wealth communities are under-represented as small business owners and often are unaware of services and opportunities available to them.
For the last couple of years, Ten at the Top has convened quarterly meetings of the Upstate Entrepreneur Support Providers Network, which includes individuals and organizations that work directly with entrepreneurs and small business owners.
The Network provides an opportunity for idea sharing, consistent messaging about small business resources and the development of strategies that can increase capacity.
In 2019, the Network is focusing on strategies to connect the disconnected across the Upstate with available resources while also building the overall awareness of the role small businesses and entrepreneurs play in growing the Upstate economy.
In the coming months, the Network will be holding a number of workshops in disconnected communities across the Upstate while continuing to develop resources that can support all who are looking to start or grow a business in the region.
Another component of achieving personal success is through having a collective culture that values education. For several years, Ten at the Top has convened meetings of various groups of educators at the K-12 and higher education levels.
In 2018 we hosted a pair of meetings between K-12 public school superintendents, college and university presidents & provosts, as well as leaders from the business community. The group identified two potential opportunities for working across the education spectrum: career pathways and the K-12 teacher shortage.
In partnership with the Public Education Partners, in late 2018 the Education Spectrum Group chose to initially focus on the K-12 teacher shortage by looking at specific elements of the shortage. Over the last eight months, three work groups have studied the overall challenges and identified potential initiatives and actions that can be implemented by individual districts or collectively across the region.
Over the next four months, the work groups will be refining those ideas and will be presenting them to the larger Education Spectrum Group at a workshop on November 4th.
Community Vibrancy and Upcoming Events
Supporting community vibrancy and the development of a sense of place in urban and rural communities has been a staple focus area for TATT since the very beginning of the organization. In 2019 TATT and Hughes Investments will provide the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants for the seventh year. To date, 24 communities have received a total of $80,000 in funds to support vibrancy initiatives.
In 2019, TATT also relaunched a regional events and activities calendar through the #UpstateVibe365 campaign. This site provides a one-stop place to find more than 300 events happening across the region each month while also connecting users to interactive regional asset maps featuring a number of different regional resources.
In addition to these initiatives, TATT is continuing to convene the Upstate Professional Planners Group, the Upstate Senior Issues Group and the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee.
As part of our 10th Anniversary Celebration, TATT is hosting a special workshop in each Upstate County with the topic being related to something of specific interest within that county. The first workshop was held in Laurens County in June, and the second is scheduled for July 23rd in Union. Be sure and check our events page for future workshops over the remainder of 2019.
If you have not had an opportunity to attend one of TATT’s Pizza & Beer Redefined Events, which are an exclusive low-key networking opportunity for board members and funding partners, we will have two additional events later this year.
We are also very excited about our annual Celebrating Successes – Great Things Happening Across the Upstate Brunch, which will take place on November 20th at the Greenville Convention Center. In addition to recognizing individuals and companies that make the Upstate special, we will also be awarding the 2019 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants.
This event will also serve as TATT’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, so we are planning some other surprises and hope you will plan to join us.
While we acknowledge and appreciate the many partners and great work that has occurred so far this year, we must consider this work as building blocks for ongoing efforts to grow the Upstate’s collective capacity.
I personally want to thank everyone who has been involved with TATT so far this year, whether as a funding partner, board or committee member or participant in some of our regional initiatives. You are critical not just to the success of Ten at the Top, but also of the Upstate region.
I look forward to our collaborative ongoing efforts to ensure that the Upstate continues to be recognized as a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family.
We truly are stronger together.