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Reflections on 2017 Upstate Economic Successes

December 19, 2017
This year has been another banner year for South Carolina’s Upstate, with our 10-county region seeing a blend of significant economic development announcements, innovative education initiatives, trailblazing research and outstanding progress in workforce training. These collaborative initiatives will position our region for continued growth in 2018 and beyond. 
As the year approaches its end, we reflect on these wins and recognize the hard work and dedication from partners across borders to bring these projects to fruition. In no particular order, eight ways the Upstate is positioning itself for success: 

1. Automotive Industry Growth Continues

BMW, whose Spartanburg County production facility is the world’s largest BMW production facility, announced continued growth in our region around the 25th anniversary of its decision to locate here. In June, company leaders announced an additional $600 million investment and creation of 1,000 more jobs by 2021. 
What’s more, just as other regions of the state benefit from BMW’s presence here, companies within the Upstate are beginning to see the benefits of two automotive OEMs in South Carolina, as Volvo prepares to open its Berkeley County production facility. 
Gestamp, a Union County manufacturer of metal automotive components, is expanding to meet increased demand from existing BMW and future Volvo Cars production. The project is expected to bring $129 million in capital investment and create 130 jobs. Earlier this year, Gestamp received a 2017 Industry Impact Award from the S.C. Department of Commerce for the significance of its contributions to our region, a testament to the strength and quality of this industry in the Upstate.
In Cherokee County, Daimler Trucks North America broke ground in April on a 200,000-square-foot logistics center to support its manufacturing, customer support and retail operations in Gaffney, which employ 650. 

2. Collaborative, Forward-Thinking Approaches to Workforce

With national, state and regional unemployment rates hovering near 4 percent – a level often considered “full employment” – there’s no secret that companies are competing to find top talent. Our conversations with industrial prospects indicate that how a community addresses its talent concerns is what matters. 
In South Carolina, the state technical college system and its readySC workforce training program have been nationally recognized leaders for decades. Building on this idea, many community leaders are working to bring representatives from industry, K-12 education, and technical colleges to the table for a solution: 
  • In Oconee County, Tri-County Technical College leaders broke ground July 13 on its Oconee County campus in the Oconee Industry & Technology Park – right across the street from automotive supplier Baxter Manufacturing – Hi Tech Mold Carolina. It’s the first facility to be developed in what will be an integrated workforce development center, offering manufacturing-aligned curriculum beginning with juniors in high school.
  • In Laurens County, ZF Transmissions is educating the educators through its Teacher Link summer employment program. A win-win for teachers, the opportunity provides educators with additional earning potential during summer months, while they glean a deeper understanding of manufacturing’s environment, skill sets and opportunities that can be shared with students. Many teachers said they’ll apply lessons learned from ZF – and exploratory ideas – in their classrooms. 
  • In Abbeville County, fundraising is underway for the Abbeville Promise, a scholarship program that would provide free 2-year technical training to Abbeville residents who complete high school. Modeled after The Greenwood Promise, the program is intended to better connect area residents with career training and opportunities while also bridging the gap between employers and the community. A similar, county government funded initiative in Union County, also would provides scholarships to area graduates. 
  • In Pickens County, the Scholar Technician Program continues to be recognized for its energetic recognition of students who excel in technical classes in the vein of how athletes are heralded at pep rallies. 
  • In Greenville County, the Wall Street Journal recently noted Michelin’s participation in a manufacturing-themed Parents Night, where parents of high school seniors networked directrly with company leaders to learn about employment training and opportunities.
  • Both Greenwood and Oconee counties were recognized among the top 10 rural communities by Site Selection magazine for attainment of WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. In the aggregate, NCRC attainment levels are seen as a measure of a community’s workforce aptitude – helpful information for companies being recruited to a community. On the individual level, NCRC scores help companies assess a job seeker’s proficiency. 

3. Becoming Home to Headquarters 

Being the official “home” to companies in any industry positions the Upstate to attract more capital investment, new businesses and international attention. Our area was proud to share headquarters announcements last year, including Softbox Systems and Caristrap International.
Softbox Systems, a temperature-control packaging provider, in June announced it is expanding its Greenville operations to house its North American headquarters, which will create 70 jobs. Caristrap International, a manufacturer of industrial strapping systems, announced in April that it will locate new corporate headquarters in Greenville as well, bringing $5.5 million of new capital investment and 100 new jobs. 
Amazon’s public quest for HQ2 helped elevate awareness for the value of headquarters – and new technology jobs – within communities. It also helped the Upstate to collectively identify the “Center of Charlanta” marketing opportunity that can be used for future HQ pitches. Urbanized areas such as Greenville and Spartanburg are strong contenders for these jobs, and the South Carolina General Assembly is anticipated to revisit tax incentives when it reconvenes in January that would better position our state for non-manufacturing jobs (S404 / H3725 from 2017 session).


4. A Bioscience Boon: Arthrex 

A significant win in bioscience, an area of tremendous growth potential for our area, was Arthrex’s announcement of its forthcoming manufacturing operations in Anderson County. The $69 million capital investment is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs over the next several years. 
Bioscience requires a skilled, well-prepared workforce and provides strong wages – with an average of $78,658 – in return. In the company’s Oct. 16 announcement, Arthrex leaders said they look forward to “leveraging the outstanding work done in the area to prepare future employees for high-level manufacturing jobs.”
Bioscience is also growing in Greenwood County, where the Greenwood Genetic Center announced a $5.4 million expansion to its diagnostic laboratory in January 2017, and Clemson University has opened the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics


5. Research that’s Recognized

Research & Development is another great growth area that provides higher wages and greater economic resilience. We’re pleased to see research on the horizon in all directions – and across industries – in the Upstate. 
Dr. Manuel Casanova, a researcher and faculty member at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, won the first-ever Frontiers Spotlight Award for a study of brain augmentation and its impact on human super-intelligence. Casanova and his cohorts published “Augmentation of Brain Function: Facts, Fiction and Controversy,” a collection of nearly 150 scientific articles covering all aspects of brain augmentation. 
At Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), the Upstate’s engineers of tomorrow are tackling today’s industry challenges. Students are building a first-ever, high-performance, ultra-tough motorsports vehicle with a clean, fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain, advanced technical features and highly dynamic handling and acceleration; the concept is in response to rising fuel-efficiency standards. 

6. Growing Global Connectivity

With its density of foreign-direct investment and high volume of export business, the global economy is integral to the Upstate’s business environment, and our region made a splash in a number of international communities this year. 
Our region is so internationally connected that American Public Media’s Marketplace featured the Upstate as “the place where globalization kept its promise” in a multipart series that aired in August. 
In September, the Southeast-U.S.-Japan Association (SEUS-Japan) 40th Annual Joint Meeting was held in Greenville, with more than 450 delegates from Japan and seven southeastern U.S. states attending. Hosting the event is an honor for the Upstate, and local civic leader Minor Shaw served as the first female chairman of the event, uniting an effort led by the South Carolina Department of Commerce in partnership with more than 50 public and private event sponsors. 

Currently estimated to have $120 billion in bilateral trade with India, the United States aims to increase that number to $500 billion by 2025. In the last six years, Japanese-owned firms have announced more than $3.4 billion in capital investment in South Carolina, bringing 3,200 new jobs to the state. We hope to see each of these numbers grow in the years ahead. 
In October, representatives from businesses in the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada attended the Composites Suppliers Meetings South Carolina, a business-to-business event intended to connect composite materials suppliers and customers, with a focus on the automotive and aerospace industries. 
Our region also welcomed a number of international trade delegations throughout the year and deepened relationships with target regions of Belgium, the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was also the focus of Site Selection Magazine’s “Upstate Inteligence Report” in the July edition. 


7. Deepening Focus on Advanced Materials

Since inking its spot as “The Textile Capital of the World,” our region has excelled in making and improving upon materials, and it’s a bright spot for future growth. 
The Upstate’s advanced materials cluster has grown to nearly 900 businesses with more than 40,000 employees, which is 84 percent higher than the national average. The sector’s versatility and presence in supply chains across sectors also makes it less vulnerable to the market shifts of any single industry, and it presents a great deal of business opportunity. 
Simply put: We make things. Lighter. Stronger. Faster. And there’s room for more. 


8. Improving Infrastructure

The passing of House Bill 3516, commonly known as the “gas tax,” in early 2017 was a strong move to address a critical issue in our area and across the state. Efficient infrastructure and affordable transportation can be the leading determinants in site selection and business expansion; this revenue will provide a stable solution for our area’s sub-par roads and, in turn, the Upstate’s economic health.
TOPICS: Celebrations, Materials, Skilled Workforce, Education, Bioscience, Advocacy, Automotive, Existing Industry, Colleges & Universities, Global Competitiveness, SEUS-Japan, International, Manufacturing, Business Recruitment