Responding, Innovating in Times of ChallengeMarch 31, 2020
Business Recruiter reflects on coronavirus impact to Italy, Alliance mission
Like many organizations, the work of the Upstate SC Alliance has shifted in response to the coronavirus situation. While we continue to work remotely, our Business Recruitment and Global Engagement travel plans are on hold in the next few weeks as the situation unfolds.
One of the first trips suspended due to the virus was to Italy, scheduled to occur the third week of March. Senior Business Recruiter Marc Metcalf reflects on the situation.
“Two months ago feels like an eternity to me, as it does for many of you,” Metcalf says. “Little did I know that leading a delegation to CES in January would be the last business that I would take for a while before the coronavirus global health crisis would consume much of the world.
Like many of you, the Upstate SC Alliance was supposed to be doing something else this week. If we stuck to our 2020 calendar, we’d be ending a meaningful and productive week in Italy, representing #TeamSC during a Mission Trip with our colleagues at Central SC Alliance and the SC Department of Commerce Europe office, which is based in Munich.”
We have never taken for granted these meaningful and important partners and colleagues, and certainly not the support of the many investors who place so much trust in us. Though, this is a strange time. The ability to work together, to travel, to meet new people and share ideas, has never felt more valuable. This challenge is inspiring us to find new ways to remain connected with our prospects, projects, partners and investors.
Italy-Upstate Business Connections
“When I started at the Alliance in 2015, my first project was in working with industrial heat treating company Furnacare Inc., based outside of Greenville’s Sister City Bergamo, Italy,” Metcalf continues.
The project was representative of many that we work with here at the Upstate Alliance: Furnacare operates in the field of vacuum heat treatments, creating solutions and building vacuum furnaces used in the aeronautics, aerospace, automotive, medical, heat treatment shops, and defense industries. At that time, Furnacare was focused on the growing industrial base that we enjoy in the greater Southeast.
“They had heard that the Southeastern United States was a business friendly place, and although they had a colleague with familiarity of the area, vying for their project was a very competitive process,” Metcalf adds. “They could locate anywhere and were comparing our region with several other southeastern areas. The company ultimately found a home at Corporate Center in Spartanburg, where they have found success.”
Furnacare is one of 26 Italian companies located within the Upstate, and 14 of them are in the Milan-Bergamo area. That means Italy is a smart and fruitful place for our region to focus our business recruitment efforts.
In addition, Italian companies are very strong in our target industries of life science, food and beverage and automotive, to name a few. Synonymous with some of the world’s great luxury brands, Italy also has a talented workforce that mirrors our own with strong engineering centers producing fantastic talent.
Manufacturers Respond, Innovate in Times of Challenge
We all know the tragedy that has befallen our friends in Italy, and how the virus continues its spread, including close to home. And as COVID-19 has disrupted everyday life and business around the world, we understand the severity of the situation – and recognize the value of the healthcare companies, medical responders, manufacturers, and logistics providers rising to the occasion.
A number of federal and state resources have been made available to help businesses weather this disruption, and across the state, the Department of Commerce and local economic development offices have enhanced their focus on existing industry retention.
In addition, several South Carolina and Upstate companies have responded to these challenges with innovative solutions. Take, for example:
- Fibertex Nonwovens is running trials for a product that will be used to make much-needed face masks at its Gray Court facility (shown above). The company is supplying approximately half of their capacity to manufacture disinfecting and antibacterial wipes to keep us all safe. These items are mostly sold at value retailers, so their products are helping those with the most need and who can’t afford to miss work.
- A device that quadruples the capacity of a single ventilator has its roots in South Carolina: Prisma Health and the University of South Carolina have collaborated to create the VESper™, an FDA-authorized solution that the healthcare provider is sharing with the medical community at large.
- Milliken & Company scaling up domestic production of its BioSmart® fabric, which integrates anti-microbial protection into common medical products like scrubs, lab coats and privacy curtains.
- Humimic Medical is repurposing its product designs and manufacturing capacity, with plans to deliver 80,000+ face shields to medical customers within the next few weeks. The company is also exploring the possibility of expanding its supply production to nasal swabs and re-usable face masks.
- And manufacturers across the state offering additional PPE and critical items through collaborations with South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) and the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP)
These are only a small sample of the many good stories emerging that demonstrate the spirit of South Carolina and the Upstate.
And, at the Upstate Alliance, we’re tracking the many ways that this situation spurs innovation and collaboration within the Upstate. We look forward to sharing these inspiring stories in the future, when we’re able to resume the travel and relationship-building that are central to our mission.
Until then, our thoughts are with those health and livelihoods have been affected.