Greenville Chamber looks to expand workforce opportunities in 2018

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Photo provided by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.

The Greenville Chamber of Commerce has released its 2018 policy agenda, which focuses on expanding workforce opportunities and existing small businesses.

The agenda, released in concert with the Upstate Chamber Coalition, was unveiled at the Greenville Chamber’s annual legislative breakfast on Friday. It outlines the priorities of the business community at the local, state, and federal levels.

“The Greenville business community is more united and engaged than ever before on the priorities that will move the economic needle for our region,” said Carlos Phillips, president and CEO of the Greenville Chamber. “In this time of political uncertainty and polarization, the business community is rallying to be the ‘sane middle’ that supports inclusive economic growth for the entire Upstate.”

Several new items made the list for 2018, including support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, increased state and local funding for mass transit, and new lawsuit abuse reforms to protect small business.

The Chamber’s top local agenda item is an expansion of funding for Greenlink, so the local mass transit system can expand its service hours.

A recent study by the Piedmont Health Foundation found that Greenlink receives significantly less money from local sources than its counterparts in comparable cities in the Southeast. Greenlink receives $3.76 in revenues from local sources for its fixed routes, compared to $17.79 in Charleston, $38.16 in Columbia, and $49.22 in Birmingham, Ala.

“Any immediate funding should be part of a longer-term expansion process so people have reliable transportation to jobs, education, and healthcare,” said Jason Zacher, senior vice president of business advocacy for the chamber, in a news release. “Mass transit is not a social service — it is critical infrastructure and should be treated as such. Greenlink is drastically underfunded compared to our peer communities across the Southeast. Greenville County, the city of Greenville, and the other county municipalities need to begin the process of expanding our transit system immediately.”

The Greenville Chamber’s top state priority for 2018 remains workforce expansion.

Legislation to expand expungement for low-level, non-violent offenders was approved 103-0 by the state House of Representatives in 2017 and will be on the state Senate calendar for action when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

“It is important that more people can get jobs and participate in the workforce so we may continue our economic expansion,” said Keith Miller, Greenville Technical College president and the chamber’s 2018 board chairman, in the release. “A single, minor mistake made years ago should not be a lifelong barrier to employability. Our expungement legislation will help many of our neighbors get back on their feet and will help us close the workforce gap.”

More than 780 Upstate business leaders took the chamber’s legislative survey – doubling the number who participated since 2015. The survey followed nearly 30 agenda-setting meetings throughout the summer and fall with business industry groups, other Upstate chambers and business organizations, and the chamber’s business advocacy committees.

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