While WYNIT Distribution’s decision to bring 111 office jobs to downtown Greenville is a huge win, it’s much more than a fluke, and part of a larger growth strategy that began when the Upstate lost 750 jobs, according to economic developers in the Upstate.
In July 2014, packaging manufacturer Sealed Air announced plans to move its headquarters to Charlotte, which included moving 750 jobs from its Greenville and Duncan, S.C., operations across the border in a $58 million economic development deal that included a new office building. The news was a wake-up call, according to Greenville Area Development Corporation President and CEO J. Mark Farris.
“After the relocation of Sealed Air, we put a committee together that looked specifically at some of the things we could do better with office projects,” said Farris, who said the committee still meets regularly and is one of the reasons downtown Greenville was able to land WYNIT Distribution. “As we did the postmortem on Sealed Air, we decided we could coordinate better and we would make sure we were trying to sing the same hymn when a potential headquarters comes to town.”
And the committee – dubbed the headquarter taskforce – might just be working, he said. Of the 21 economic development and investment announcements in Greenville County so far this year, almost half include office projects amounting to more than $34 million and nearly 1,000 jobs, he said. Nearly half of new projects were office buildings and represented more than $12 million and 251 new jobs, according to GADC 2015 project data.
“That’s the evolution of the Greenville market. These are projects that we might not have been able to get even a decade ago,” said Farris.
In the manufacturing-heavy Upstate, bringing in more offices and headquarters effectively safeguards the region from market fluctuations by building a diverse portfolio, said Hank Hyatt, vice president of economic competitiveness for the Greenville Chamber.
“Manufacturing is a solid base to work from, but having everything from offices, back offices, service centers, logistics … protects from ups and downs,” said Hyatt. “We need to have a very diverse portfolio to work with and … we’re being more intentional as a group, locally.”
Other wins this year included expansions for WYNIT competitors Synnex ($6.9 million and 150 jobs) and ScanSource ($6 million and 100 jobs) as well as CH2M’s $11 million investment at Verdae. While WYNIT already had experience in the Upstate via its existing Piedmont office, it still needed collaboration at every stage to go smoothly, according to City of Greenville Business Development Manager Mike Panasko.
“We’re all trying to coordinate so that it makes for a much better experience for the companies that are evaluating Greenville,” he said, noting the city’s crucial role with business license fees as an example. “I think pulling out individual groups, be it the city or the county or even regionally with the Upstate Alliance, we can individually identify what our mission is. But what happens when the rubber meets the road and items come into play, it becomes more of a group effort.”