Greenwood County claimed the first two announcements of capital investment within the Upstate for 2017, and the momentum has continued to build since the Greenwood Genetics Center and Ascend Performance Materials announced their expansions in January. So far this year, four employers across multiple sectors have announced $16.2 million in industrial expansions and the creation of 50 new jobs.
In its 2017 fiscal year, the community had seven announcements, representing $643.19 million in capital investment and 291 jobs created, according to the Greenwood Partnership Alliance.
For the community of nearly 70,000, with 26 percent of its workforce in manufacturing, tempered growth among newer industries and longevity of existing companies across multiple industry sectors has led to a rich community and contributed to the revitalization of Uptown Greenwood.
Building a Bioscience Hub
The majority of this year’s capital investment in Greenwood comes from two life science companies: the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), with a $5.4 million laboratory expansion, and Medtronic, a global health care solutions provider, with a $6.5 million capital investment in a new production line.
The health of these companies signifies the area’s longstanding role as an innovator in the life science industry — among the state’s fastest-growing sectors.
A recognized leader in medical genetics through diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs, and genetics research, the GGC was founded in 1974. Today, it employs 170 people and provides more than 27,000 laboratory tests each year.
The GGC is an anchor for the Greenwood Genetic Center Partnership Campus, home to more than 110 medical professionals and the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics, which includes a Ph.D. in genetics program that is jointly taught by Clemson and the Greenwood Genetic Center.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary for Capsugel, which produces 200 billion hard pharmaceutical pill capsules per year for more than 4,000 customers in 100 countries.
“The interesting thing, from an innovation perspective, is that they’re now looking at plant-based products for vegan dietary standards,” says Heather Simmons-Jones, CEO of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance.
Capsugel’s innovation in plant science is not the only business tie between Greenwood industry and Mother Nature.
Droves of green thumbs descended on Greenwood in early June to partake in the 50th anniversary of the Festival of Flowers. The festival has drawn visitors to the city center for a long time, but, according to Greenwood City Manager Charlie Barrineau, it was a collective recognition among industrial employers that spurred a downtown revitalization.
“Our industries recognized that we needed some quality-of-life offerings to provide nighttime and weekend entertainment for their employees, and that it was key to retaining their talent,” Barrineau said.
The Greenwood Partnership Alliance funded a $75,000 community master plan for community redevelopment. Around the same time, the federal government chose to vacate a Georgian-style building in the heart of Greenwood’s Uptown, paving way for the city and county to jointly own and renovate the building with investment from private funding partners.
Today, it serves as a visitors center and is used for special events, arts and music shows, and office space for the Arts Council of Greenwood County, the Self Family Foundation, and the Greenwood Regional Tourism and Visitors Bureau.
Since then, additional public investment has been made in landscaping, street lighting, and the construction of a public splash pad and open-air market for special events. Uptown Greenwood has also drawn private investment from boutiques, restaurants, a craft brewery, an artist cooperative, and private creative co-working space.
Workforce Development and The Greenwood Promise
Initiatives are also underway to ensure Greenwood students today are prepared for the opportunities that await them tomorrow.
Two years ago, five companies joined together to form the Greenwood County Industry Council, which launched the inaugural Greenwood County Business & Industry Showcase in September 2015. More than 1,000 students from public, private, and home schools attended the 2016 event. In a survey, 552 students indicated interest in touring a manufacturing plant. Those students will have their chance this fall, while attendees at this year’s showcase will have the opportunity to tour a manufacturing facility in spring 2018. Additionally, a group of seniors will be invited to attend based on industry-established criteria for consideration of immediate employment opportunities upon graduation.
Beyond the showcase, the Greenwood Partnership Alliance has completed fundraising for phase one of its education attainment initiative known as The Greenwood Promise.
The Promise, which has raised nearly $5 million from donors such as major industries to a couple who gave $1 million anonymously, allows every student that graduates from a public, private, or accredited home school in Greenwood County the opportunity to get a two-year technical college degree, diploma, or certificate tuition-free.
When the funding goals are met for phase two of the program, scholarships will be provided for four-year degrees that the Greenwood County Industry Council identifies as being in high demand.
“The primary benefit is to have educated students that will then become an educated workforce that will then go to work for our existing and future companies,” Greenwood Partnership Alliance’s Simmons-Jones says. “The other benefit is that we think this could be an incentive for a young family with school-aged children to choose to live in Greenwood County.”
And the momentum has continued to build for Greenwood County, as demonstrated by various collaborations between community, education, and industry.
“The Partnership Alliance has big plans for the next year,” Simmons-Jones adds. “We look forward to keeping the momentum going.”