It was the textile industry that brought C. Merrill Patten to South Carolina in 1925.
Five years earlier, Patten had helped found the accounting firm Elliott, Davis & Co. with James Elliott and Herbert Davis in Boston, but now business had brought him South.
The firm wanted to add an office that focused solely on textiles, and Greenville, then known as the Textile Capital of the World, was as good a place as any.
Its office was located inside the 17-story Woodside building on Main Street. At 190 feet, it was Greenville’s first skyscraper and the tallest building in the Carolinas.
The practice grew from there.
Today, Elliott Davis is one of the largest tax, assurance and consulting firms in the Southeast with offices in Charleston and Columbia in South Carolina; Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Chattanooga and Nashville in Tennessee.
The company, now headquartered in downtown Greenville, is celebrating its 100th year in business this month. And it has much to celebrate.
When current CEO Rick Davis (no relation to founder Herbert Davis) joined the firm after graduating from Clemson University in 1984, it was much smaller.
“We had three locations at the time, all in Upstate South Carolina,” Davis said. The company earned around $8 million in annual revenue and employed approximately 50 people.
“For a very long time, Elliott Davis was a South Carolina firm and became the largest South Carolina firm but has since grown and expanded,” Davis said. “Today, we’re approaching $140 million in revenue and 750 employees.”
Davis said the company has been very intentional about its growth, operating under a strategic growth plan with initiatives that “build upon the areas of expertise we have by industry and use those various industries to move into new markets.”
The firm provides accounting services for more than 100 community banks across the Southeast as well as a “vast number” of manufacturers and distributors, construction companies, governmental agencies, colleges and universities, private schools, nonprofit organizations and high-net-worth individuals.
But even with thousands of clients, there’s still more growth to be had.
Davis said he’d like to see the company expand its offerings and provide more advisory or strategic planning services. Currently, about 30% of the firm’s practice is advisory work and 70% is compliance — think tax returns, financial statements and annual audits.
“It all comes down to looking ahead and providing that value proposition that I think puts Elliott Davis in a very strong position for a thriving future,” Davis said.