President and owner, Godshall Professional Recruiting and Staffing
Julie Godshall Brown has been connecting people with opportunities for more than 20 years. She took over the helm of her family’s staffing company – Godshall Professional Staffing – in 1995 and has steered it through several tectonic shifts, economic booms and busts. Brown just wrapped up her stewardship as chair of the Greenville Chamber, and is active in several community initiatives. Having the right people in the right places doing the right things is the heart of a successful economy that supports a thriving community. From that perch, Brown has a great view of Greenville’s future.
Small cities around the country want to be like Greenville. Why has this city been able to succeed where so many others fail?
What is unique to us is that we methodically address problems. Whether it’s revitalizing our downtown, working with public-private partnerships, or addressing issues of a change from a textile center to a knowledge-based economy, we are very methodical in how we address problems. While the skills gap, for example, isn’t unique to our area, I think we are uniquely positioned to address it.
Does the skills or education gap play a role in our ability to attract corporate headquarters or regional headquarters to relocate in Greenville?
We know we’ve had – and can continue to have – great success in cultivating talent locally, especially with companies like BMW or any other advanced manufacturing companies here that spend time, effort and dollars to develop a workforce. Where we run into difficulty is when we’re trying to recruit a company that is looking for a skill set specific to this area. The blessing is, we don’t have a difficult time getting people to relocate to our market. Not only are we attacking [the skills gap] from a retooling and retraining standpoint, but education and industry are talking. That’s one of the things that happened through ACCELERATE.
ACCELERATE is a program you’ve worked closely with since it began in 2009. How’s it going?
So far we are exceeding our goal of adding 100 new businesses to Greenville. We are now in the second three-year cycle and so far, we’ve launched 160 and nearly 90 percent of them have been grown here in Greenville. Like Zipit Wireless, Customer Effective [now Hitachi Solutions], and Selah Genomics.
A key to ACCELERATE’S success as well as the general business and employment climate seems to be the business and industry working together.
You definitely see this in the growth of life sciences here. Brenda Thames of the Greenville Health System [incoming Chamber chair] developed platforms for higher education to sit down with industry like the three hospital systems. GHS’ training and recruiting is intertwined with even primary and high school education.
What’s the next big thing for the city’s business ecosystem?
The life sciences corridor is a transformational project to attract related businesses surrounding the three major hospital systems. The medical school and the strong health systems provide the environment for those adjunct life sciences companies to bring knowledge-based and high-paying jobs. We believe that’s Greenville’s next area of growth as an industry.
You have been a standard-bearer for diversity and inclusion. Are we making inroads there?
From a Chamber perspective, diversity and inclusion has gone from a flag we carried for a long time, to a real program with some meat behind it. More than $1 million worth of contracts was awarded to participants in our minority business accelerator [MBA] program. And this year, Greenville led the way on an important issue when we became the first chamber in the state to step up with a resolution to take down the Confederate flag. We were the first out of the gate on that and it had a domino effect throughout the state.
And from a business perspective?
Every organization we recruit for wants to attract more and more diverse candidates. But we still are somehow missing the mark in attracting professionals. But I think we are so close. There are many diverse professionals who are very happy living in Greenville and who seem to have not struggled developing their careers and their lives in the community. So my hope is that they will be a magnet for this up-and-coming generation that is graduating now to stay here in Greenville.
What unfinished business are you handing off to your successor as Chamber board chair?
I’d like to continue to see further integration on how all the different agencies and organizations can work together to recruit business to our market. To develop a blueprint so we don’t miss a single opportunity to get a business to relocate here. And selflessly not care who gets the credit for it. That would be a transformational project team, operating like a well-oiled machine. That would be One Greenville.