The Spark: Happenings in Upstate Biz with Trevor Anderson

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Lean in and listen closely. There’s a little secret tucked away off Highway 290 in Duncan that is fueling big economic growth in the Upstate.

And no surprise: Now that the secret is out, it’s a concept that leaders from other communities across the country want to replicate in hopes of creating a healthier mix of industries, stronger companies, and new entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as jobs for their citizens.

Spartanburg Community College’s Spark Center (dig that name!), formerly the Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Development, is racking up impressive numbers as one of the world’s only multisector, multipurpose business accelerators.

Since its inception in 2006, the center has helped about 80 companies launch or expand and generated more than 28,000 jobs, $1.9 billion in wage earnings, and more than $100 million in tax revenue. The nearly 400,000-square-foot center serves four project types: soft landings, small-business incubation, workforce employment services, and special projects.

Its clients have ranged from small to large companies that hail from 12 countries, including the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, China, and Japan.

The list of companies includes BMW, Adidas, Magna Seating, Michelin, and Toray.

The Spark Center is a catalyst for economic growth, “not only for the region but the entire state,” says Bob Quinn, executive director of the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA). Mark Housley, Upstate regional manager of SCRA’s SC Launch, calls the Spark Center “truly unique.”

“As more companies see this, they’ll want to be here,” he said.

So, what are the incentives for companies and entrepreneurs that use the center? Flexible space for operations, training, assembly and light manufacturing, temporary warehousing, beta testing, and access to other support services. It also offers a foreign trade zone and access to the S.C. Ports Authority’s Inland Port Greer, and it is in close proximity to Interstates 85 and 26.

The center works closely with SC Works and ReadySC and is home to the Spartanburg Area Small Business Development Center and the Piedmont chapter of the national nonprofit SCORE association.

It’s basically a one-stop shop for business growth and development. A “secret” weapon, if you will. And it’s paying dividends not just for entrepreneurs, but for the region.

Denny’s using the force to feed kids

Spartanburg-based Denny’s Corp. announced it has kicked off a promotional campaign inspired by the upcoming movie “Solo: A Star Wars Story” that will benefit No Kid Hungry.

The family-dining chain will sell trading card packs featuring two of 12 different characters from the movie for $3 per pack in its stores and via its online ordering platform Denny’s on Demand. A portion of those sales will be donated to No Kid Hungry, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $1 million. Denny’s has also rolled out movie-themed menu items.

Lightsabers up: My family is in.

Spartanburg Chamber pushes for talent retention

Some of us have called Sparkle City “home” longer than others, but if you’re new to the scene, beat the learning curve with the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s new program, Spartanburg 101. Presented by Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, the program is designed to help newcomers to Spartanburg become more familiar with the community.

It will include three interactive sessions from 8:15-11:45 a.m. on May 16 and 30, and from 3:15-6:45 p.m. on June 13. Participants will “engage in community development efforts, hear from community leaders, discover Spartanburg’s economic drivers, and learn about arts, cultural, and recreational amenities,” according to the chamber.

The program, which seeks to boost talent retention in Spartanburg, is open to both newcomers and longtime residents. The cost is $225 for chamber members and $295 for non-members. Sound up your alley? Call Cindy Teaster at 864-594-5022 or email [email protected]

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