Upstate SC Alliance to focus on advanced materials

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Photo of carbon fiber by Brett Jordan, via Wikimedia Commons

The Upstate SC Alliance, the regional economic development organization with a headquarters in Greenville, plans to focus on developing and marketing the region’s advanced materials industry cluster.

That’s one of the points in a new strategic plan the Alliance shared publicly for the first time at its annual meeting Wednesday, March 29, at the TD Convention Center in Greenville.

“Advanced materials is the area in which Upstate firms are developing technology that is most distinctive and valuable on the global scale,” the plan says.

It says the Alliance will reach out to industry organizations around the world as part of marketing the Upstate as a good place for foreign advanced materials companies to enter the U.S. market.

The Alliance will also organize advanced materials firms and researchers already in the Upstate so they can better address common needs and understand “which regional investments could elevate the cluster to global prominence,” according to the strategic plan.

Those firms would include Toray Industries in the carbon fiber industry, Milliken & Co. in advanced textiles, Polydeck Screen Corp. in plastics, OpTek Systems in optics and photonics, and Adex Machining in metalworking and fabrication.

The plan says the Alliance hopes to make the Upstate more competitive for federal investments in the area of advanced materials, such as Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, a new institute focused on high-tech fibers and textiles that landed in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The plan also talks about working on a campaign to recruit and retain talent in the advanced materials area.

It says the Alliance will spend two years focused on the advanced materials cluster and after that decide whether to continue leading the effort, create a new entity for the work, or hand it off to “other regional entities.”

The strategic plan is the Alliance’s first since 2008, according to John Lummus, the organization’s president.

“Our overarching theme is region-building,” Lummus told Alliance investors and supporters gathered at the convention center.

The Alliance paid two consultants from Washington, D.C. — McDearman Associates and RM Donahue Consulting — $38,000 for the five-year plan, Lummus said.

Gov. Henry McMaster was keynote speaker at the annual meeting, which was sponsored by Chase and J.P. Morgan.

Chase announced a $100,000 contribution to the Alliance’s work.

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