By Molly Hulsey
In recognition of the Greenville Area Development Corp.’s 20th year, economist Joey Von Nessen unveiled the group’s impact on the Upstate’s economy in a study today.
At home in Greenville County, GADC has generated a $6 billion impact each year and keeps 64,784 jobs afloat in the Greenville market, according to the study. The economic developer’s ripple effect across the 10-county Upstate region equates to $6.9 billion and 82,693 jobs annually.
“Greenville County and the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metropolitan region have both been principal drivers of South Carolina’s growth throughout the 21st century — and especially since 2010,” Von Nessen, a research economist at University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, said in today’s announcement.
He attributed part of Greenville’s boom in economic growth over the past decade and its rebound from COVID-19-generated unemployment to the Upstate’s industry diversification since the region’s textile golden years from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The study also followed the evolution of the Upstate’s economy from one steeped in agriculture to an investment and capital-driven industrial economy to an innovation hub fueled by new tech and high-skilled human capital, underscored by a recent CompTia report calling South Carolina’s tech sector the third-fastest growing in the nation.
“In South Carolina, and in Greenville in particular, we have seen that transition from the textile manufacturing sector to an advanced manufacturing sector, which is largely the automotive, aerospace and tire sectors,” he said during a virtual press conference. “And that transition really from phase two to phase three, from textile manufacturing to advanced manufacturing or transportation equipment manufacturing — we use both of those terms interchangeably — that really sets the stage for what has been happening over the last 20 or so years in Greenville County.”
Since 2001, the five strongest industry sectors represent 83% of the county’s total employment base but have become more evenly distributed with the addition of new professional service firms headquartered in the city following GADC’s recruitment efforts.
Manufacturing, and transportation equipment manufacturing in particular, still leads the charge for economic impact in the county, according to Von Nessen, with a growth rate that triples the state average and doubles the impact generated in Charleston or Columbia since 2010. The transportation, trade and utility sector overall contributes to 25.8% of all employment in the county, followed by professional and business services at 28.3%, education and health services at 17% and leisure and hospitality at 14.5%.
“To the extent that job announcements in Greenville County since 2001 with which the GADC has been directly affiliated have been realized, these jobs comprise over one quarter of the local employment base,” Von Nessen said in the announcement.
He estimated that GADC’s more than 300 announcements since 2001 have contributed to 17.4% of the county’s total GDP — not to mention its impact beyond Greenville borders.
“GADC-affiliated announcements also include an employment multiplier effect of 2.1, meaning that for every 10 jobs that follow business announcements tied directly to GADC-affiliated activities, an additional 11 jobs are created elsewhere in Greenville County,” he said in the announcement. “In addition, this employment multiplier effect increases to an estimated value of 2.6 when extending the analysis to the broader Upstate region. These multiplier effects are significantly higher than that of the average industry in South Carolina at 1.6.”
Despite the pandemic, the Greenville Area Development Corporation announced another record year for economic development in Greenville County in 2020, with some 25 organizations — domestic and foreign, manufacturing and office, large and small, public and private — choosing to locate to or expand here, according to GADC President and CEO Mark Farris.
“Combined, the organizations represented a record $631 million in new capital investment to enhance the tax base plus 1,422 new jobs to keep Greenville’s economy humming,” Farris said in the announcement. “It was arguably one of Greenville County’s most rewarding and remarkable years ever in terms of economic development.
The $631 million in new capital investment shattered the county’s prior annual high investment of $476 million set in 2014, while the job additions pushed the GADC’s cumulative job announcement total over the 30,000 mark during its history, the equivalent of recreating the state’s 13th largest city.
“Recently with the addition of our new business park at Fox Hill and new speculative industrial buildings — we have almost four or five now — we’re poised to take even further advantage of the momentum that has been created,” Farris said during the virtual press conference.
In celebration of GADC’s anniversary, the organization hosted a CEOs Speak Out virtual program featuring executives from DC Blox, US&S, Bank of America, KDS Commercial and Farris.
“We can be confident that our community is doing the right things when we find new industry choosing to locate here, and existing industry deciding to invest limited and precious resources in expanding in Greenville County,” Farris said in the announcement. “Deciding where to place investments and where to expand is incredibly competitive nationally and globally, and there is no stronger endorsement of a community being business friendly than winning more than our fair share of these decisions for Greenville County.”
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