Greenwood Partnership Alliance (GPA) was one of the first public-private collaborations in South Carolina to encourage economic development. Now, for over 25 years, its innovative leadership has worked to advance the county’s economy.
With an ideal location about halfway between Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC, in the Piedmont Region of the state, Greenwood County has a diverse economy serving the needs of the region. Just some of the drivers of the local economy include specialized manufacturing, life sciences, healthcare services and serving the rapidly growing retiree population. Greenwood County is also close to multiple major markets in the Southeastern United States including nearby Greenville, Columbia, Spartanburg, Asheville, and Augusta.
Greenwood County serves as a hub for a seven-county region that boasts numerous lakes, attractions, and state recreation areas for visitors to experience and explore. Lake Greenwood is just a few miles from the city limits of Greenwood and has become an increasingly desirable place to live, work, and play. A wide range of communities are being established close to the lake to attract people who want to live in the area.
Heather Simmons Jones, CEO of Greenwood Partnership Alliance, spoke to Business in Focus about what the area offers for companies interested in doing business in the area. “South Carolina is known for making things, and making them well,” Simmons Jones explains, citing the manufacturing industry that has been a foundational part of the area’s economy. “The workforce in Greenwood County has a strong work ethic from our textile history and embraces manufacturing as a desirable career.”
A proactive approach toward economic achievement has driven Greenwood County’s success over the years. This type of initiative led to the development of the Greenwood County Economic Alliance in 1986, when community leaders realized that the county needed economic development specialists to direct local initiatives to grow the County’s economy. The Greenwood County Economic Alliance was one of the first of its kind in the United States and in the state of South Carolina to form partnerships with both private businesses and public entities. In 2003, Greenwood Partnership Alliance (GPA) was incorporated as a public-private partnership between Greenwood County, the City of Greenwood, the Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works, the Greenwood Metropolitan District and private businesses in Greenwood County. The Partnership is set up as a non-profit corporation to better the local workforce and overall quality of life in the county.
Today, approximately 28 percent of Greenwood County’s economy is dedicated to manufacturing. Due to this strong presence, there are several companies with factories and distribution centers throughout the county. GPA has worked extensively with local technical schools and workforce training programs so companies are able to hire skilled local workers. “We have a rich existing industrial base,” says Simmons Jones. “Companies that have been here for many years are still expanding.”
Some of these companies include Fujifilm Manufacturing USA, which houses its Manufacturing and Research and Development headquarters for North America in Greenwood County. Started in 1988, Fujifilm employs more than 1000 people at the Greenwood site and the company has more than 2.5 million square feet of manufacturing space – the size of over 40 football fields under one roof.
The 500 acre complex boasts five state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities for the production of products such as the QuickSnap recyclable cameras, inkjet photographic paper, color photographic paper, and digital printing plates for the Graphic Arts industry. Greenwood is also home to Fujifilm’s largest distribution center in the world. In 2010, Fujifilm announced an expansion as the photographic products company continued to evolve by modifying two facilities at the Greenwood campus. A former film production facility was converted to produce inkjet photo paper and wide format inkjet printer solutions for retail customers. The company also modified a dormant x-ray film finishing factory to create a new, state-of-the-art digital printing service and fulfillment operation. This facility has become the largest photo products fulfillment organization in the country.
As the largest private sector industrial employer in Greenwood County, Eaton Corporation maintains five facilities representing three separate divisions of the company. Eaton Corporation is a manufacturer of power distribution, power quality, industrial automation and power control products and services. Eaton’s Hydraulics Group in Greenwood produces hydraulic square pumps and industrial motors, as well as new and remanufactured vane pumps for distribution and supply to original equipment manufacturers throughout the Americas. VELUX America, Inc., a manufacturer of skylights and roof windows, has nine facilities in Greenwood County, representing five employing companies. VELUX has expanded greatly in the time it has been in the county.
One of the newest companies to join Greenwood County’s diverse manufacturing base is Colgate-Palmolive. At the new facility, the company will produce liquid hand soap for its Softsoap brand for the North American market as well as deodorant for its Mennen Speed Stick brand for both domestic and global markets. Capsugel is the largest two-piece hard capsule manufacturer in the world, and produces more than 200 billion hard capsules and more than 3 billion finished dosage units each year for customers around the globe. In Greenwood, the company maintains facilities for Hard Capsule Manufacturing, Dosage Form Solutions, and Product Development & Manufacturing.
Besides manufacturing, life sciences have also had an increasingly strong presence in Greenwood County, and GPA has worked extensively to help attract this industry to the area.
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) is a nonprofit institute that was founded in 1974 to advance the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects. At its home campus in the City of Greenwood, physicians and scientists provide clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and resources, and research in medical genetics. GGC’s faculty and staff are committed to the goal of developing preventive and curative therapies for the people they serve. GGC also has satellite offices throughout the state.
In conjunction with the Greenwood Genetic Center, Clemson University recently broke ground on a 17,000 square foot human genetics research and education center on nearly 15 acres donated by Greenwood County and the Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works. The site is located adjacent to the Greenwood Genetic Center within the Greenwood Research Park. The Clemson University Center for Human Genetics will be a core campus to recruit research and development companies involved in human diagnostics, cognitive development, central nervous system, autism, birth defects, cancer and inflammatory diseases. The collaborative will seek new discoveries in genetic diagnostics and epigenetic therapeutics. The project will also expand Clemson University’s existing doctoral program in human genetics, create an internationally competitive research and development team and expand research capabilities.
Self Regional Healthcare, a seven county regional healthcare facility, donated $5.6 million to the collaborative to support research in genetics and human diagnostics at the facility located on the Greenwood Genetic Center campus. Self Regional Healthcare, as a research and lead healthcare partner, will support hospital-based clinical trials and will collaborate in designated research activities.
GPA has worked extensively to attract businesses to Greenwood County, and Ms. Simmons Jones explains that the Partnership has focused on workforce development initiatives and product development / site readiness for companies. For example, the Greenwood Promise is an educational initiative that will provide local high school graduates the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree with tuition and fees paid through an endowment funded by public and private money, beginning with the graduating Class of 2016. “The Greenwood Promise will prepare these graduates with the skills needed to be successful in our local industries,” she says.
As the endowment grows, a limited number of Greenwood Promise students may be eligible to complete a four-year degree through a bridge program, which would be targeted to the needs of local industry.
Piedmont Technical College serves as a workforce training partner in Greenwood County. Its courses provide the technical training for students to become more competitive in the workforce. Areas of study include Electronic Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, General Engineering Technology, Computer Aided Drafting, Machine Tool Technology, CNC Machining, Mechatronics and Welding. Additionally, Lander University, a fully accredited four-year liberal arts institution, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 60 major and minor areas. Widely recognized for its acclaimed nursing degree program, Lander University is located in the center of the Uptown District within the City of Greenwood.
For its site-ready initiatives, GPA has been instrumental in developing a 145-acre publicly owned industrial park. There is also a 512-acre rail park that is served by CSX Transportation currently undergoing required due diligence to be certified and designated to be site-ready.
Not only is Greenwood County considered a desirable place to work, but is also known to be a great place to live. Thanks to its scenic location in the Piedmont region, retirees looking to get away from the bustle and congestion of Atlanta and Charlotte have become increasingly attracted to the county. The largest independent topiary display in conjunction with the South Carolina Festival of Flowers is one notable event. Due to the strong presence of Life Sciences and Manufacturing, a number of STEM magnet schools have been built in a local school district. In the City of Greenwood, the Uptown district consists of a former textile building being converted into lofts, attracting more residents to the center of town. “There’s a real vibrancy going on there,” shares Simmons Jones.
Thanks to a commitment to attracting business to the area, Greenwood Partnership Alliance has been a leader in economic development strategies and initiatives. GPA’s strategy of matching dollars and collaborating with investors, existing industry leaders, local government and prospective businesses interested in the area has proven to be a successful model. Simmons Jones feels that GPA’s hands-on approach will keep businesses coming to the area for years to come.
“Our partnership alliance is a concierge service for our constituency groups,” she explains. “Our research helps usher our prospects from A to Z. Once they land in Greenwood, we continue our collaborative relationship and provide service after a sell. This lets prospects know that we’re with them through the entire lifetime, not just when they announce they want to come here.”