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Greer's economic indicators are pointing up

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Economic signs of an upward trend in Greer foretell a resurgence that can’t come soon enough for many businesses and residents still searching for jobs.

Reno Deaton, Greer Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, painted an attractive picture of business and industry in Greer and those that may be considering locating here during a Nov. 22 city council meeting.

Deaton said that gross retail sales growth in 2011, with two months still unreported by the state Department of Revenue, is a staggering $604.2 million. It’s the first upward trend since the peak in 2008 ($536 million).

The retail sales growth can be compared as being higher than 17 counties in the state, 30 percent higher than Orangeburg, twice that of the city of Newberry and Summerville. Deaton said Greer falls just below Gaffney which includes the outlet mall and its peripheral restaurants and businesses.

“We’ve had a fantastic year and our economy is turning in the right direction. The forward economic indicators are pointing up – dramatically and systemically,” Deaton said.

“We have seen signs of a rebound with this upward trend of economic activity. It may have been companies sitting on reserves and seeing if things would turn around.”

Deaton said the median household income grew to $62,767, a steady climb from $51,184 in 2005 and $30,755 in 1989.

Deaton's scorecard for 2011, to date, reads 11 wins (7 commercial, 4 industrial), $45.8 million in new capital investment and 380 jobs. 

“This is the kind of information we like to share,” Mayor Rick Danner said. “It speaks well how we positioned ourselves for growth.”

Commercial and housing starts have begun to manufacture some positive results.

Housing starts, which have been in a lull the past 30 months, reached a new low in 2010 with 59. Year to date, Greer’s housing starts are at 93. With seven more starts in the next November and December reporting period, it will be first time since 2009 housing starts would go over three figures. That was also the first time in over a decade housing starts trickled below 100.

Phil Rhoads, director for Building and development standards, has been cautiously optimistic confirming a continuous trend in housing starts. “Every time I think we’re coming out of it, another thing slows it down,” Rhoads said. “I’m seeing some positive things but I’m not ready to say we’re out of it yet.”

Rhoads said the housing boom, that saw an average of 430 single-family homes constructed from 2003-2006, is a thing of the past. Pockets of undeveloped parcels remain that are favorable to housing, albeit to a growing market of smaller families and baby boomers downsizing.

Irmo-based Mungo Companies announced in October a development of 54 patio homes, 1,400-2,400 square feet with 2-3 bedrooms, to be built at Brushy Creek and S. Suber roads. The subdivision will be on 19.96 acres with the houses priced from the $120,000s and up. Grading is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012.

Deaton said there is an inventory of commercial real estate available with the utilities infrastructure solidly in place with Greer Commission of Public Works providing support.
The commercial investment in Greer is at $10.2 million year-to-date with two months remaining to report. If that figure stays under $10.4 million it will be the slowest period since preceding BMW’s announced entry into the Greer market in 1992. In 1997 the Greer commercial construction boom hit $95.6 million, tanked at $17.8 million in 1998 and has held steady in the mid-$10 million range.

Deaton said 77 percent of requests for industrial buildings centered around 10,000-50,000 square feet. Demand for larger buildings has Deaton concerned that Greer is unprepared for a major tenant. 

Deaton offered one caveat in his presentation when presenting Velocity Park, an industrial enterprise on Hwy. 101 across from BMW Manufacturing Co. “We have a transportation dilemma in the Velocity Park area,” Deaton said. “I’m suggesting council to take a good, hard look at how trucks get in and out.”

Freight trucks, Deaton said, do not have access to wider roads needed nearby at Genoble and Robinson roads. The truck traffic that a major manufacturing or distribution company would bring could not be sustained with the current roads. That registered with council.

Jay Arrowood, District 1 councilman, said, “I believe we should do a study as soon as possible. We’re competing for prospects. The first thing (industries) tell us is ‘I love all that you’re doing but I don’t know how I’m going to get my trucks in and out.”

Mayor Rick Danner added, “If we’re going to be committed we must look at transportation.”
Council approved a motion to pursue viability of a transportation study.

Deaton said Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport has commissioned a land-use study for the Greer airport. “I can’t think of anything more exciting than the airport looking into opportunities. That report is dramatically important to us.”

GSP commissioners expect the study to be completed in the third quarter of 2012.

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