By Hal Johnson
Hal Johnson is the president and chief executive officer of the Upstate SC Alliance.
The Upstate SC Alliance had a great year in 2012, as did the Upstate of South Carolina. Those are not exclusive statements. And to be honest, we think 2013 is going to be even better.
We just celebrated our 13th birthday. What started out as an effort from local leaders to elevate the region’s economic development competitiveness has evolved into one of the most successful regional marketing organizations in the country.
Just as many other businesses have had to do, we had to adapt to the stiff economic conditions of the past several years. In a nine-month, period we hired seven new people, which was a deliberate move brought about by a decision to align our business development people with our target industry strategy and to fill several vacancies. The Upstate SC Alliance now has ten people and we are now staffed with the most powerful, talented team we have ever had.
Between restructuring and hiring new people, we now have someone specializing in recruiting businesses in the aerospace and advanced materials industry; focusing on recruiting businesses in the life sciences and energy industries; working in the automotive industry as well as being responsible for communicating with our Centers of Influence (COI) and a specialist for the Chinese market.
We are poised for a record year of bringing more attention to what an opportunity-rich place South Carolina’s Upstate is for business. Our business development team racked up more than 100,000 travel miles and made 389 presentations, answering 46 formal requests for prospects in 2012. We are indeed bringing the Upstate to the world and the world to the Upstate.
In addition, we also revamped our marketing efforts by hiring a market research manager, a marketing and public relations coordinator and a new director of investor and public Relations. This makes us much more effective in being able to generate customized research and marketing packages and answering requests for information from consultants. This research ability is paying off big already. It played a key role in assisting Abbeville County in securing a $1 million grant for a business incubator.
In May, the Upstate SC Alliance hosted five international media representatives for an automotive reporting tour that included BMW, Michelin, ZF, Proterra and CU-ICAR. The Upstate SC Alliance also garnered an eight-page spread in “Industry Week” magazine touting the benefits of an Upstate business address to a national audience. This is in advance of an industrial trade show that will take place in the Upstate in April and will bring more than 700 industry executives to the Upstate.
We hosted a major consultants’ visitation during Euphoria that brought six consultants to town who frequently represent large economic development projects. So far, at least one project has come directly from this event and is currently considering an Upstate location.
In addition, we kicked of a new event, the Investor’s Roundtable Club, that is an effort to encourage our investors to do business with each other by meeting in small groups to better learn what each other’s businesses offer.
We introduced a new quarterly report named “The Score” that helps to show how economic activity in the Upstate compares with that in other parts of the state, the Southeast, the nation and the world.
With the new inland port getting underway, an expanding Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and surging interest from businesses all over the globe, the Upstate should have great days ahead. The Upstate SC Alliance is prepared for its most ambitious year ever.
Hal Johnson is the president and chief executive officer of the Upstate SC Alliance, a non-profit organization made up of a public and private investors aimed at promoting economic growth. Visit here for more information.