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Recruiting business and talent to the Upstate

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By Danielle Besser, Public Relations Manager, Upstate SC Alliance

Jigsaw puzzles saw a huge surge in sales in 2020, as many people hunkered at home.

In an uncanny coincidence, puzzles were a theme at the Upstate SC Alliance’s 20th anniversary celebration in February 2020. As nearly 600 regional business leaders arrived at the event, many added a piece to a puzzle wall. The picture they were building? A vibrant South Carolina and its Upstate region. 

The Upstate SC Alliance was formed in 2000 to market South Carolina’s 10-county Upstate region for global business investment, and today it works to position the region to succeed in the global economy.

The interactive moment symbolized how the region has come together, with many people and players adding their piece.

“The Upstate has seen tremendous success thanks to visionary leaders,” says John Lummus, president and CEO of the Alliance. “We’ve seen growth in population, the number of jobs available, and an increase in entrepreneurial activity in addition to the $17.9 billion in capital investment and 52,598 jobs announced from 2009-2019.”

It also symbolizes the collaborative approach of the Upstate SC Alliance, which brings together research, relationships, business support assets, and trends to make the case for doing business in the Upstate.

Working Collaboratively

Relationships are integral to the public-private partnership, which touts the collaborative spirit of #TeamUpstate — within the region and beyond.

For the 180-plus private companies who invest with the Alliance, short-term benefits include networking and access to research, programs and market insights, with a long-term role in shaping the region’s growth strategy.

The Alliance works alongside the SC Department of Commerce, and city and county economic development organizations, to showcase the region across the globe.

Within the region, the Alliance is a regional convener, providing a sounding board for local economic developers and a forum for collaboration, all backed by research support.

For years, the Local Economic Developers group used to meet quarterly, though in the early days of the pandemic, the Alliance took to hosting weekly virtual meetings to discuss trends, ideas and resources.

“During the pandemic, the Upstate Alliance provided local economic development offices with key resources. They established a hosting mechanism to share pandemic related community initiatives and public safety messaging. Over the past 10 months they wisely pivoted from traditional marketing and business development efforts to focus on virtual meetings, talent recruitment, and increased research initiatives,” says Merle Johnson, director of Community & Economic Development for the city of Greenville.

Responding Creatively

Prior to the pandemic, a global marketing strategy included door-to-door travel, building relationships with site selection consultants and foreign trade offices, and shaking hands at tradeshows.

“This year, our team has been all about creativity and new approaches,” Lummus says. “A video tour of the region, direct mail with a taste of the Upstate, exploring new data-driven ways to identify prospects.”

Looking into 2021, business recruitment and marketing efforts will focus more on innovative growth opportunities, such as companies that offer could industrial technology and optimization to the region’s 2,000+ manufacturers and entrepreneurs looking for a supportive environment to grow.

“We talk about big-picture strengths,” Lummus adds. “Our location between Atlanta and Charlotte. The collaborative spirit that drives us to create solutions to business challenges. Graduates from more than 27 colleges and universities. Our location and assets like the Inland Port and GSP International Airport.”

As cities like Greenville and Spartanburg target office and professional projects, the Alliance is tailoring its approach in support.

The group will continue to pursue key industry targets: automotive, aerospace, engineered materials, and life sciences industries, and food processing. And, international relationships with countries with business synergy — Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany — will continue to be fostered.

Inspiring Individuals to Move Up and Skill Up

And, with workforce continuing to dominate site selection criteria, the Upstate SC Alliance has an initiative on that front: Move Up and Skill Up.

Move Up, and, were launched in 2019 to help companies attract and retain professional talent to the Upstate region. The site includes community maps, a job board, a cost-of-living interactive that allows users to compare the Upstate with other markets, and more.

In response to the pandemic, the Alliance created an enhancement to Move Up: Skill Up, and, which showcases resilient, in-demand occupations that can be accessed with 12 months or less of technical training.

Occupations on display range from information technology specialist to pharmacy technician to commercial truck driver — and, among the in-demand occupations featured on the site, there have been 46,899 job postings in the last 12 months, with an average earning potential for in-demand careers of $72,037.

“Our goal is to inspire individuals to acquire new skills for better paying, more resilient in-demand jobs and connect people with programs available at the Upstate’s technical colleges that can launch their careers,” says Lummus.

Move Up and Skill Up are free resources for companies to use, though a newly launched partnership opportunity gives companies the chance to market their careers in partnership with Move Up.

It’s a puzzle with many pieces, and each is a reflection of how #TeamUpstate works together to inspire and rise.

Interested in learning more?

Contact Lauren Scoggins,, or 864-283-2305 to discuss how your company can get involved with the regional recruitment strategy or Move Up.

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