By Dudley Brown
A new year and a new decade are underway, and economic development leaders across the Upstate expect the growth and progress from the 2010s to continue in 2020.
Unemployment rates approached 12% at the start of the 2010s and dropped to under 2% in parts of the Upstate by the end of the decade. The region is a popular destination for people looking to relocate and its economy is becoming more diverse.
"If you look at the region over the past 10 years it's been a phenomenal decade," said John Lummus, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance. "We've had tens of billions of dollars in investment in the past decade."
Lummus said the Upstate was still reeling from textile industry losses at the start of the 2010s. By the end of the decade, the region diversified its economy, including different types of manufacturing. The automotive sector continued its growth. The aerospace and life science industries also grew in the Upstate and the region gained more tech sector and back-office jobs.
That momentum is expected to continue in 2020, but usual uncertainties could set in later in the year, Lummus said. It's an election year in the United States and there is still much to sort through across the pond with Brexit.
But investments in the Upstate's infrastructure and a collaborative approach among its counties to market the region is expected to contribute to continued growth, Lummus said.
A key priority for the next decade will involve continuing to build the Upstate's workforce. Lummus said it's important to keep the region's college graduates here and to make sure they are aware of the opportunities available. It's also important to make sure students in grades k-12 are being prepared for STEM careers and that families understand the jobs available to those without four-year degrees.
Increasing the skills of the region's workforce and diversifying available jobs should help the region narrow the gap that has traditionally existed between the Upstate and the national average in per capita income, Lummus said.
Lummus expects one of the Upstate's newest targets to be growth in the food and food processing sector because more of those companies would like locations along the East Coast.
Economic development leaders in Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg counties are anticipating a good 2020 with intentions of focusing on the region's future needs.
Burriss Nelson, Anderson County's economic development director...