In late 2013, the Upstate of South Carolina was selected for the Global Cities Initiative through a competitive application process. Since then, our team has worked along with fellow Exchange members to develop practical knowledge, policy ideas and networks needed to become more globally connected and competitive.

While past economic development strategies for the Upstate have always included an international component, the strategy that resulted from our work with the Brookings Global Cities Initiative is focused on growing our economy through:
  • A continued focus on international recruitment
  • A new focus on increasing exports of Upstate goods and services, and
  • A new focus on increasing international investment through possible joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Plan 

With more than 85 percent of global growth through 2020 projected to occur outside the United States, we recognize that global engagement is a necessity if regions want to catalyze both their economies and their workforces. Global companies – those that export and receive foreign direct investment – pay higher average wages, contribute more to regional R&D efforts, and increase productivity of domestic markets through the infusion of new technologies and practices.

Toward the end of increasing global business investment within our region, the Upstate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Plan was launched in spring 2016. The comprehensive foreign investment plan outlines specific steps local business, civic, and government leaders (including our local economic developers) can take to leverage exports and foreign direct investment to grow global engagement.

Read the FDI Plan Online

Download the FDI Plan as a PDF

Key findings from The Upstate SC Regional Foreign Direct Investment Plan include:
  • While known for big wins, the Upstate’s foreign direct investment also reflects national trends. 
  • The region’s manufacturing base and FDI success position it as a key hub in the global value chains of its target industries. 
  • The region’s underdeveloped service sector hinders its competitiveness as an international business location. 
  • The emerging innovation ecosystem is an opportunity for advanced materials.
  • Attracting and retaining talent is increasingly important.
“When we promote increased trade and investments in our communities, we create more jobs, attract capital and expand opportunity for more businesses of all sizes.” said Jeff Henry, commercial banking market executive for Chase in South Carolina. “Upstate’s export and foreign direct investment plans will create the framework for our region’s continued economic success.”

Regional Export Plan 

Executive Summary 

Although the Upstate’s export performance is generally good and has a positive outlook, it masks an underlying weakness in existing support systems that must be addressed. The region must link the strengths developed over decades of strong international recruitment to the needs of established and emerging domestic enterprises in order to build globally nimble companies that can grow into multi-national corporations. By aligning existing resources and mainstreaming exports into the traditional economic development framework, the region will be able to multiply the value of its resources to the local economy.
Recognizing that the Upstate’s future prosperity and competitiveness is tied strongly to its global connectivity, the region will build on its shared global heritage, expertise in advanced manufacturing, world-class clusters, strong business climate, and quality of life to establish a distinctive regional identity as a leading location for international business, trade, and investment – thereby completing its transition from global player to global leader in the world economy.


Upstate SC Regional Export Plan
  • Maintain our strong export intensity-equal to or greater than 20% as the region’s economy continues to develop and diversify.
  • Increase exporting activity by 75% for domestic companies and small business, including actively developing new international markets.
  • Foster a strong, export-oriented business culture while building our reputation as a competitive trading region.

Read the Regional Export Plan Online

Download the Regional Export Plan as PDF


Get Involved

Interested in becoming involved?  To implement the Foreign Direct Investment and Regional Export Plan goals, the Upstate SC Alliance will work in partnership with local, state and federal economic development organizations, private businesses, and the export support community. To facilitate these efforts, the Upstate SC Alliance will convene a council of investors and partnering organizations that will oversee implementation of the Plan goals. Let us know if you are interested in getting involved in the new economy.

Growing Exports

If you are involved in economic development or entrepreneurial support, let's work together to get companies excited about exporting and to refer export-ready companies to the best service provider for their needs.

If you are a manufacturer or a service provider, we want to help you begin to export or to develop new markets for your products. There is a wealth of high-quality assistance (including grants to help cover your costs and export financing programs to minimize risk). Let's partner to get the ball rolling.


Leadership is key to these initiatives and it is important for every citizen in the Upstate to understand how essential international trade is to our region. For instance, a study by the Atlantic Council estimates that if a strong Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is adopted, South Carolina will be the state that benefits most from that agreement, and the study projects a 187% increase in state exports. That type of growth would affect our region at every level. We need to ensure that our public officials are supported in their efforts to build bridges around the world for Upstate companies to grow.
Contact Elizabeth Feather to begin the conversation. 
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Contact Info
124 Verdae Boulevard, Suite 202, Greenville SC 29607