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Upstate South Carolina, and the state as a whole, has earned an impressive reputation as one of the world’s leading automotive clusters. With more than 150 automotive-related companies calling the Upstate home, including BMW, Bosch, Magna, Michelin and ZF, the region has played a significant role in the state of South Carolina’s success in the automotive industry—a sector that has a $27.1 billon impact on the state. With the tremendous growth in the automotive sector, has the "BMW effect" crossed over into the aerospace industry as well?

The foundation of Upstate South Carolina’s position as a modern automotive leader was set in the 1970’s when Michelin tabbed Anderson to serve as the home for its first U.S. plant and eventually established its North American headquarters in Greenville.

While Michelin’s presence helped to put the Upstate on the map, BMW’s move to Upstate South Carolina is what most consider to be the catalyst to the region’s significant growth in the industry. Like Michelin, BMW saw the advantages that Upstate South Carolina had to offer, and in 1993 selected the region to establish its first full manufacturing facility outside of Germany. At the time, the company planned to hire 2,000 employees by the year 2000 and help bring at least nine automotive suppliers to the state.

Today, BMW’s plant in Greer employs more than 8,000 workers on-site and by the year 2016, the facility will become BMW’s largest operating plant world-wide. BMW’s presence—and tremendous success—in Upstate South Carolina created a ripple effect, often referred to as the “BMW Effect,” bringing in a significant number of related automotive suppliers to the state, as well as automotive manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

And now, the state is in a position where it may experience similar growth in the aerospace industry.

In 2009, Boeing chose South Carolina to establish a second, final assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner. More than five years later, the aerospace giant is continuing to grow in South Carolina and many experts feel that this could be the state’s “BMW Effect” for the aerospace cluster:

“You could argue that with Boeing South Carolina, we’re seeing Boeing replicate the investment and expansion we saw in Washington from the post-war era that finally brought us the 707 in the true jet age,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst for Strategic Aero Research in an interview with the Charleston Post & Courier. “Boeing South Carolina has a 50- to 75-year plan and the billions being invested there is just a fraction of the eventual showcase we’ll see decades from now.”

Today, South Carolina’s aerospace cluster accounts for over 103,000 jobs and a $17.4 billion economic impact on the state.

While the aerospace industry might be benefiting from a large, global brand establishing operations in the state similar to the automotive industry’s start, the growth of the aerospace sector has been far more rapid.

According to studies, private sector employment in the state’s aerospace industry grew 15.5 percent between 2010 and 2012. That’s impressive compared to South Carolina’s southeastern neighbors. During that same period, North Carolina saw just 10.7 percent growth, 2.5 percent in Alabama and Georgia fell 2.3 percent. Consider the perspective of Steve Townes, CEO/Founder of Greenville-based Ranger Aerospace, LLC and Chair of SCAerospace:

“From an economic perspective, comparing and contrasting aerospace to automotive is something we have looked at in S.C. In an economic impact study done earlier this year, it showed that since Boeing's arrival in South Carolina, the aerospace cluster in this state has generated the same number of direct jobs per year as the automotive cluster did between 1990 and 2007 following the arrival of BMW in Spartanburg. In other words, the aerospace industry has had a significantly faster impact.

The aerospace industry is a global and national economic engine, and South Carolina’s future as an aerospace hub is already in front of us. The expansion of this sector promises to bring higher skilled jobs and increased wages as our existing OEM base expands, adds suppliers, and provides opportunities for growth to manufacturers and service companies already in the state. The aerospace industry offers real potential to scale-up employment opportunities for South Carolina’s workers. Employment multipliers for aerospace are higher than other industry sectors, so the total economic impact is greater and ripples strongly throughout our economy. Just look at the 400-plus small to medium sized aviation supply chain companies already growing in South Carolina to understand the multiplier effect—the aerospace sector here is growing like Carolina Kudzu."

But like the automotive industry, what fuels the aerospace industry’s growth are the competitive advantages found only in the state of South Carolina, and specifically in the Upstate region. Attracted by the region’s strengths in materials research and manufacturing, engineering and workforce training, companies such as GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Cytec and Champion Aerospace proudly call the Upstate home. Additionally, synergies with the existing automotive industry, drive train technologies, wind turbines and blades and other advanced manufacturing are beneficial to aerospace suppliers and subcontractors.

So as the state of South Carolina’s aerospace cluster continues to take off, look to Upstate South Carolina to pilot that success.

*Sources: SC Council on Competitiveness Aerospace in the Southeast: SC and its competitive markets – 2015 and Aerospace Cluster Economic Impact Study – 2014

Want more information on the aerospace industry in Upstate South Carolina?

Let our Business Recruitment team assist your company in finding the perfect location, gathering critical market intelligence and making business connections.

Jacob Hickman
Director of Business Recruitment

Visit our aerospace site at:

Attracted by scenic views, sense of community and a highly desirable cost of living, Upstate South Carolina has become a place where people from various backgrounds can all come together and enjoy one of the nation’s best places to call home. And when it comes to economic development, the region’s attractiveness to “outsiders” also extends into the Upstate’s reputation as leader in foreign direction investment (FDI).

Since 2007, nearly 35% of the 500-plus projects announced in the Upstate have come from foreign owned enterprise (FOE). In 2015 alone, Upstate South Carolina has welcomed international companies from Germany (Kirchner Konstruktionen GmbH), China (Suzhou Glacier Import & Export Co., Ltd.), Turkey (Mogul), and Belgium (Moderna Products), among others.

Home to more than 500 foreign-owned companies from 34 different countries, Upstate South Carolina draws the interest of industry leaders thanks to favorable tax rates and market accessibility, but equally if not most important is the Upstate’s qualified and available workforce. In fact, for the third time in four years, IBM-Plant Location International (IBM-PLI) ranked the state of South Carolina first (per million) in attracting jobs through foreign investment—ahead of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Earlier this year when the DRÄXLMAIER Group, a German based automotive supplier, announced it would expand its existing manufacturing operations in Spartanburg County, Barbar Bergmeier, board member and head of Production and Logistics for the DRÄXLMAIER Group, reinforced that position, stating, “Our plant in Duncan plays an important strategic role for our global production network and for our customers right here in the Americas. Our company has been in the Upstate of South Carolina for almost 20 years, and we plan to strengthen our ties even further in the near future….The well-trained and highly-skilled workforce in South Carolina will help us to develop and manufacture high-quality products for our customers in the Americas and around the world.” 

FOEs understand that many of the Upstate’s workers have highly specialized skills, including a high concentration of architectural and engineering talent, mechatronic specialists, team assemblers and metal workers, and machinists and fabricators. This pipeline is filled thanks to Upstate South Carolina’s workforce development programs, backed by nearly two dozen colleges and universities. South Carolina companies also benefit from one of the most reputable technical college systems in the country and nationally recognized state workforce training programs, readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina.

While the Upstate has worked extremely hard to excel in FDI, leadership within the region is not settling on that success. Earlier this year, Upstate South Carolina announced that it was one of only six U.S. metropolitans areas selected to develop a regional plan to attract and leverage FDI as part of the Global Cities Initiative—a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The Upstate was selected for its readiness and commitment to strategically pursue foreign direct investment such as greenfield expansions, mergers and acquisitions, and other types of foreign investment including EB‐5, private equity, joint ventures and sovereign wealth funds.

As part of the initiative, leaders from Upstate South Carolina have been working to develop a foreign direct investment market assessment and plan, along with an implementation plan and a policy memo. This work, added to the region’s existing regional export plan, forms the second core component of a global engagement strategy that will strengthen the region's global economic connections.

“The Upstate region has always excelled in the recruitment of FDI, as evidenced by having double the national average of jobs supported by foreign owned enterprises. By broadening our definition of foreign direct investment, the Upstate can leverage its solid foundation in international recruitment to strengthen our global competitiveness,“ said John Lummus, president/CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, at the announcement of the plan.

So as Upstate South Carolina continues to build upon its track record for attracting FDI, those looking to the region for growth opportunities can be assured that the region will look for even more ways to make the Upstate even more effective in building successful partnerships.

For more information on FDI in Upstate South Carolina, contact Elizabeth Feather at or 864.283.2306.

Site consultants are a valuable resource for companies looking to establish or expand operations. These individuals and firms are experts in assessing the attributes of cities, counties and states, taking into account what a region may offer when it comes to workforce development, tax incentives, available real estate, supply chains, infrastructure, quality of life and more. With an almost overwhelming amount of information to evaluate when making these important decisions, companies rely heavily on site consultants to identify the best potential site locations to help them achieve their business goals.

Much like companies rely on site consultants for information, the consultants themselves work closely with local developers, including those here in the Upstate, to ensure they are well versed on what a region has to offer.

Upstate SC Alliance, along with the local developers, has always maintained a strong working relationship with site consultants. These relationships are a major reason that site consultants understand the unique advantages of the Upstate and the state of South Carolina. And thanks to these efforts, site consultants have collectively agreed that South Carolina ranks as one of the nation’s top three states for doing business. The Palmetto State ranked third overall in Area Development Magazine’s 2015 Top States for Doing Business, an annual business ranking based on the results of a survey of consultants.

The survey asked site consultants to rank their top states based on 21 different factors across three main categories—business environment, labor climate, and infrastructure and global access. South Carolina ranked in the top five in over half of the 21 categories, including taking the top spot in Overall Cost of Doing Business, Incentive Programs, Cooperative State Government and Speed of Permitting.

Upstate SC Alliance is committed to the continued success of managing the relationships it has with site consultants. Earlier this month, a select group of prominent site selection consultants from across the U.S. visited the Upstate to learn more about what the region has to offer.


Investors joined the Upstate SC Alliance as we welcomed our guest site consultants.

Posted by Upstate SC Alliance on Thursday, October 8, 2015

The three-day event featured a number of site tours conducted by representatives from local city and county representatives. The visiting site consultants also took part in a panel at the South Carolina Economic Developers Association (SCEDA) meeting, discussing issues that included South Carolina’s competitiveness and initiatives on building an available and trained workforce.

“It is important for the Upstate SC Alliance, along with our local developers and investors, to build strong relationships with these consultants,” says John Lummus, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance. “In doing so, the consultants are well versed on what we have to offer and will hopefully choose the Upstate as a home for their next project.”

Site consultants interested in learning more about Upstate South Carolina can contact Aimee Redick, director of global engagement at Upstate SC Alliance, at

Read More

Trends in Corporate Site Selection: A Q&A with GLS Senior Principal, Didi Caldwell

Upstate South Carolina is a region that has always prided itself on its reputation for a dedicated, hard-working labor force. From the textile mills of decades past, to the manufacturing facilities found throughout the Upstate today, the workforce has been the key driver in the success of the 10-county region of Southwest South Carolina.

While the impressive output of the Upstate’s workforce has never changed, the profile of the typical employee has dramatically evolved. Visit any of the Upstate’s 1,800-plus manufacturing facilities and you will see a highly-advanced, high tech facility operated by a skilled workforce, proficient in robotics, engineering and other expertise.

Those currently involved in manufacturing, including businesses in Upstate South Carolina, understand that in order to keep up with the rapid technological changes in manufacturing, there needs to be a significant investment in building the next generation workforce.

As part of National Manufacturing Day, an annual event during which North American manufacturers open their doors to showcase the potential of modern manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers, we take a look at how Upstate South Carolina is working to build tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.

Manufacturing Booms in South Carolina, Upstate

Manufacturing is big business in South Carolina. Recent numbers show that nearly $25 billion of the state's gross state product (GSP) comes from manufacturing, representing almost 21% of South Carolina's entire GDP. 

Home to more than 5,200 companies involved in the manufacturing sector, including industry leaders such as BMW, Michelin, Fujifilm, Boeing and more, South Carolina has caught the world's attention when it comes to modern manufacturing. The state and Upstate region is recognized throughout the industry as one of the top places for doing business, thanks in part to offering manufacturers access to a top-ranked business climate, world-class research environment and a superb quality of life. 

“The Upstate’s pro-business approach and ‘can-do’ attitude is also unwavering," said Lewis Gossett, President & CEO, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, in a recent Q&A. "Public and private leadership in the Upstate makes things happen and functions as a team better than almost any other area that I’m aware of.”

Those factors are helping the state to attract and retain business at record levels, specifically in the Upstate. Since 2010, Upstate South Carolina has announced more than $9.9 billion in capital investment. That includes over $4.56 billion since the beginning of 2014. 

Creating a Work-ready Labor Pool

While the Upstate's business climate plays a major role in the region's success in manufacturing, what truly drives the region's manufacturing sector is its ability to provide a qualified, highly-trained workforce. Of the state of South Carolina's 234,000-plus manufacturing jobs, over 102,000 are found in the 10-county Upstate region. In the past five years alone, the Upstate has announced nearly 26,000 new jobs--most of which come from manufacturing. 

While the Upstate's current workforce is contributing to a highly successful manufacturing sector, equally impressive is the region's commitment to developing effective workforce development programs. The Upstate is served by several national-recognized technical schools focused on serving the needs of local manufacturers. The innovative programs provide students with advanced technical training, ensuring they are work-ready upon graduation. Each of the technical schools works hand-in-hand with South Carolina's technical college system affiliate programs like readySC and Apprenticeship Carolina so companies locating in the area can take full advantage of an extensive education and training network.

In the Upstate, colleges and universities work closely with area industries to develop innovative training opportunities to produce a workforce that meets the current and future needs of modern manufacturers. 

Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Starts Today

The Upstate's workforce development programs don't just start by addressing the needs of individuals looking to enter the workforce today. Industry leaders throughout the region have demonstrated a commitment to educating students at a very early age about the range of career opportunities in modern manufacturing--and changing the perception of what a job in manufacturing looks like.

To help attract tomorrow's workforce, educators and industry leaders are also collaborate in the classroom, working directly with students on projects found in advanced manufacturing. For example, Greenville-based Sage Automotive Interiors, a leading automotive interior manufacturers, partners with Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, a new Greenville County School focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), on a year-long mentorship program that included a project to design a car interior for the driver of tomorrow.

The Upstate’s commitment to building tomorrow’s workforce extends out of the classroom as well. Earlier this year, leaders throughout the region came together to organize iMAGINE Upstate, a week-long crowd-program that promoted cultural and economic development with a celebration and showcase of STEM, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in Upstate South Carolina. The event culminated with a festival in downtown Greenville which drew more than 14,000 people.

As Upstate South Carolina’s manufacturing sector continues to grow, so will the region’s investment in building today and tomorrow’s workforce.

For more information on workforce development in Upstate South Carolina, visit


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Looking at the Future of STEM: A Q&A with CU-ICAR Automotive Engineering Instructor Dee Kivett 

Sage Automotive and Fisher Middle School Celebrate Successful Collaboration Program 

Members of the press in any industry sector are flooded with information, news and insights, especially during trade shows and conferences. For those attending the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia earlier this month, there was much talk about oncology, IP protection, M&A and emerging therapeutic business. However, what stood out most to Bob Wright, chief editor of Life Science Leader, was the rapidly growing biosciences sector in South Carolina.

During the conference, Wright had the opportunity to meet with a team from South Carolina's bioscience cluster, including representatives from SCBIO, Greenville Health Systems and Upstate SC Alliance, to learn more about how the Palmetto State is fostering the growth of the industry. Wright was so impressed with the state’s bio industry that he chose to highlight South Carolina in his blog post recapping the conference.

In his piece, “Did you Miss Some Opportunities at BIO This Year?”, Wright discusses how that despite the state’s size, South Carolina has a long and successful history of supporting global leaders in advanced manufacturing, including BMW, Boeing and Volvo. Wright points out that the state’s established manufacturing sector is supported by its workforce and advanced engineering programs, including bioengineering programs like the one found at Clemson University. Additionally, Wright touches on the fact that South Carolina’s favorable cost of living—compared to biotech hubs like San Francisco and Boston—makes the state prime to become an “all-encompassing biotherapeutic destination.”

Read Wright’s entire piece at Life Science Leader.

Learn more about Upstate South Carolina’s biosciences industry at

Volvo’s recent announcement regarding plans to build a $500 million plant in South Carolina, the company’s first U.S. plant, was met with praise from around the state and automotive industry. The ripple of effect of the Charleston-based plant has the potential to benefit a significant number of the 250-plus automotive-related companies in South Carolina, including the more than 150 companies found in Upstate South Carolina.

Volvo cited South Carolina’s unique advantages like easy access to international ports, a highly-skilled labor force and high-tech manufacturing resources when it made the decision to call the Palmetto State home to its first U.S. plant. Dean Barber, president and CEO of Barber Business Advisors, Dallas-based site selection and economic development consulting firm, asserts that two of South Carolina’s biggest assets are the success of BMW and influence of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

In a recent blog post, “South Carolina’s Winning Hand”, Barber outlines how representatives from Volvo met with representatives from BMW to learn more about the company’s success in operating its Spartanburg County-based plant—a meeting that made a lasting impression. Last year, BMW announced the company would invest $1 billion in expanding its Upstate plant, increasing production from 350,000 units to 450,000 units to make the facility BMW’s highest capacity plant globally by 2016.

(View our infographic and learn more about what is driving the automotive industry in Upstate South Carolina)

Barber goes on to give praise to Gov. Haley for the work she has done in securing major manufacturers like Volvo.

“When you’re one a roll, you’re on a roll, and much of that, I credit to governors who have the power to set the tone for economic development in their states,” writes Barber.

Read Barber’s entire blog post “South Carolina’s Winning Hand.”

To learn more about the automotive industry in Upstate South Carolina, visit

Home to global leaders such as BMW, Bosch, Magna, Michelin and ZF, Upstate South Carolina has become one of the nation’s most dynamic regions for automotive production and research. While our region’s progressive business climate and quality of life play a significant role in Upstate S.C.’s success in the automotive industry, perhaps the biggest asset the area has is its available workforce.

The Upstate’s population has grown at a rate of 10% since 2000 and the region’s educational pipeline of schools, colleges and universities, and apprenticeship programs feeds a workforce that features employees with specialized skills, including a high concentration of engineering talent, mechatronic specialists, team assemblers, metal workers, machinists and fabricators.

A shining example of the region’s unique position as workforce development and research leader is Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) which operates as a unique nexus of academia, the automotive industry and government. CU-ICAR is home to the nation’s first PhD in Automotive Engineering and is leading the way in cutting edge research to solve some of the most challenging problems of the automotive industry.

A closer look at what drives the success of the automotive industry in Upstate South Carolina:


To learn more about the automotive industry in Upstate South Carolina, visit or contact Business Recruitment Officer, Aimee Redick by email at

Read more about what's happening in the automotive industry at:


Last year was a banner year for Upstate South Carolina. The region kicked off the year with major announcements from BMW Manufacturing and Toray Industries, and by year end, the Upstate’s total announcements equaled more than $4 billion in capital investment and nearly 5,000 jobs—more than the previous two years combined.

With more companies looking to establish or expand operations in South Carolina, and in the U.S in general, we reached out to Didi Caldwell, Senior Principal with Global Location Strategies (GLS), a Greenville, S.C.-based firm with 40-plus years of experience in site selection, incentive negations, real estate services and economic development consulting, to offer insight into current and future trends in site selection.

Caldwell and the team at GLS have helped serve the needs of clients such as Novartis, Caesarstone, Proctor and Gamble, Thyssen Krupp, Constellium, and Kemira, and continue to site facilities that ensure long-term growth and prosperity for companies and supporting communities.

(Didi Caldwell is a Senior Principal with Upstate S.C.-based site selection firm Global Location Strategies)


Have you noticed any growth in the number of companies relocating back to the U.S. from a foreign location? If so, what do you think is the reason why?

“We’ve seen that the United States has become the hot place again. For a while everyone was looking at emerging economies, like China, India, Brazil and certain countries in Europe, but companies are once again looking at investing in development in the United States.”

“Companies with high capital investments are transitioning to the U.S because of the lower energy prices, strong market and favorable logistics. Europe is facing extremely strict environmental regulations, with taxes on energy production driving the cost of business increasingly higher. While the environmental regulations are still somewhat tricky in the U.S., the strong market, IP protection and low energy costs make it easier and more attractive for companies to do business here.”

“Rising labor costs in China has also resulted in more jobs being driven to the United States, but there is a lot of competition for labor intensive projects. The Southern U.S. is competing a lot with Mexico for these projects.”

“We currently have two Chinese clients that are looking at the U.S because it’s a good stable market that has a competitive cost of doing business.  Companies realize that if they want to be a player on the global scale, they need to have investments in the U.S. or at least somewhere outside of China.”

In terms of the U.S being a hot spot, do you notice any trends in the companies coming back?

“As far as particular industries, there’s a huge boom in chemical and petrochemical projects. The increased availability and low cost of natural gas or anything derived from natural gas, such as plastic, is currently very competitive.”

“We are also seeing a lot of projects in the food industry. South Carolina isn’t viewed as a huge breadbasket, but the state does have solid agricultural production, and more importantly, a growing population. Food manufacturers usually choose sites either near their supplies or their customers, which is based on population. Since the South’s population has been growing significantly, it makes the region even more attractive for those projects.”

In terms of when companies look at new locations, expansions, new developments, etc. are there any trends you’re seeing?

“New distribution facilities have become more common in the last couple of years. Big companies are looking to realign their distribution efforts to increase their efficiency. There are all of kinds of things contributing to that, such as fuel prices, regulations on the trucking industry and other dynamic changes within the supply chain. We are seeing a lot of realignment in manufacturing and distribution because what was efficient under previous assumptions is not efficient in current conditions.”

“Workforce has always been important, but 17 years ago, there was more of a core base of manufacturing workers. When we went through the economic downtown, a lot of those people either went to do something else or retired, so when the jobs came back we no longer had the experienced manufacturing base we now need. The skills required of manufacturing workers has risen due to the increase in automation and the need for higher technical skills and many areas throughout the country just don’t have the skill base needed, so when companies are evaluating locations they are definitely looking at the availability of a skilled workforce.”

“For most companies now, it’s less about the cost and more about if they can get a quality, dependable workforce with a work ethic that ensures a company will be able to start up successfully and produce the manufacturing quality and quantity expected.” 

Do you see South Carolina, or this region specifically, being a major competitor in terms of workforce?

“South Carolina definitely has one of the best workforce training programs for new and expanding companies. The state has worked to successfully integrate and customize programs for the technical college system with the companies in the area. That’s definitely one of South Carolina’s biggest assets.”

“If you have manufacturing skills in South Carolina but don’t have a job, it’s because you don’t want one. The state has certain advantages like a non-union workforce and a history of labor and management getting along very well, so that is certainly an advantage. South Carolina is also looked at as a friendly state to do business with regards to the regulatory environment as well.”

How can South Carolina better itself?

“One of the biggest things is developing more shovel-ready sites prepared for companies to invest in an area with the infrastructure to support industry needs. Many heavy manufacturing projects require sites that are 100 acres plus, with access to rail, good quality water and waste water treatment capabilities, reliable power and an abundance of natural gas. Many of the areas in the counties in Upstate South Carolina are blessed with these things, but we do need to work on acquiring and characterizing sites and insuring they are shovel ready.”

For more information on Global Location Strategies, visit

Those interested real estate opportunities in Upstate South Carolina can visit our Property Navigator to locate industrial sites, buildings and/or parks for a variety of applications.

Around the world, advances in technology and communications are quickly leveling the global economic playing field, and increasing prosperity abroad is driving the demand for high-quality, American-made goods. However, despite the fact that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S., and that data indicates that the most profitable U.S. companies are typically those that export, only 5% of U.S. firms currently export—and 58% of those that do sell to only one foreign market, according to the International Trade Administration.

(Download the Upstate SC Regional Export Plan)


These findings, paired with the projection that nearly 80% of the global economic growth will occur outside of the U.S. over the next five years, have led to the call for action. The ability to access and gain market share in global markets will ultimately determine the sustainability and competitiveness of local firms, including those located here in Upstate South Carolina.

With that understanding, we are proud to introduce the Upstate SC Regional Export Plan. The plan, which assess our region’s current export climate, sets market-based goals for increasing exports and lays out specific strategies for supporting local businesses in increasing exports, is the culmination of a year-long process conducted under the region’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative, a five-year joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative helps business and civic leaders grow their metropolitan economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness.

To address the critical need for growing exports in Upstate South Carolina, the Upstate SC Regional Export Plan Core Team conducted a detailed market assessment, which determined that the facts that support the positive performance of the region’s export climate also mask underlying weaknesses in the existing export system that must be addressed.


First, looking at the current strengths, the market assessment demonstrated that the region does perform especially well in export intensity, which measures exports as a share of total output. Approximately 22.7% of all outputs in the Upstate are exports which is almost twice the national rate of 11.7%.

We are also particularly strong in jobs supported by Foreign Owned Enterprises (FOEs) at 10.6%, which is also nearly double the national average.




Along with our strengths, the market assessment helped us identify a number of areas of opportunity to grow in exports.

The top industry clusters, including automotive, aerospace, advanced materials, biosciences and energy, represent the Upstate’s best opportunity for world-class competitiveness, but we also can improve upon a lack of service exports, which represent 50% of our regional economy, but only 13% of our export value (compared to 34% nationally).

We also must leverage our existing networks, particularly those that already have access to resources outside of the U.S. Most foreign owned enterprises are already benefiting from exports, but tend to rely on trade within their family network—which may or may not include U.S. based firms. Domestic companies must build their own international networks from the Upstate region outward to be competitive with those FOEs.

Perhaps most importantly, leadership in the Upstate, state of South Carolina and nationally needs to be focused on local and global growth, particularly with issues surrounding trade. Issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currency fluctuations economic downturn in Europe, Mexico’s trade agreements, among others have a significant impact on the economy and it’s critical for leadership to provide support needed for growth.

For example, a study by the Atlantic Council estimates that if a strong TTIP is adopted, South Carolina will be the state that benefits most from the agreement, projecting a 187% increase in state exports.  Growth like that would affect our region at every level. We need to ensure that our public officials are championing exports, and in return, we need to build support for their efforts to build bridges around the world for Upstate companies to grow.


Based on our strengths and opportunities, we have developed a number of objectives, with supporting strategies and tactics, and established our ultimate goal of moving the Upstate South Carolina region from one of many players to being a well-recognized global leader in the world economy.

We will achieve this goal by working to successfully achieve objectives focused on enhancing our current export support system, diversifying our export base by driving participation in exports and heightening global awareness about the capabilities of our region.

To be successful in this initiative, we also understand that economic development in the global marketplace is truly a team sport. There is a key role for everyone in our region, from students and teachers to elected officials; utility providers to company decision-makers. Everyone has to contribute.

Contact us to learn how you can be part of the team that will drive the region forward toward stronger global connectivity. Additionally, we will be making presentations across the region on the significance of exporting to our economy. Please contact me if you are interested in having us speak to your group or association.

To read more about the Upstate SC Regional Export Plan, visit

Elizabeth Feather is the Director of Research for Upstate SC Alliance. She is responsible for directing and executing the research efforts for the Upstate SC Alliance team and positioning the organization as the go-to resource for information, which includes compiling data and reports for prospects and investors as well as working with industry partners to provide the most up to date information about the Upstate. Feather is also an integral part of the Upstate's participation with the Global Cities Exchange.


With 30-plus institutions of higher learning, programs like iMAGINE Upstate and resources such as the NEXT High School, Upstate South Carolina continues to serve as a center for the advancement of STEM education.

Today on the blog, we get a few minutes with Dee Kivett, Automotive Engineering Instructor at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and CEO of NextGen Supply Chain Integrators, to discuss the future of STEM education.


What does the future of STEM education look like? What should it look like?

“Education as a whole will become more hands-on and project-based, integrating traditional liberal arts thinking into problem solving exercises that emphasize technology. I personally do not see America losing focus on the classics as we look for ways to improve our STEM education techniques, but rather instead we will build on it as a strength. What makes America unique is our ability to INNOVATE. Kids in successful education programs will learn how to solve problems and have the opportunity to use technology solutions to do so.  They will also be able to market and communicate their innovations through strong foundations in traditional liberal arts studies including art, English, humanities, and public speaking.”

“New education programs like NEXT High School in Greenville, S.C. are adopting this project-based learning philosophy. At CU-ICAR, every class we teach has a hands-on project component.  In my class at CU-ICAR, project teams learn the foundations of project management through a new product development project.  By the end of the course, not only have they realized their new idea from concept through prototype validation, they have about 90% of their patent application complete! This technique not only promotes an integrated approach to different disciplines, but it also simply makes learning more interesting and fun for students!”

What are the current challenges facing STEM education centers?

“Money is the obvious easy answer. Many hands-on projects and technology-based learning opportunities are expensive. The community has done a great job of helping offset this challenge through shared learning resources like that of the Roper Mountain Science Center. Also, many organizations and companies are beginning to volunteer their time and resources to provide project mentorship in the schools and bring those resources to the students. “

“Additionally, teachers need opportunities for continuing education. We need to provide them affordable learning opportunities so they can stay on top of the latest technologies as well. One way to also help offset this is to remove expectations that one teacher should be an expert in every subject, especially in the lower grades. Having science specialists who visit multiple classrooms is one economical way to accomplish this. In the upper grades, giving students the opportunity to attend STEM-focus centers where equipment may be shared with other schools is a great way to accomplish the goal of optimizing the resources available.”

How can manufacturing/businesses become more involved in STEM education?

“Businesses can contribute money, time for their employees to serve as volunteers, equipment, and learning opportunities for teachers. Businesses must also acknowledge the importance of skilled trades workers with fair and equitable pay for the contribution they make to the organization, making STEM-related careers more appealing.”

What skills must the modern labor force have? Why?

“Problem solving, innovation, self-motivation, and personal responsibility are all key to success today just as they have been from the beginning of time. Today, however, people require higher levels of literacy and understanding of a diversity of cultures in order to interact with an increasingly global workforce. Computer and financial literacy are a basic requirement today, whereas they may have been optional in the past. The labor force as a whole needs more people who know how to do things.  We need those who are not afraid to build things with their hands, the ones who do not sit and wait for someone to tell them step by step how to do a task but instead figure it out for themselves.”

What can manufacturers and educational centers do to make students interested in manufacturing?

“To me, this is a question better presented to society as a whole. In recent decades, the ‘skilled trades’ job has somehow slipped down the societal perception ranking to somehow be seen as less desirable than a four-year university degree. Consequently, parents all encourage their students to go to the four year university. For many students, they do this without any idea of what they ultimately want to do in life. They get degrees that are empty of any real applicable skills or otherwise too generic to prepare them for real-working experiences, and leave them ultimately unable to find work. Who would have imagined a day that students graduating with master’s degrees would have to depend on working the elevator at a tourist resort as their only job opportunity?“

“With an overpopulation of students with advanced degrees but no real-work experience, we have a tremendous shortage of skilled trade workers. Without machinists, welders, electricians and the like, we cannot have a thriving manufacturing industry. Society as a whole will need to shift its perception of “success” for our young people before this tide will turn. We need to praise, promote, and reward those who are graduating directly into the workforce with valuable technical skills and elevate the social perception of those jobs before students will start becoming drawn to those fields.”

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