Reflecting back on 2018, it’s clear that Accelerate, the Greenville Chamber’s economic development initiative, has seen much success. The most progress was needed in our workforce and talent space and we are well on our way. Attracting and retaining a skilled workforce continues to be the number one challenge facing employers in Greenville, particularly in high-demand industries like advanced manufacturing, construction, and healthcare. In response to this challenge, the Greenville Chamber is facilitating a business-led approach to shrink the skills gap and strengthen our workforce through strategic, data-driven talent recruitment and workforce development initiatives.
The most impactful development of 2018 has been the hiring of Adrea Turner as the Greenville Chamber’s Director of Talent & Workforce Solutions. Significant progress has been made since her arrival: the creation of the Workforce Data Collaborative (WDC), the execution of LaunchGVL and the passage of expungement legislation. Through the work of the WDC, the Greenville Chamber continues to further the community’s dialogue around issue areas such as transit, affordable housing, childcare and re-entry / criminal justice in a data-informed, business-led and solutions-driven manner. This has been most evident in the current work supporting Greenlink. The primary deliverable from this work has been the interjection of the voice of business (including that of employees) into significant conversations regarding community development issues. The Greenville Chamber and Greenville County Schools have partnered to create LaunchGVL, an initiative to connect high school students with paid work opportunities in Greenville’s high-demand occupations. Paired with relevant coursework, students will launch their careers in one of six pathways and enter the workforce and college more equipped to succeed. To date, more than 300 students have expressed interest in having an internship but only 30 have been placed. H. 3209 was a bipartisan bill that addresses workforce needs in our state by increasing the number of people eligible to apply for employment. This soon-to-be-enacted legislation will help one-time offenders who have stayed clean become working, tax paying citizens and more fully participate in our growing economy. The bill will take effect December 27th, 2018.
Accelerate continues to see progress around the Diversity & Inclusion component as well. The Minority Business Accelerator program is only one of 6 operated by Chambers across the country. They hired a local instructor and just recently held a graduation ceremony for their 6th cohort of 20 participants. A second successful Diversity & Inclusion Summit was held in October with more than 500 attendees.
Lastly, NEXT has three successful locations and is continuing to grow. A successful Venture Pitch was held in October and another is quickly approaching in April. NEXT entrepreneurs are making a difference in our community and growing our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Greenville was recently named the Silicon Valley of the South by Bloomberg thanks to all of the work around NEXT.