One of the most interesting questions asked of me recently was, “What things were you worried about six months ago and how different is that list today?”. The comparison is, of course, night and day.
Early this year, Greenville County had some of the lowest unemployment rates in its history. And for the last three years, the top concern for companies looking to grow and expand here was access to essential skilled labor. A sobering reality check shows that in May of 2020, our unemployment rate had surged to 12.3% compared to 2.2% for May 2019!
The last five years of capital investment and job creation in Greenville have been unprecedented — averaging $344 million of annual investment and over 1,400 new jobs per year. In 2019 we tied a record for most announcements by companies assisted by your GADC. Now, the coronavirus pandemic combined with widespread social unrest finds us slogging our way through a challenge with no clear end in sight. Yet despite all of that, there are positive signs of an impending resurgence. Unemployment claims are down, projects once put on hold are being revived, and there is renewed interest in investment across Greenville County.
Several projects — including the recent announcement of Fox Hill Business Park — represent benchmarks for the Greenville community. Located near the intersection of SC 418 and I-385 in Fountain Inn, Fox Hill is our newest Class A business park with nearly 2,500,000 available square feet to develop — and makes us more competitive with communities like Atlanta and Charlotte.
Three years ago, we had almost no industrial speculative building construction in Greenville County. These are critical to success since over 70% of our projects look first to occupy available buildings, GADC has worked closely with developers to create more opportunities for this type of investment. Last month we reported at our virtual Annual Meeting that there are at least 5 new speculative industrial buildings either planned or under construction.
Finally, 2018 marked the first time in GADC’s history that we announced more office projects than manufacturing, signaling improved diversity in business investment. High-profile office projects like Falls Tower in Camperdown and University Ridge will create some of the nicest and best-located office space available anywhere along the I-85 corridor to capitalize on.
Much like being caught out in the rain, both resignation and resolve may be setting in for many of us with regards to COVID-19. We are getting drenched, but moving forward towards a drier location is certainly better than standing still.
The sun is shining above the clouds. We just have to rise above.
Mark Farris, President & CEO
Greenville Area Development Corporation