In September 1989, South Carolina experienced near-complete shutdown when Hurricane Hugo roared the length of our state, from McClellanville to Fort Mill, leaving devastation and economic misery in its path. Now 30 years later, the coronavirus pandemic has again effectively stopped commerce and perhaps carved an even greater swath of ruin.
Much like those days immediately following Hugo, South Carolinians want to help each other and ourselves by moving forward.
As businesses anxiously plot course for recovery despite uncertain outcomes, the Greenville Area Development Corporation’s staff has been working hard to be a resource for companies by providing information and actively participating in community efforts like the Business Recovery Task Force. In partnership with Greenville County, the City of Greenville, and the Greenville Chamber, we have met frequently over the last several weeks to assist business and industry in re-opening safely and efficiently. And by developing and supporting initiatives like the Greater Greenville Pledge and the SC COVID-19 Emergency Supply Portal, GADC is gently helping business begin the process of re-engagement, while providing helpful recommendations as they try and resume some sense of normalcy.
One of the more destructive impacts of COVID-19 has been the job losses. In late 2019, Greenville County experienced record-low unemployment of nearly 2%. As of early May, over 40,000 people were forced to file for unemployment assistance. The staggering speed of this change left families struggling to pay for food and other basic needs. While no job is worth losing one’s health over, returning to places of work may force us to minimize risk by diligently hand washing, wearing masks, sanitizing surfaces, and avoiding unnecessary contact with others through social distancing.
At GADC, we are excited — even surprised — to report that we continue to engage with companies interested in relocating or expanding here, and that economic development activity has not stopped. While never minimizing this tragedy’s impact on our community, opportunities for growth emerge as with almost any abrupt status quo change. Supply chain interruptions, product shortages, safety equipment needs, and process improvement planning have spurred companies to create new jobs and commit to new capital investment. While COVID’s impact has certainly been negative, our team is working to ensure success will shine brightly again on our economic potential.
The surreal nature of this coronavirus battle has left us all scared, battered and exhausted… and with many unanswered questions. We all hope the “hunkering down” period is a brief part of our combined human history, and that re-emergence is rapid. As we begin to return to work, let’s all be a bit more patient, a bit more considerate, and a bit more accommodating as we play our respective parts in rebuilding our community for a better tomorrow.
I am confident that we are equal to the challenge!
Mark Farris, President & CEO
Greenville Area Development Corporation