Greenville County may experience ‘average’ growth in 2019, but several cities are boomingDec 28, 2018 10:16AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By John Jeter
If national and international economic gurus want to see what’s in store for 2019, they need only look to Greenville County, where economic-development officials say the area’s a bellwether for investment activity, job growth, and public-private development.
“I think we’re a pretty good barometer for activity, even globally,” says Mark Farris, president and CEO of the Greenville Area Development Corporation. “If you think about the last three years, we’ve been a little above average in investment and job creation, and I think for 2019, we’ll be about average.”
Through November, the county saw $151.1 million in capital investments and nearly 1,500 new jobs, down from 2017’s $336 million and roughly 1,800, respectively. Of last year’s job numbers, 700 are office-related, accounting for half of the 17 announcements, Farris says.
While 2013 through 2018 saw record-setting investments—nearly $2 billion—he says, “I am confident that we will continue to see good projects next year, but I am reserved about activity for 2019.”
Numbers are hard to predict, of course, in part because deals aren’t nailed down yet.
“Since most of our projects at GADC usually connect with us at least a year in advance, there is a noticeable decrease in company contacts, especially the latter part of 2018,” he says. “We took full advantage of a booming economy, but my 30-plus years of experience indicates we may be entering a slower pace of growth for next year.”
Just like the global economy, while bigger players may experience some slackening, officials in Mauldin, Simpsonville, and Greer—to name three of the county’s six cities—see more boom times ahead.
Mauldin, the county’s third-largest municipality, isn’t just growing, it’s expanding. Through last November, the city annexed 466 acres.
Incoming developments, some of which are still in early planning stages, will consist of nearly 600 homes and 155,000 square feet of commercial/industrial space, says David Dyrhaug, Mauldin’s economic development and planning coordinator.
Likewise, commercial permit valuations soared to $63 million last year, up from $13 million in 2016, while residential ballooned from $8 million to $20 million during the same period, according to Van Broad, the city’s community development director.
Pat Pomeroy, president and CEO of the Mauldin Chamber of Commerce, has been with the organization for 18 years, back when it comprised only 62 members.
“We’re at 400 now, and the city is booming,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a small town take off like this one has. It’s always been a sleepy town and all of a sudden we’re starting to see it take off.”
Over in Greer, the historic city will soon look brand new. The county’s second-most populous municipality has reasons to be excited. The Greer Station Streetscape project will begin in January, which officials expect will cost between $5 million and $7 million, and the development of a 100-room hotel in the historic area is just around the bend. The city is even welcoming a new Chamber president and CEO, David Merhib, who’s leaving South Dakota and is set to start this month.
With so much going on, the city and the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce have launched marketing campaigns.
Jack Lucas, whose position as the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce’s board chairman also was scheduled to start January 1, says keeping stakeholders up to speed is a priority. “Our focus is going to be on reaching out to businesses and helping them realize things we are involved with that can help their business,” Lucas says.
Connectivity’s the 2019 byword in Simpsonville, too, where the city plans to work with Fountain Inn as the Swamp Rabbit Trail extends through downtown and beyond, says Allison McGarity, president and CEO of the Simpsonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We are excited to see the positive economic impact that other trailside communities have enjoyed,” she says—namely Travelers Rest, whose population is a quarter that of Simpsonville and whose 2017 revenues from its 2 percent food-and-beverage tax doubled to more than $600,000 from the previous year.
Like Mauldin, Simpsonville is also adding real estate. Last August, the Planning Commission approved an 80-acre addition near Heritage Park, and plans are in the works for more than 500 new residential units, among a few other developments.
McGarity echoes other local officials who predict growth locally in 2019, thanks largely to locals.
“We predict that 2019 will be a strong year for small local businesses. Our community has rallied around our small business sector in the last 18-24 months and appreciates being able to shop local for almost any need or want.”
Or as Lucas sums things up: “Be out there and be visible.”