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Greenville Business Magazine

Anderson County Provides Fertile Ground for New Industries

Jun 13, 2023 05:07PM ● By John C. Stevenson

Any way you look at it, Anderson County is positioned perfectly to draw industries from around the world to its borders. And the county wants to make sure the world knows.

The global approach is even a cornerstone of the county’s economic-development messaging: #WhereTheWorldComesToWork.

It’s also the message from Burriss Nelson, director of Anderson County Economic Development, the agency charged with attracting new businesses to the county, as well as providing ongoing support for existing businesses.

When talking about the county’s allure to potential businesses, Nelson quickly racks up a deep list of superlatives.

“Anderson County has over 40 miles of Interstate 85 frontage,” he says of the county’s strategic location along the 666-mile major artery that runs from Alabama to Virginia. “We have the longest stretch of I-85 of any county in the U.S. We’re a broad, square county – 770 square miles – and I-85 goes right through the widest part of our county.

“We’ve got a population of about 215,000,” he continues. Most communities have a working labor force in manufacturing of between 14 percent and 17 percent; our manufacturing labor force is 22 percent of our workforce.”

Which leads Nelson to echo another of the county’s slogans: “We make things in Anderson County.”

A collaborative effort

Nelson is quick to note that disparate groups from across the county have come together to form a range of unique partnerships that support the county’s many industries. Teri Cox Gilstrap, assistant director of the agency, has worked closely with those groups to ensure that manufacturers have everything the county can supply to ensure success.

A prime example is Anderson County’s workforce.

“We looked at the indicators, and everything that we had gave us the information that the existing labor pool and the population was not in our favor, and that we were going to run out of people,” Cox Gilstrap says. “We needed to look at where all employment and training was happening within the county, and where were the existing pools of labor that could be our workforce. So, we developed the Anderson County Workforce Development Collaborative, made up of partners from the federal, state, and local organizations that receive money and participate with workforce-development efforts.”

The collaborative includes local adult-education classes, SC Works, Vocational Rehabilitation, United Way, Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health and the Disability and Special Needs Board, in addition to higher education and all five of the county’s school districts.

“We assembled this group and started meeting together on a regular basis,” she continues, “and it really was an opportunity for these resources to work together and look at what the workforce-skills needs were and increase career awareness and share our resources for events like job fairs, technical-training fairs, networking – anything that we could do.”

Educating the workforce

Those partners can start early with young Anderson County students to make them aware of the career opportunities that are available nearby, and what they will need to know to be successful when they enter the workforce. It’s only one way the partners collaborate to create various pipelines to success for Anderson County’s youth, according to Kathy Hipp, Superintendent of Anderson County District 3, which serves 2,700 students in the southernmost part of the county.

“There are a couple of pipelines,” Hipp explains. “Probably the most direct pipeline goes through Anderson County Economic Development. They bring us together with business and industry and with the school leaders. Through Economic Development, we have opportunities to tour industry and talk to industry about their needs and our students coming out and what industries are looking for – skill sets, certifications, etc.

“Another type of pipeline is through a board at Tri-County Tech,” she continues. “It’s more of an educational pipeline to develop pathways from high school to Tri-County Tech and integrating workforce into that, through internships, apprenticeships – whatever.”

As one of two career centers serving Anderson County students, the Anderson County Career & Technology Center (ACTC) is another pipeline for teens to prepare for careers in industry. One of those students is Natalie Boggs, a 17-year-old junior at Belton-Honea Path High School in Anderson School District 2.

Boggs began learning metalworking from her father, Wesley, when he started a metalworking business, and continued her education at ACTC.

“My father started a fabrication shop in 2018, and that sparked my interest,” she recalls. “I got to help him with some little things here and there – he taught me how to use some of the machines. Then I got to high school, and I got to choose some different classes to be involved in, and I’ve just sort of stuck with it since.”

As a young woman considering a career in industry, Boggs said the ACTC helps create opportunities that might have once been thought of as nontraditional.

“It opens the field up for other people and shows them they don’t have to be afraid to step out if they want to,” she says. “It’s just something different that I feel like I’ve been called to because my dad opened up that pathway.”

Any industry that wants to hire Boggs in a couple of years will have to make her quite an offer, however, as the sophomore wants to major in business at Tri-County Tech and then go into her father’s business.

Higher education

plays a role

Galen DeHay, president of Tri-County Technical College, is also a firm believer in forging partnerships to build a stronger Anderson County: “I always like to talk about partnerships because we can’t do this work alone. It’s through partnerships that we are able to drive a great deal of value for the community.

To foster collaboration, TCTC created the Anderson Oconee Pickens Counties Regional Collaborative Board, which meets quarterly

“That really is the total focus of that group,” DeHay said. “It’s made of industry partners, economic development, Department of Commerce, workforce investment, K-12, the college, and we focus on how we can work together to make sure we are meeting the local needs in our service-area counties. Tri-County works with economic development and ReadySC (a part of the state’s technical college system) at the state level that helps in the recruiting and setup of new companies that are moving into Anderson as well companies that are expanding; companies like Bosch, for example, that are doing major expansions.

“So, Tri-County is right in the front of all of that, and our role is to make sure that we are developing programs that are meeting emerging needs as well as making sure that we are recruiting for and turning out students into programs for the current needs of business and industry.”

Anderson University also collaborates with local industries as it too works to prepare graduates for careers, according to Andrew J. Beckner, executive director of public relations for the university. Beckner pointed to the school’s major in supply chain management as one way it prepares students for careers in manufacturing.

“All our students are required to work as interns at a local business, and these opportunities are focused on their majors,” Beckner explains. “Our graduates have taken on roles in purchasing, manufacturing planning, warehouse management, logistics, and distribution. Many times, it happens that they are offered full-time employment at the same company where they interned, which is a winning scenario for all involved. The SCM curriculum patterns, where possible, many of the same topics found in industrial engineering programs. While our students are not engineers, they are well-trained in the continuous improvement approach with formal problem-solving disciplines.”