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Greenville Business Magazine

Anderson County Incubator Helps Businesses Find Their Footing

Jun 14, 2023 11:38AM ● By C. Grant Jackson

Looking to take that idea for a new business and turn it into reality or expand to a new market? Anderson County has room for you in its soft landing and incubator space.

The Anderson County Incubator at 1428 offers fledgling businesses a range of options with 15,000 square feet for everything from simple co-working spaces to office suites, to 180,000 square feet for warehousing, assembly, and light manufacturing. Leases are annual and set low to assist new and expanding businesses.

A soft landing allows companies to set up operations with minimal outlay, maybe starting first with a sales office, to test a market. Then if they get sufficient clientele built up, “they can bring a full-fledged project here,” said Burriss Nelson, director for Anderson County Economic Development.  “But until they know that, there’s no need for them to come here with a big expense, build a building, or lease a building long term,” Nelson said.

Located at 1428 Pearman Dairy Road, the incubator is in the former Techtronic Industries building, which Anderson County purchased in 2017. The massive 535,000-square-foot TTI building is shared with some county offices, including Anderson County Economic Development, as well as the Clemson Extension Service, and Tri-County Technical College. And TTI still uses part of the warehouse.

“The business incubator has everything somebody would need to get started, basically from ground zero,” said Charles Turner with the Anderson County Economic Development office. One of the great advantages: When TTI sold the building, they left most of the furnishings, including desks, chairs, conference tables, and a furnished executive conference room that tenants share. The building also has 24-hour security. 

Open for about three years, the incubator houses eight companies and is looking for more. “We’re looking for companies that have a technical component and that have the potential to grow into a manufacturing operation in Anderson County with the potential of having pay scales that meet our county average,” Nelson said. This year the county average wage is $21.73 an hour.

Because of the massive size of the building, the incubator is also able to help local companies that may need to lease space on a short-term basis, and the incubator itself is not exclusively focused on manufacturing.

One of the incubator’s initial tenants, Sync.MD is a software development company that specializes in mobile data storage for health and medical records. Founded in 2015 in Redmond, Washington, by former Microsoft executives, the company was looking to relocate and was considering high-tech hubs like Austin and Boston, when South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan, who had a relationship with the CEO, suggested the Anderson incubator.

After visiting the incubator and meeting with the Anderson County Economic Development office, Sync.MD established operations in July 2021.

Cecelia Zapata-Harms, chief operations officer, touts Sync.MD’s experience. “Moving in was easy because the furniture was already here. The offices were here. We didn’t have any extra costs,” she said. “We have everything that we need. It’s a full-service building. And if the company needs anything, the economic development group will make sure that we get it,” she said.

Additionally, “we just love the community,” Zapata-Harms said.  “There’s really nothing like South Carolina for sure. Once they embrace you, they embrace you. You’re part of the family.”

When they moved from Washington State, the company had seven employees. And all the families moved, including parents, Zapata-Harms said. They now have 15 employees and may graduate from the incubator later this year.

Putting an operation in the incubator was a homecoming of sorts for Jim Patton, senior vice president of research and development for ZONO Sanitech, makers of the ZONO Ozone Cabinet, which uses ozone to kill 99 percent of common viruses and bacteria on most surfaces. Patton is a former TTI employee and had worked in the Anderson building.

“I came to the incubator because I needed space,” Patton said. A friend had asked Patton to help develop a smaller version of the company’s product, and Patton was working out of a small shop at his home. “Luckily, Burriss said, ‘Well, we have the incubator space. Why don’t you come over and take a look at it?’”

The incubator has been a blessing for ZONO Sanitech, Patton said. “I don’t have to worry about the internet being available. I don’t have to worry about water being available. The electricity just works. All these services are here. I don’t have to worry about it. When I come in here in the morning, I can focus on what ZONO needs me to do. That’s great.”

Looking to attract more companies, the incubator is touting the soft-landing concept. “Recently we’ve talked to several consultants who work with small European companies that would like to come to the U.S. market,” Nelson said. “They don’t know if they can make a go of it in the U.S. market. So, they’re going to come here.”