Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Greenville County Leadership Helps Upstate’s Economy Soar

Jul 10, 2023 02:38PM ● By Mark Farris

At Greenville Area Development Corporation’s annual meeting in May, 2022 statistics presented to the audience revealed that $470 million in new capital investment and over 2,300 new jobs were announced for Greenville County. Many of the 22 newly located or expanded companies were of international origin, and over one-third of our total prospects last year were either European or Asian.

To make the day truly international, Michelin North America’s President & CEO Alexis Garcin provided an update on one of our most globally focused companies in Greenville. Recent US Census Bureau statistics show that Greenville County increased its population by over 13,400 in 2022 – an average of 34 people moving here each day.

Of these, one in five are of international origin, more than double the rate of Columbia or Charleston. It is safe to say that we are a desirable destination for the global workforce. As the list of worldwide companies in Greenville and South Carolina continues to grow, one might ask how a relatively small community like Greenville became such an international business powerhouse?

The answer lies in the history of leadership in our community. About the time World War I began, local textile industry leaders organized an international textile trade show later known as the Southern Textile Exposition.

As attendance surpassed 40,000, it became the premier textile industry trade event in the world. As our grandfathers returned home from World War II, they intentionally sought to encourage worldwide inward investment from rebuilt western Europe.

In 1956, Greenville -- now labeled the “Textile Capital of the World” – moved the event from a now-demolished center on West Washington Street to a spacious new facility called Textile Hall in 1964. Today branded as the Greenville Convention Center, the location hosted a global trade show that attracted numerous international exhibitors – with many of the textile machine manufacturers later flocking here to build new facilities to serve the U.S. market.

Decades later and feeling comfortable with the welcome they would receive, non-textile companies like Michelin, Bosch, Magna, and BMW now call the Upstate home. For over 100 years, the Greenville community has welcomed both intercontinental investment and residents, making us a truly global community.

While some Southern communities retained xenophobic attitudes about foreigners, Greenville set out a universal “welcome mat” for visitors. The result is today’s diverse mix of industry and people that help make our area one of the best places anywhere to live and work.

Mark Farris is president and CEO of Greenville Area Development Corporation.