They say great leaders respect the past while looking ahead to the future. Opportunity Greenville covers both ends of the spectrum. For any aspiring Greenville leaders, Opportunity Greenville is a must.
The 5-week session took a deep dive into explaining how Greenville came to be the jewel we see today, the faces and names building our community behind-the-scenes, and what’s on the horizon for our booming town. If you're new to town, Opportunity Greenville is the quickest way to immerse yourself in the community.
As a result of the 5 sessions, 70 professionals are now ready and equipped to be better leaders for our community.
For me, the major takeaways of the program were the following:
1. You can live in a community your whole life without getting involved if you don’t know how. Opportunity Greenville is a great refresher, or perhaps, teaches lifelong residents something they never even knew.
2. As we learned during the program, a sign of successful economic development is the number of people living and working in a town that were not born there. The number of folks in the class who have lived in Greenville less than 6 months was astonishing.
3. Greenville is a business-driven community. This point was reiterated at 3 of the 5 sessions.
4. It’s great to be an expert in your respective field, but you’re more effective when you understand the big picture. Each entity depends on one another. In fact, I’m willing to bet that if you put all of the featured speakers in a room together, they would probably already know each other. I’m in awe of the ways in which our leaders work hand-in-hand. This is a trend that would come to be expounded upon at each session. The term “public-private partnerships” is no joke. It is not just an expression or sound bite thrown around but a way of life. Everyone pitches in and does what they can to make Greenville a great place to live and work.
Here is an overview of the sessions and the major takeaways:
Session 1: Greenville’s History and Nonprofit Fair
Speaker: Don Koonce, Ferncreek Creative
- Greenville excels in adaptive reuse (think run-down mills transformed to vibrant business space or lofts). We’ve been able to reinvent ourselves so many times because of leadership.
- Greenville used to be the textile center of the world. Mill owners came together many years ago and decided to build an empire.
Quote of the Day: “This is the beginning of something great.” – Lamont Sullivan
Session 2: Government & Law Enforcement
Chip Felkel, Felkel Group
Butch Kirven, Greenville County Council
Chandra Dillard, SC House of Representatives
David Sudduth, Mayor Pro Tem
Danielle Gibbs, Senator Tim Scott's Office
Cody Alcorn, Fox Carolina
Chief Deputy John Eldridge, Greenville County Sherriff’s Office
Chief Ken Miller, Greenville City Police
Andrew Culbreath, 13th Judicial Circuit
John Mauldin, Public Defender
- Both panels discussed the opportunities in improving race relations. Both agree the solution for establishing basic trust lies in open communication and transparency.
- Affordable housing is a real concern and parties are currently working on exploring solutions.
- Government Officials are cognizant of the need to manage Greenville’s rapid growth wisely in order to preserve the current lifestyle and environment.
Quote of the Day: “Greenville’s an attractive town and when you’re attractive, you can afford to turn down some dates.” – Chandra Dillard
Session 3: Economic Growth and Diversity & Inclusion
Hank Hyatt, Greenville Chamber
Aimee Redick, Upstate SC Alliance
Mark Farris, Greenville Area Development Corporation
John Moore, NEXT Innovation Center
Nancy Whitworth, Greenville Deputy City Manager
Nika White, Greenville Chamber
- There are more than 500 international companies in the Upstate.
- From an economic development standpoint, some major areas for improvement include affordability and skills gap/talented workforce.
- Global headquarters are the Holy Grail.
- There is so much more to diversity than race, age and gender. If we don’t pay attention to differences, we’ll lose out on some great qualities.
Quote of the Day: “There are at least 18,000 job openings in Greenville. We need to change the culture around how people feel about the jobs that are out there. The more we talk about it, the more minds we’ll change.”
Session 4: Education and Healthcare
Burke Royster, Greenville County Schools
Grier Mullins, Public Education Partners
Katie Saunders, Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year
Beth Crews, Furman University
Lenna Young, Greenville Technical College
Howard Einstein, Rosenfeld Einstein
Dr. Steven Dyar, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System
Dr. Cathy Chang, Greenville Health System
Dr. Mary Hughes, Premier Neurology
Rex Gail, BlueCross BlueShield of SC
- Major challenges facing educators are preparing students for an unknown future and that 50% of Greenville County students live in poverty (based on free and reduced lunch numbers).
- Healthcare providers are working on improving access to care through innovations like telehealth and meeting patients where they are (especially in underserved populations).
- The two largest employers in Greenville are Greenville Health System and Greenville County Schools.
Quote of the Day: “The test for entrepreneurs is if you’re willing to clean the bathroom.” –Dr. Mary Hughes
Session 5: Culture & Recreation/Quality of Life
Jennifer Stillwell, VisitGreenvilleSC
Ryan Johnston, Upstate Business Journal
Gina Boulware, Table 301
Chris Lewis, Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Ty Houck, Greenville County Recreation
Shawn Johnson, Birds Fly South
- There is immense work going on behind-the-scenes to ensure Greenville receives the recognition it deserves and is continued to be viewed as a top-of-the-mind tourist destination.
- A rising tide raises all boats. The work the quality of life panel is doing benefits the community as a whole.
Quote of the Day: "#YeahThatGreenville is a community brand." -Jennifer Stillwell
How I’m going to use this information to better serve my community.
1. I am now more inspired than ever to continue learning about Greenville and how to further develop my leadership skills. Programs like Leadership Greenville will help me achieve these goals.
2. I will continue fostering relationships developed during Opportunity Greenville.
3. After learning ways to get involved, I am eager to start volunteering and giving back to the community on a greater scale.
Congratulations to all Opportunity Greenville graduates: