For 2018, the Greenville Chamber will be doing a blog series focused on Accelerate, Greenville’s private-sector fueled economic development initiative. After re-launching in 2016, Accelerate is stronger than ever with 90+ investors and over $600,000 in funds already raised. Accelerate focuses on four major strategies:
- Growing new company headquarters
- Positioning our workforce for 21st century opportunities
- Increasing the number and performance of, minority-owned businesses
- Leading transformative projects
Accelerate provides an opportunity for Greenville to plan and execute a needs-oriented and opportunity-focused economic development strategy that addresses our most pressing economic issues. Unlike other initiatives that took a generic approach to attacking a broad set of economic inequities, Accelerate employs a data-driven approach to clearly identify, illuminate, and quantify at a detail level the specific economic challenges and opportunities that if addressed, will make a material difference in our region’s economic prosperity.
Toby Stansell, Managing Director of THInc.IT, has been Co-Chair of Accelerate since its inception in 2009. When asked what Accelerate means to him and why he has been so personally invested in this initiative he said, “My decision to engage and invest in Accelerate was an easy one.” Toby has served in the role of Vice Chair for Economic Growth and Prosperity for the Greenville Chamber for the past five years. He goes on to explain that having data like we have now at our disposal is akin to having GPS to guide our economic development efforts. Everyone is busy and has limited discretionary time on their hands, so Toby wants to make sure he invests his time and efforts into initiatives that are guided by hard data and offer an elevated opportunity for positive impact. After securing market research data in 2012, some unfortunate realities were confirmed. Namely, that Greenville was behind our peer cities relative to per capita personal income (PCPI) growth. Two other stark realities also presented themselves in the findings: There was a significant deficit relative to the economic prosperity enjoyed by minorities and, Greenville’s workforce was undersized and poorly matched to the emerging commercial and industrial opportunities in the area. This data made Toby’s decision an easy one- to invest and engage in the Accelerate initiative.
As Accelerate moves forward, it’s important to secure more investors so we may continue the work already being done. We asked Toby why others should make an investment in Accelerate, and he said, “For the immediate and long-term impact it can make on Greenville’s commercial, civic, and cultural landscape.” Most of us live and work in Greenville because we want to. The popularity Greenville has enjoyed in recent years doesn’t happen by chance. As growth continues and our population increases, we have to be very intentional in our efforts to construct an economy that is strong across all areas of the city. Accelerate allows us to add momentum to areas in which we are already experiencing success while putting additional resources against those areas that need to be improved. Investing time and money in the Accelerate initiative leverages our opportunity to create and sustain a local economy that performs well for a broader set of constituents, enabling more of our citizens to serve as economic contributors and not simply economic consumers.
There is a lot to look forward to in 2018, but the one thing that Toby is most excited about in regard to Accelerate is the emphasis and renewed focus on talent and workforce development. In Greenville, the contrast of low unemployment and tens of thousands of unfilled jobs provides a unique opportunity to create a competitive edge in the recruitment and establishment of new enterprises by better matching our talent and workforce development efforts with the current and future needs of our fastest growing commercial and industrial sectors. The Greenville Chamber recently hired Adrea Turner as the Director of Talent and Workforce Solutions. This is a success that brings resources and focus to what may be the most important issue our community is facing relative to economic competitiveness. Toby says he is “Genuinely excited to have the opportunity to work with Hank Hyatt and Adrea to define the Chamber’s mission and role relative to workforce development and to deploy and/or participate in programs that build competencies and capacity in our workforce in a way that fills available jobs with capable individuals at a record pace.”