Made in the Upstate

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Michelin North America Headquarters in Greenville
Michelin North America Headquarters in Greenville | GVLtoday Team

I’d like to officially propose a new slogan for Greenville, S.C. – “We make that here.” Why? Because from gas turbines to pimento cheese, tires to candles, we have a lot of locally made products.

We wanted to know more about what brings businesses to the Upstate and what they’re making. Here’s what we found.  

Big biz

When you talk about locally made products, the Upstate has some heavy hitters (think BMW, Michelin, + GE). We’re home to 1,800+ engineering + manufacturing companies and 505+ international companies (representing 38 countries). Our range of industries continues to attract interest from new + expanding companies. According to a 2017 article, manufacturing accounts for $13.3 billion (~22%) of the Upstate’s gross regional product.  

So what makes the Upstate a good home for these large-scale companies? 

Workforce

Thanks in part to our growth rate (nearly 30% in the last 20 years) the Upstate has a strong labor pool. The current workforce is skilled – with specialized talent in engineering, team assembly, metal work, architecture and more – but there’s also a strong emphasis on preparing the next workforce. Public schools utilize STEM education + Personal Pathways to Success, plus we have more than 25 colleges and universities.  

Location, location, location

~2 hours northeast, Charlotte. ~3 hours southwest, Atlanta. If you’re transporting goods by land, interstates 85 + 26 offer direct access to major markets. The Port of Charleston is also accessible, which is a huge asset for businesses looking to export product. Other options for transportation include the Inland Port Greer (serviced by Norfolk Southern mainline) and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport

Business climate

South Carolina has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the Southeast. Plus, the state has statutory tax benefits like no inventory tax, no wholesale tax, and no sales tax on manufacturing machinery (you can see the full list of business incentives here).

Aside from taxes + incentives, the Upstate promotes research and innovation – evidenced in programs like the NEXT Innovation Center, SCRA, and Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)

Last (but certainly not least) Greenville and the Upstate are nationally recognized communitiesa.k.a. places people want to live. We’re well ranked as a place for families, Travel + Leisure thinks we’re friendly, and Upstate cost of living is lower than many other southern metros

Roll call:

So, who’s here and what are they making?

  • BMWX3, X5 and X7 Sports Activity Vehicle and the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupe.
  • Michelin Tires for virtually every category of the tire market (including passenger, heavy duty truck, agriculture, aircraft, and bicycle tires).
  • GE Power Heavy-duty gas turbines (the Greenville plant is the largest gas turbine manufacturing plant in the world).
  • Milliken & Company Textile products, chemical and floor covering business.
  • Lockheed MartinT-50A aircraft and F-16 Block 70 aircraft. 
  • Hubbell LightingResidential, industrial + commercial lighting fixtures.
  • BoschOxygen sensors, integrated air fuel modules, transmission control modules and other parts.

Don’t forget the ‘little’ guys

The big names account for a lot of Greenville’s reputation as a manufacturing hub, but the mid-size + small businesses are an important part of our economic fabric. The Upstate’s middle market (comprised of companies earning $10-$500 million in annual revenue) has seen notable growth + expansion. According to the Upstate SC Alliance, from Jan.-July 2018, 14 of 25 economic development projects announced in the region were expansions

Small businesses (50 employees or less) make up 85% of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s community of investors. Greenville has ~34,000 small business employees (accounting for ~11% of all workers).  

The Upstate has resources that target the specific needs of mid-small sized businesses – like the Upstate SC Alliance Global Competitiveness Council, the Chamber of Commerce Small Business leadership program, Piedmont SCORE, and many more. South Carolina also has a Small Business Council, which acts as a resource + advocate for S.C.’s small businesses

Roll call:

Here’s a few (of the many) mid-level to small businesses in the Upstate. Shoutout to our readers for their suggestions on social media

#yeahTHATgreenville may be a little bit catchier than “We make that here” so for now I’ll stand down on the slogan. But the main takeaway is this: The Upstate is an attractive environment for businesses. We have a growing workforce, prime location, and resources to support a variety of industries. 

We’d love to know which products you’re proud to have made in the Upstate. If we didn’t mention them above, drop a note in the comments below.