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By Bob Montgomery, GoUpstate
The world is on to Spartanburg County.
An area once dependent on textiles is now home to 207 businesses and companies that are foreign-owned — a far cry from the 1980s and 1990s when only a handful of such companies were here.
Business leaders say Spartanburg and the Upstate as a whole are far ahead of many places in recognizing the globalized economy and capitalizing on it.
“The Upstate’s density of foreign-owned firms outranks that of the United States, the average of all metropolitan areas, and of South Carolina,” said John Lummus, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, a public-private organization that markets the Upstate to the world. “Spartanburg County has among the highest foreign-direct investment densities within the Upstate.”
With plenty of available land, a ready workforce and an attractive quality of life, leaders see no end to the growth that has been trending upward the past few years. More importantly, the range of businesses investing in the county — from automotive and aerospace to agribusiness and health care — will help ensure a more stable economy, they say.
Lummus and Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt said diversity is key to shielding the economy from the sharp ups and downs of any one industry, like textiles.
“I am a student of history, and we certainly do not want to repeat the history of 1900-1990 when it was only farming and textiles,” said Britt, who helped recruit BMW North America’s plant here 25 years ago.
Carter Smith, executive vice president of the Economic Futures Group, said Spartanburg County today is better prepared than in the years when textiles fueled the economy.
“We’re continuing to diversify our economic base,” Smith said.
Business leaders say it’s no surprise Spartanburg has attracted so many new companies. It has a pro-business agenda, good schools, access to several local colleges, an ample workforce, access to two major interstates, an inland port in Greer, a moderate climate and plenty of relatively affordable land.
Geordy Johnson, president of Johnson Development Associates of Spartanburg, said there is also ample speculative industrial space in the Upstate that can be used for manufacturing and distribution needs.
“We always try to have one spec building in the market to try and encourage companies to locate and bring jobs to Spartanburg,” said Johnson. “We could use some additional Class A office space in downtown Spartanburg.”
He said as long as Spartanburg continues to show it is a welcoming place to do business, it should continue to enjoy growth from foreign companies.