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Community Highlights

Sept. 5, 2017

South Carolina: Highlights from Greenville


A small group gathered on a rooftop in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, on August 28 to showcase community development in Greenville, the largest city in the upstate region of South Carolina, also known as the “upcountry.” Elected city and county officials, private developers, a Community Development Financial Institution, financial institutions, nonprofits, and representatives from the local school system and technical colleges were eager to share with leaders from the Richmond Fed all that “#yeahThatGreenville” has to offer.

Greenville County is the state’s most populous county with more than 400,000 residents. The Greenville-Spartanburg corridor is the second largest urban region in South Carolina with a population of just under 1 million. It’s been some time since the region was referred to as the “The Textile Capital of the World” because it has evolved into a hub for industry, driven in part by the creation of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), known as the new model for automotive research.

The Richmond Fed connects with community and business leaders to better understand local economic conditions. In Community Development, we work to connect low- and moderate-income communities with tools and resources to focus on economic and credit issues, working with local partners and stakeholders. The Greenville visit focused on how the area’s growth is leading to new investment in affordable housing, economic mobility and workforce development. While many cities and regions in the South boast centers of fast growth, technological innovation and educational excellence, the region also has the nation’s lowest mobility and highest poverty rates, including lower post-secondary attainment and relatively low investment in human capital that results in individuals in low-wage, low-skill jobs, and stalled upward economic mobility.

“Greenville is one of the promising cities in the South,” explained Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Richmond Fed regional community development team leader. “The city and county have a small, imaginative and interconnected cohort of leaders who can leverage needed changes in the critical systems that directly affect mobility.”


The growth and low mobility paradox of the metro South is easily summed up in one table:

Forbes Best for Business


Poverty Rate

Increase in Poverty Since 2000

Raleigh, N.C.





Nashville, Tenn.





Charlotte, N.C.





Dallas, Texas





Atlanta, Ga.





Greenville, S.C.





Source: Southern Economic Mobility Network, using Forbes, Equality of Opportunity Project, Trulia, Brookings, and U.S. Census Bureau.



While addressing affordable homes for the youngest residents of Greenville, the leadership cohort in Greenville also knows they need to address education attainment and skills to increase opportunities for matching higher wage jobs to the future workforce.

A driving tour of the city narrated by Nancy Whitworth, deputy city manager and director of economic development for the city of Greenville, showed how the city has engaged a rigorous partnership with the public sector and is using a range of tax credits, tax increment financing (TIF) and target annexation to address the city’s key affordable housing issues:

  • Gentrification in and near downtown neighborhoods displaces low-income households.
  • There is a sizable shortage of quality housing options available for no more than $500 a month that represents affordable housing for households earning no more than $20,000 annually (fulltime at $10 per hour), and these housing options prevent these households from living in substandard conditions or becoming housing cost-burdened.
  • There is a distribution issue for affordable housing whereby the city’s lowest cost rentals are almost all located in the city’s weakest markets.
  • There are down-ladder pressures such that the demand for apartments by households earning at least $50,000 far exceeds supply, so demand is being met down ladder, reducing the supply and raising the price of what would otherwise be available for those earning less.

“I was amazed at the quality and curb appeal of the city-led new affordable housing initiatives that can lead to a great deal of community pride,” said Mark Mullinix, interim president and chief operating officer at the Richmond Fed. “While this is great progress, we were also reminded that the county still has a significant shortage of affordable housing units.”

Workforce and human capital development is the focus of the pre-K through 12th grade public school system, Greenville Technical College and the universities in the region. Those attending emphasized a study that found 18,000 job vacancies in Greenville County due to a lack of qualified entry-level workers, skilled production workers, and engineering and IT professionals.

A tour of Fisher Middle School, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) middle school focused on the needs of tomorrow’s workforce by encouraging a transdisciplinary curriculum driven by problem-solving, discovery and exploratory learning, demonstrated the commitment to educational attainment and human capital development. The middle school is a $29.4 million, 27-acre programming and learning center on the Millennium Campus next to the CU-ICAR campus.

A brief tour of the Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) preceded a networking lunch for 40 attendees, hosted by local philanthropy the Hollingsworth Funds, followed by a roundtable discussion focusing on mobility, affordable housing and human capital development.

“We appreciate this special opportunity to discuss our community initiatives with our Reserve Bank,” said Gage Weekes of Hollingsworth Funds, one of the community leaders for the Network for Southern Economic Mobility, created by MDC, Inc., whose president, David Dodson, serves on the Richmond Fed’s Community Investment Council (CIC).

Community participants included: Weekes; Dr. Burke Royster, Superintendent of Greenville County Schools; Carlos Phillips, The Greenville Chamber; Dr. Jermaine Whirl, Greenville Technical College; Ginny Stroud, City of Greenville; and Stan Wilson, Greenville County Redevelopment Authority.

“The opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with our Federal Reserve Bank affords us a chance to showcase our innovation, but equally important we heard about other tools we may be able to use, and how we can connect to other communities in other Reserve Bank Districts,” said Deborah McKetty, president and CEO of CommunityWorks, a CDFI, and a member of the Bank’s CIC. “Knowing that the issues and challenges we share will make their way into monetary policymaking at the national level is important to a community to feel connected on a larger economic scale.”

Mike Crapps, president and CEO of First Community Bank in Lexington, South Carolina, and a member of the Charlotte Board of Directors, attended the lunch and roundtable discussion.

“By visiting communities in our District, we deepen our connections with the government, business and community leaders,” said Mullinix. “The trip revealed the investments our communities are making in their economic future. Our Community Development team has several follow-up action items related to additional tools and approaches, something they do each day in communities throughout our District.”

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    1 of 6 Burke Royster, Ph.D., and Greenville County School District staff discuss workforce preparedness in front of the Fisher Middle School with Mark Mullinix.

    photo by Milliken Bonds

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    2 of 6 Mark Mullinix, Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Deborah McKetty, Mike Crapps, Gage Weekes

    photo by Terry Burris

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    3 of 6 Bob Hughes and Mark Mullinix

    photo by Jeanne Milliken Bonds

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    4 of 6 Greenville leaders discuss community development efforts with Mark Mullinix and Jeanne Milliken Bonds.

    photo by Deborah McKetty

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    5 of 6 Rooftop view in Greenville, South Carolina

    photo by Terry Burris

  • Community Highlight: Greenville, SC

    6 of 6 Center for Manufacturing Innovation in Greenville, South Carolina

    photo by Milliken Bonds

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