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Community Conversations Visits Greenville, Spartanburg

The Richmond Fed took its Community Conversations program to Greenville and Spartanburg County, South Carolina this month to learn more about the communities’ business achievements and growing efforts to foster equity and economic mobility.

“Our goals included making sure that we met with key leaders in these communities to explore how they have continued to thrive during the pandemic and to share an economic update,” said Matthew Martin, Richmond Fed Regional Executive for North Carolina and South Carolina.

While Bank President Tom Barkin visited in person, Martin and other Bank staff who helped plan the March 23-24 program participated in some of the meetings that took place virtually, including Barkin’s roundtable discussion with the United Way of Greenville County.

Barkin also spoke at a socially distant luncheon hosted by the Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission, a group formed by community leaders in the summer of 2020 to better understand matters of inequity and disparity that are impacting the Black community in Greenville County.

“I would characterize this as the beginning of their journey into this space,” said Erika Bell, the Richmond Fed’s Community Development Manager for North Carolina and South Carolina, who indicated that Barkin appreciated learning about the organization’s early stage goals.

The Community Conversations team learned during the visit to Spartanburg that just as in other areas of South Carolina, the manufacturing industry is thriving. This region in particular has benefitted from serving as home to BMW’s first U.S. plant; and other overseas companies have opened headquarters there and in Greenville also.

“A steady theme for all of our Community Conversations visits continues to be employers’ challenge in sustaining a stable workforce,” Martin said. “There’s clearly a labor force participation issue in the economy right now.”

The trip also included a visit to downtown Greenville and a small community in Spartanburg known as a purpose built community, which is designed to help low- to moderate-income families benefit from home ownership and mixed-income neighborhoods. The community in Spartanburg is one of few that have been developed in smaller cities, Martin noted. “We were all impressed with the work they’re doing there.”

The Community Conversation team’s visit with the Greenville Chamber of Commerce was also fruitful. “We talked about how we might interact going forward and our Bank will persist in strengthening this relationship and others we have forged,” Martin said.

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