By MIKE FORRESTER and SUE SCHNEIDER
While there have been some struggles, by most measures the past five years have been prosperous for Spartanburg.
The economic downturn had impacts here, like everywhere, but we have emerged stronger and more focused on growing our economic vibrancy and quality of life.
The re-emergence of our downtown and a record number of economic announcements are testaments that our future is indeed bright and growing here in Spartanburg.
However, while much of what we have accomplished has been the result of foresight, hard work and commitment from members of our local community, our current and future success is also directly related to our place as part of a greater Upstate region.
Our success may be limited if we try to go it alone. But as part of an Upstate region that strives to be universally recognized as a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family, there are no limits to our future.
Five years ago, leaders from Spartanburg and the other counties that comprise the Upstate region came together for a daylong exercise to discuss future growth within the region and how we could work collaboratively to ensure a positive future for all. That event was called Upstate Reality Check.
Following that event, Ten at the Top emerged — a regional organization made up of 10 counties at the top of South Carolina linked both geographically and also, we believe, in terms of success. These 10 counties are focused on continuing our “future growth” conversations and building relationships across the Upstate.
In the past five years, Ten at the Top has done just that, helping develop partnerships or enhancing regular dialogue among many groups, including the seven United Ways in the region, city and county planners, transportation organizations, water system directors, workforce organizations, Upstate elected officials and many more.
Many organizations and leaders from across Spartanburg County have provided support and have been engaged participants in efforts coordinated through Ten at the Top, and many of these leaders have served together on the organization’s board of directors.
Recognizing that we are at an opportune point to look at where we have been, where we are now and where we are headed, Ten at the Top is hosting an Upstate Regional Summit on Sept. 16. During this event, more than 500 interested residents from across the region will be “Rechecking Our Reality” and answering the question “What’s next, Upstate?” as we continue to strive for the Upstate to be a place where all communities and all residents are able to reach their full potential. Rechecking Our Reality harkens back to our original Upstate Reality Check five years ago.
The program will run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the T.D. Convention Center in Greenville. It will include an overview of how far the region has come over the past five years and discussions on what we need to focus on next to continue advancing as a region.
Breakout sessions will give participants the opportunity to offer ideas and insight on a wide array of issues including education, entrepreneurial support, workforce, land usage, natural resources, transportation and community vibrancy.
There will also be a luncheon during which Glenda Hood, whose career includes terms as the mayor of Orlando and the secretary of state for Florida, will highlight what other regions are doing in order to be globally competitive and how the Upstate can ensure that it is competitive today and in the future.
Spartanburg is a vital part of the Upstate, and we believe it is important for us to have a large presence in these ongoing conversations about how we can continue building our capacity to succeed in the global economy while also addressing important issues on building community vibrancy and enhancing the quality of life across our entire region.
We encourage you to check out the Rechecking Our Reality event details on the Ten at the Top website (www.tenatthetop.org), and we hope you will plan on joining us Sept. 16 for this important regional event.
Mike Forrester is the executive assistant to the president and director of economic development at Spartanburg Community College. Sue Schneider is the chief executive officer of Spartanburg Water.