ARC supports South Carolina prosperity
As our states grow and prosper, new initiatives often overshadow successful ones commenced long ago. One of these is the Appalachian Regional Commission.
In South Carolina, the northwestern counties of Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Pickens, Oconee, and Spartanburg are within the Appalachian Region, which 1.2 million South Carolinians call home.
This region of the Palmetto State features some of our state’s most iconic natural landmarks, drawing visitors from near and far to experience the tranquil beauty of Issaqueena Falls or the austere majesty of Table Rock.
The abundance of natural resources also provides a wealth of recreational opportunities, from cycling at Paris Mountain to bass fishing at Lake Hartwell. All told, these experiences have helped to create a robust tourism economy across these six counties, generating $2.3 billion in annual visitor spending.
Along with its natural beauty, Appalachian South Carolina is also known for its significant manufacturing footprint, including BMW, Michelin Tires, GE, Milliken & Company, and many others.
The region is ever-expanding. In 2021 alone, we have announced 3,278 new jobs and over $650 million in new capital investment in the six counties representing Appalachian South Carolina.
The six-county region is a beneficiary of our state’s partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, the ARC is a regional economic development agency that was created to address economic distress in the Appalachian region.
Thoughtful, deliberate ARC investment, combined with innovative thinking and the hardworking people of our state, has helped transform Upstate South Carolina into the thriving region we know it to be today.
Governor Robert McNair was a lead proponent of the commission’s creation. He appointed Jim Konduros, an attorney and a native of Anderson County, to be South Carolina’s first representative on the new commission.
The Commission’s focus in the 1960s and 1970s was to provide critical infrastructure to the often hard-to-reach and impoverished communities of the Appalachian region.
Mr. Konduros led the first significant ARC investment in the state when he brought together the SC Highway Commission and the ARC to construct the 72-mile Cherokee Trail (SC Hwy. 11) through the state’s foothills. He also helped create the Appalachian Community Service Network, an educational cable channel that later became The Learning Channel.
Over the last almost 50 years, the ARC has funded 1,578 projects in our state, totaling nearly $250 million. Including match funding, total investment in the region reaches just over $680 million.
One of those projects – the South Carolina Center of Aviation and Technology (SCTAC) Automotive Durability Track – will provide an automotive testing track with a dual purpose of training students and workers pursuing advance degrees in automotive engineering and research opportunities in South Carolina’s robust automotive manufacturing industry.
Another program known as SC Codes utilizes ARC funds to achieve its goal of providing free access to educational opportunities that will help create career pathways in technology and programming.
Training our workforce in skills like computer coding and automotive engineering will define our future workforce.
Another result of ARC investment is the Greenville Childcare Career Development Pipeline, which works to recruit, train, and provide a network for female and minority entrepreneurs interested in the childcare field and willing to establish in-home care services.
ARC has provided funds to communities in Upstate South Carolina to develop, improve and promote cultural and natural assets, resulting in the growth of local businesses, more visitors and a reinvigorated pride for our communities.
One example, the City of Gaffney’s Park and Amphitheater, was completed in 2019 and serves as an anchor attraction, hosting 23,000 visitors per year to the city’s main street district. Another wise investment, the renovation of Simpsonville City Art Center, is projected to inject over $400,000 annually to the local economy.
The funds have also provided needed infrastructure improvements for the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which has spurred the growth of entrepreneurial venues and continues to provide enjoyment and recreation to South Carolina residents and tourists alike.
The growth tied to ARC-funded projects in these counties has been transformative to our Upstate’s local economies, which has benefited our entire state. One needs only to take a stroll down the streets of downtown Greenville, Spartanburg, Gaffney, or Anderson to appreciate the Appalachian Regional Commission’s impact on the local businesses and tourism industries in these communities.
The vision reflected by the wise investments of the Appalachian Regional Commission illustrates the abundance of opportunities in this region. The best is yet to come.
Henry McMaster is the governor of South Carolina. This column written by him is one in a series provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission.