As our states grow and prosper, new initiatives often overshadow those that have been successful for a long time. One of them is the Appalachian Regional Commission.
In South Carolina, the northwestern counties of Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Pickens, Oconee, and Spartanburg lie in the Appalachian region, where 1.2 million Southern Carolinians live.
This region of Palmetto State features some of our state’s most iconic natural sites, 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 plethora of recreational opportunities, from biking at Paris Mountain to bass fishing at Lake Hartwell. In total, these experiences have helped create a robust tourism economy in these six counties, generating $ 2.3 billion in annual spending for visitors.
Besides its natural beauty, Appalachian South Carolina is also known for its large manufacturing footprint, including BMW, Michelin Tires, GE, Milliken & Company and many more.
The region is constantly expanding. In 2021 alone, we announced 3,278 new jobs and more than $ 650 million in new capital investments in the six counties representing Appalachia in South Carolina.
The Six County region benefits from 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 deal with economic distress in the Appalachian region.
A thoughtful and deliberate investment by the CRA, combined with innovative thinking and our state’s hard workers, has helped transform northern South Carolina into the prosperous region we know today.
Governor Robert McNair was a major proponent of the creation of the commission. He appointed Jim Konduros, a lawyer and native of Anderson County, to be South Carolina’s first representative on the new commission.
The Commission’s goal in the 1960s and 1970s was to provide essential infrastructure to the often hard-to-reach and impoverished communities of the Appalachian region.
Mr. Konduros led the ARC’s first major investment in the state when he brought together the SC Highway Commission and the ARC to build the 72-mile Cherokee Trail (SC Hwy. 11) through the foothills of the ‘State. He also helped create the Appalachian Community Service Network, an educational cable channel that later became The Learning Channel.
Over the past almost 50 years, the CRA has funded 1,578 projects in our state, totaling nearly $ 250 million. Including co-financing, the total investment in the region reaches just over $ 680 million.
One of these projects – the South Carolina Center of Aviation and Technology (SCTAC) Automotive Durability Track – will provide an automotive test track with a dual purpose of training students and workers pursuing advanced automotive engineering degrees and opportunities. South Carolina Heavy Duty Automotive Manufacturing Research. industry.
Another program known as SC Codes uses ARC funds to achieve its goal of providing free access to educational opportunities that will help create career paths in technology and programming.
Training our workforce in skills like computer coding and automotive engineering will define our future workforce.
Another result of ARC’s investment is the Greenville Childcare Career Development Pipeline, which aims to recruit, train and network women and minority entrepreneurs interested in the field of childcare and eager to establish home child care services.
The ARC has provided funds to communities in the upstate of South Carolina to develop, enhance and promote cultural and natural assets, resulting in the growth of local businesses, more visitors and an invigorated pride in our communities.
One example, the Gaffney Town Park and Amphitheater, was completed in 2019 and serves as a flagship attraction, welcoming 23,000 visitors per year to the town’s main district. Another wise investment, the renovation of the Simpsonville City Art Center, is expected to inject more than $ 400,000 per year into the local economy.
The funds also helped make necessary improvements to the infrastructure of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which has spurred the growth of entrepreneurial sites and continues to provide fun and recreation for residents and tourists of South Carolina.
The growth of CRA-funded projects in these counties has transformed the local economies of our upstate, which has benefited our entire state. One need only stroll through the streets of downtown Greenville, Spartanburg, Gaffney or Anderson to appreciate the impact of the Appalachian Regional Commission on the local businesses and tourism industries of these communities.
The vision reflected by the judicious 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 part of a series provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission.