Ten at the Top: Working Together to Make the Upstate a Great Place

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It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately”.

While the circumstances and stakes for Franklin and other leaders during the American Revolution were certainly far different than for those of us living today in Upstate South Carolina, the concept of needing to work together to achieve success is still an important one that we must continue to follow in the 21st century.

Since being formed in 2005 by public, private and civic leaders from across the 10-counties of South Carolina’s Upstate (Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg and Union) who recognized the importance of working together and planning for the future of the region, Ten at the Top has worked to foster collaboration and partnerships as we look to ensure that the future for residents across the Upstate is filled with promise and success.

Between now and 2030, the Upstate is projected to add more than 275,000 residents, which would put the population for the region above 1.6 million. While population growth is an important ingredient of community and economic vitality, if left completely unchecked the potential for unintended consequences such as increased traffic congestion, sprawling development, air quality and water quantity issues and other impacts to our daily quality of life are enhanced.

Regions across the country and globe that have been able to successfully grow both in population and economic vibrancy without negatively impacting the quality of life for residents have typically been places where individual communities have been diligent in developing and implementing local plans or visions while also collaborating with other communities across the region on addressing issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries. In other words, places where residents have taken the initiative to create a shared vision of their future and found ways to collaborate on making that vision a reality.

In 2010 and 2011, more than 10,000 Upstate residents from across the ten counties provided input on what mattered most to them when looking at future growth within the Upstate region during a community campaign to create a Shared Upstate Growth Vision. This process was shepherded by Ten at the Top, which hosted community meetings, conducted surveys and made presentations to ensure that input was received from residents in each county across the Upstate.

The result was the Our Upstate Vision, which calls for the Upstate South Carolina Region in 2030 to be universally recognized as one of the leading places in the United States to live, learn, do business and raise a family. The vision identified five driver areas where regional collaboration can help ensure that the Upstate reaches its full potential. Those five focus areas are human potential, economic & entrepreneurial vitality, sustainable growth, natural beauty & resources and community vibrancy.

Currently, Ten at the Top is engaged in a number of regional efforts to increase opportunities for collaboration and partnerships on key issues of regional significance.

One exciting recent regional success was the approval of the first-in-the-Upstate formal regional agreement by the largest transportation planning organizations in the region (the Greenville Pickens Area Transportation Study – GPATS – and the Spartanburg Area Transportation Study) to regularly collaborate on planning, grants and other initiatives. This is an important first step toward being able to eventually develop a Regional Transportation Strategy. Other areas where Ten at the Top and partners are currently working to try and create regional dialogue include air quality, tourism, water quantity, land use planning, entrepreneurial support and education. The ultimate goal is to identify opportunities within each area where subject experts and stakeholders from across the region can come together to identify and implement collaborative initiatives that will help enhance the overall quality of life across the Upstate.

Another area that is important for building collaboration and trust across the region is related to how we communicate and receive information across the Upstate. Earlier this year, Ten at the Top launched the Upstate Information Hub (www.ourupstatesc.info), which is a regional internet portal designed to make it easier for residents across the Upstate to find local information and resources. The portal currently has links to more than a thousand organization and company web sites across the Upstate related to everything from finding help for starting or growing a business to listings of schools, utilities and public services.

The site also includes what we believe eventually will become the largest comprehensive calendar of events from all over the Upstate. Whether you are looking for specific areas such as arts & culture or library programs or for fun events and festivals for the family to enjoy on a weekend, the Our Upstate Calendar has a comprehensive list of what is available across our ten-county region. I encourage you to go check out the Upstate Information Hub and use it as a tool for finding local resources as well as when looking for fun activities to do within easy driving distance.

Cultivating a region that communicates and works together takes time to blossom, but the seeds of collaboration being planted here in the Upstate today should one-day grow into the fruits needed to ensure that the Upstate remains a great place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.

Dean Hybl
Executive Director
Ten at the Top