Will Greenville Be the Next Innovation Capitol of the World?

It was only a decade ago when Greenville was still considered the Southeast’s “best kept secret.” In 2023, our booming, growing city is far from a secret, garnering top rankings in national list after national list — including being featured as one of the top 52 places in the world to visit by the New York Times.

It’s no secret, after all, to the thousands of people who flock here every year that Greenville’s affordable prices make it an attractive alternative to pricier cities like Charlotte and Austin. Our cost-of-living index, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, is only 89.9, compared to San Francisco’s 186.4. That’s a good — no, great — thing.

But what about the opportunities here? Greenville isn’t just home to some of the top manufacturers in the world, it’s also starting to become an innovation and entrepreneurship epicenter. From the brilliant young coder looking for venture capital and a cool co-working space, to the well-established business owner looking to double in size and hire local talent, to the millennial parent looking for great schools, Greenville has something for everyone.

Just look at the entrepreneurship leaders featured in Thursday’s Greenville City Council Retreat Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel, and what they had to say about the city’s bright future as the next innovation capital of the world. The panel, which took place with city leaders to discuss Greenville’s future as an entrepreneurship hub, was hosted by Rhonda Rawlings, Neighborhood Engagement Director, Mill Community Ministries, Community Affairs Radio Host.

Carlos Phillips, President and CEO, Greenville Chamber

Defining success in Greenville:

“Businesses succeed, and people prosper. We want to be inclusive and globally competitive.”

Going big:

“What if Greenville were presented as the best place for innovative entrepreneurship? If we decide that’s the flag that we’re going to plant, then let’s go all in.”

Eric Weissmann, Executive Director, NEXT Upstate

Boosting Greenville’s workforce:

“The key to this is talent. The founders are the people at the front of the train. But there’s a lot more cars in the train. What about the co-founder? Or the data analyst, or chief of staff, or marketing and social media person. When we talk about building a workforce, it doesn’t always mean just the founders.”

On pathways to success in Greenville:

“How easy is it to be successful here? That needs to be transparent here. Whether I want to be a press operator at a plant, or a barista at Methodical, or start up my software business — how easy it is for me to be successful here?”

Bryan Davis, Executive Director, The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Furman University

Greenville’s 180:

“Growing up around here, I said, I’m going to go somewhere cooler. Then Greenville became the cooler spot. Part of our specialty is people want to be here.”

Keeping talent here:

“We’re actively working to keep talent here by plugging our students into the local entrepreneurship ecosystem while they’re in undergrad.”

Lelia King, Executive Director, Build Carolina

Running South Carolina’s premier tech education nonprofit:

“You can’t have a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem without high tech high growth talent and the skills to make that happen.”

The Upstate as an underrated tech hub:

“People don’t know what kinds of careers exist in South Carolina. You don’t have to live in California or New York to do really cool tech stuff. We have a lot of technologists who live here and work for these companies that are part of our technical talent ecosystem.”

Wei-Huan Chen

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Wei Chen

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