Baton Rouge leaders look to South Carolina city to get ‘secret sauce’ to success

The Advocate

GREENVILLE, S.C. — More than 100 local community and business leaders started a three-day Baton Rouge Area Chamber “canvas trip” to South Carolina on Wednesday to learn some of the best practices from the fast-growing area.

Carlos Phillips, president and CEO of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, said Baton Rouge is one of the metro areas his area compares itself to, since the cities are similar in size and have similar demographics in terms of household income, educational attainment and economic performance.

“You all are doing really, really well,” he said. “I wondered why you came to Greenville.”

Greenville hosts about 10 canvas trips a year because Phillips said people think the city has “the secret sauce”.

“We’re doing some things well, but we haven’t figured out everything we want to figure out,” he said.

Greenville County has a population of about 525,000, but is projected to grow by 40% by 2040, to a population just under three-quarters of a million.

“With that growth, we have challenges associated with it,” Phillips said. The challenges Greenville faces are issues similar to Baton Rouge — infrastructure, transportation and affordable housing.  

Greenville is the 60th largest metro area in the U.S., with a population of about 930,000. Baton Rouge ranks a few spots behind at number 66. The Greenville region was formerly a textile capital but adapted to become a manufacturing hub attract major global brands such as BMW and Michelin.

John Lummus, president and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance, a public-private economic development marketing agency, said the region has more than 110,000 manufacturing jobs. The BMW facility, which was the site for Wednesday’s welcoming session, has 11,000 employees and is set to undergo a $1.7 billion expansion.

“We are a business-driven community,” he said.

Phillips and Lummus said public-private partnerships have been a key to the region’s growth. “It’s not just the public sector getting out of the way, it’s the public sector being part of the development process,” Lummus said. That has led to the redevelopment of downtown Greenville. 

This is BRAC’s 11th regional canvas trip, but the first one since 2018, when BRAC and city leaders visited Cincinnati. The program was started in 2003 and led to visits to Austin, Texas; Nashville; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Pittsburgh.

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