Economic Activity in Laurens County

Laurens County takes a broad approach to economic development that includes many outlets and opportunities. Residents, new businesses, and existing companies are all seen to be important factors in how the county moves forward.

Jonathan Coleman, executive director of Laurens County Development Corporation, says the county is not focused on building particular industries like some areas, but instead is looking for companies of all sort that are “good corporate citizens,” and that match or surpass the average wage in Laurens county. “We consider ourselves a great place to do business,” Coleman says. Some of the county’s largest employers include American Services, Inc. (employment services), Greenville Health System, ZF Transmission, and Walmart Distribution Center.

Coleman’s office works closely with the Upstate SC Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Commerce to attract business. What’s more, more than 20 international companies have a presence in the county. Like other counties of the Upstate, Laurens works to let the world know that it is open for business. Laurens County employers based in foreign countries include ZF Transmissions of Germany, Fukoku America Inc. of Japan, and Flame Spray of Italy.

“Obviously we’ve got a heavy auto [presence] in our county, but we have many companies; some deal with auto, some don’t. They might be in plastics or metals or other things, dealing with the auto industry or not… so we’re pretty diverse as far as our industrial base is concerned,” Coleman says.

The county also has put a high priority on building workforce capacity. Coleman said roughly 25 to 30 percent of the county’s workforce is in manufacturing.

When asked about what people might not know about Laurens County, Coleman points out that every high school graduate has the chance to get higher education for free. Established in Fall 2015, the Laurens County Future Scholarship gives recent grads two years of tuition-free education at Piedmont Technical College.

The idea is that free education greatly increases the pool of skilled workers and therefore makes the county an attractive place for outside companies looking to relocate. That goes beyond the usual draws, such as having lower costs than some neighboring counties. Coleman said the program was modeled after a similar one in Tennessee that saw a 50 percent increase in local incomes within 10 years, and a 40 percent increase in degree attainment.

The county has five industrial parks in different stages of development. One is full, with another at about 80 percent capacity. The site for the I-26 corporate center is being graded for a 150,000-square-foot pad that will support a 75,000-square-foot building.

At the same time that continual preparation for large companies happens, Laurens County has recently put a renewed effort into boosting its tourism business as well. The new branding campaign proclaims, “Laurens County is Simply Revolutionary,” calling attention to the county’s role in history dating back to colonial times. Its namesake, Henry Laurens of Charleston, was president of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.

A broad look at Laurens County’s economic development efforts makes one thing clear: As the county continues to grow, so do opportunities for people at many stages of their education and careers to make their mark. In turn, the county can contribute to a stronger Upstate overall.

Photos courtesy of Laurens County Development Corporation.

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer in Greenville whose work appears in local and national publications.