Greer Goes Global

You may not immediately think of the phrase "international investment" when Upstate South Carolina comes to mind, but perhaps you should. More than 230 international companies operate in the Upstate, giving our area the distinction of having the largest foreign investment per capita of any region in the U.S. As impressive as that international presence is though, it often flies under the radar.

On March 29, the City of Greer has plans to change all that, holding its inaugural International Festival at the 12-acre Greer City Park.

With more than 24 countries to be represented at the festival, the City of Greer is hoping to shine a spotlight on the Upstate's diversity. Scheduled activities include a parade of nations, Latin music, Tai Chi, African dancing, and cricket demonstrations. The event will also feature a wide selection of ethnic foods and crafts, as well as African tribal face painting and Chinese dragon puppets.

Also taking place as part of the Greer's new International Festival is its fifth annual juried art exhibition, with this year's entries reflecting the theme "Greer Goes Global."

That theme, as well as the festival itself, is a natural fit for a city that is one of South Carolina's fastest growing. From a population of just over 10,000 in 1990, today Greer is home to over 26,000 residents, a 237 percent increase. A large portion of that growth can be tied Greer's position right in the middle of the Upstate's still-expanding international business community. In all, 29 international manufacturing companies from 11 countries around the world call Greer home.

"Look at the industries we have here - from BMW Manufacturing to Mitsubishi Polyester Film - and you'll begin to realize just how diverse our community is," said Red Watson, assistant director of Parks and Recreation. "This festival is an opportunity to come together and celebrate the many cultures that make the City of Greer the place it is."

The festival is being held in conjunction with Upstate International a month-long series of events, now in its second year, which is held throughout March to celebrate the often surprising array of international cultures found in the Upstate. Spearheading that effort is the International Center of the Upstate, a group formed by the City of Greenville, the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, and Michelin North America to provide services and assistance to the Upstate's many international employees.

Seed money for Greer's International Festival came in the form of a $5,000 Elevate Upstate grant awarded in November by Hughes Investments and distributed by Ten at the Top to promote community vibrancy. The City of Greer was also able to garner additional support from private sponsors and volunteers. The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Christopher George is a freelance writer and multimedia professional from Spartanburg. He is a former editor and publisher of the Spartanburg Spark, and his writing and video work has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Mountain Xpress in Asheville, NC and in titles by the Hub City Writers Project.