Driving through the western part of Spartanburg County, industrial buildings line Highway 290 as it becomes Main Street in Duncan. A key piece of Spartanburg County’s rise in economic development sits along Duncan’s Main Street. Blink and you could miss it, but there’s no missing its impact on the county.
The Spark Center SC, on the Tyger River Campus of Spartanburg Community College, was established in June 2006 to ignite economic growth and serve as a catalyst for business and entrepreneurial development not only countywide, but across South Carolina. And, serve as a catalyst it has. An economic impact study in June 2018 revealed The Spark Center could be tied to 34,600 jobs and more than $2 billion in total earnings.
“It’s been a really amazing project to work on. If you need office space, we got it. If you’re building, like Toray, you can come here,” said Mike Forrester, vice president of economic development at The Spark Center. “We can adapt to any company and provide the services they need.”
Nearly 400,000 square feet of multi-use space, including Class A office space, can be found at The Spark Center. That space can be devoted to new ventures, expansions, relocations and light manufacturing efforts, allowing companies with an eye toward the future to find their footing in one of the most industry-rich parts of Spartanburg County.
That location – in a foreign trade zone near the intersection of Interstates 85 and 26, with access to the SC Inland Port only minutes away – is beneficial, too. The international impact of The Spark Center is clear when looking at a roster of companies that have had ties to the facility since its opening.
Included in that list are medical supplies manufacturers, energy solutions companies, companies with ties to the area’s surging automotive economy, Toray Carbon Fibers, Rite-Aid’s distribution facility, Kobelco Construction Machinery, Magna Seating, adhesives manufacturer RitRama and numerous others.
The June 2018 economic impact study gauging just how successful The Spark Center has been put it best when it said, “Add to this the number of employment workforce projects supported by The Spark, and it is obvious that this once-envisioned idea has become a viable reality that has and will continue to have a huge financial impact on economic development in Spartanburg County.”
Forrester said he specifically remembered Rite-Aid’s visit to Spartanburg County. He said he was able to show them benefits of moving to Spartanburg County and what the Spark Center could offer, and it clearly had a significant impact.
“The next day, they announced they were coming to Spartanburg,” he said.
The Spark Center was designed to promote collaboration between SCC, economic development organizations, business and local, state, and federal governments. The facility has become a key partner in advancing the economy – through innovation and collaboration – of Spartanburg County, the Upstate and South Carolina.
Key to The Spark Center’s wide-reaching impact are the services it provides.
The soft landings program provides furnished office space and basic services to qualifying businesses intending to assess the market or start new operations in Spartanburg County. The effort also provides cultural assistance, language translation assistance and help with regulations, legal concerns and a wide array of other services. The soft landings program also boasts training seminars, technical support, community relations and networking features to truly help companies find a footing in Spartanburg.
Workforce employment services in partnership with SC Works Upstate and readySC provides recruiting, hiring and training assistance.
The facility can also provide assistance to special projects for existing Spartanburg companies by providing space that can be used to beta test a new product line or manufacturing process, as well as temporary warehousing of inventory.
The small business incubator positions startups for success by giving them a foundation to get started as they connect with supporting agencies.
“It’s really a game-changer,” Forrester said. “I don’t know of anything like this anywhere.”