2017 Top 5: Business News

Rendering provided by Hughes Investments

Expansion was a common theme this year.

While downtown Greenville continues to build up as much as out, downtown Spartanburg also joined in with the opening of South Carolina’s first AC Hotel. BMW announced its plan to invest $600 million to expand BMW Manufacturing Co., creating 1,000 jobs in five years, and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport’s five-year, $125-million renovation wrapped in May, increasing capacity and amenities.

Not to be outdone, Mauldin development may soon be ramping up to the tune of 1 million square feet of mixed-use property. And the leaders of the Iron Yard, the software education firm that closed 15 of its campuses earlier this year, have returned with a new coding school in Greenville that should launch early in the new year.

These are the top business stories of the year.


BMW announces expansion

During a year that saw Volvo commit to building a plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina’s first automaker sweetened its investment in the Upstate.

German automaker BMW Group announced June 26 that it will invest $600 million to expand Spartanburg County-based BMW Manufacturing Co. and create 1,000 jobs by 2022.

The announcement was made at the company’s Start of Communications event, or unveiling, of its next-generation X3 at the local plant.

BMW’s Chairman Harald Krueger said $200 million of the investment would be for training and further education for the plant’s associates. The automaker also provided details for a nationwide training program.

The additional jobs will bring the plant’s employment to almost 10,000 people within the next five years.

BMW’s original investment in the plant, which opened in 1994, was $600 million, and the automaker hoped to create 1,900 jobs and eventually produce about 150,000 cars per year.

The facility has grown to become BMW’s largest plant by volume in the world.

Today, it represents a nearly $8 billion investment, encompassing more than 5 million square feet, with total production nearing 4 million vehicles.

The annual production capacity of the plant, which is the manufacturing hub of BMW’s X3, X4, X5, X6, and soon-to-be X7 Sports Activity Vehicles, has grown to about 450,000 vehicles per year. –Trevor Anderson


AC Hotel Spartanburg opens

After more than two years of construction, South Carolina’s first hotel bearing Marriott’s modern, European-inspired AC brand opened Dec. 14 in downtown Spartanburg.

The $20 million, 10-story, 100,000-square-foot hotel at 225 W. Main St. boasts 114 guest rooms and a plethora of amenities, including a rooftop restaurant, Level 10, owned and operated by Greenville-based Rick Erwin Dining Group.

AC Hotel Spartanburg is the first hotel to open in downtown Spartanburg since 2004.

Its lobby and second floor are a showplace for more than 40 pieces of art from The Johnson Collection’s portfolio of works from Black Mountain College, an experimental arts school that operated from 1933 to 1957 in Black Mountain, N.C.

Three meeting rooms that offer a combined 2,662 square feet of meeting space are named for some of the college’s leaders — Anni and Josef Albers, Ruth Asawa, and Kenneth Noland.

Spartanburg business leaders credited the hotel as a major driver of the momentum that has attracted a spate of new dining and retail establishments, residential units, and other development projects to downtown during the past two years.

The hotel, which is owned by Spartanburg’s Johnson family and developed and operated by OTO Development, will employ 50 people. Level 10 will also employ 50. –Trevor Anderson



Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) officially wrapped up its five-year, $125 million main terminal renovation nicknamed Project WINGSPAN in May.

GSP officials said the project has increased the airport’s capacity to 4 million passengers per year.

In addition to bringing a of new food, beverage, and retail concessions to the terminal, the project resulted in new parking options, art installations, centralized security screening, administrative offices, conference center, and a new airside garden.

GSP’s President and CEO Dave Edwards said in May that the airport’s fares were lower than its nearest competitor, Charlotte Douglas International Airport. GSP has also gained back most of the business that was being lost to Atlanta.

Airport officials are working on a master plan that will be completed in 2018.

At least $100 million will be invested in new projects during the next few years that will continue to improve the airport’s passenger and cargo business.

During the past year, GSP also completed the renovation of an existing hangar for PSA Airlines, launched its self-run fixed-base operator Cerulean Aviation, and announced an expansion of the Upstate’s “Atlantic Bridge,” the air cargo service between GSP and Frankfurt-Hahn Airport operated by Senator International. –Trevor Anderson


Former Iron Yard leaders to launch new coding school in Greenville

The Iron Yard’s unexpected announcement that it would be closing up shop earlier this year left many in the local tech industry questioning the role and future of coding schools. But four months later, two of the company’s former executives, including founder and CEO Peter Barth, announced their plan to open a new coding school in downtown Greenville.

The school, known as Carolina Code School, will offer a 12-week, full-time, immersive web-development course to prepare college students and professionals for a career in software development – no coding experience required. The course, which costs $13,999, will be offered six times a year and accommodate up to 20 students per cohort. Those accepted into the course will study the basics of front-end and back-end web development for eight weeks and then focus on a programming language (Java, JavaScript, Ruby, etc.) of their choice.

“Our goal is to prepare students with the skills they need for careers in software development,” Barth said. “We’re not only going to teach them the basics of coding. We’re going to make sure they can actually apply what they’ve learned outside of the classroom.” Carolina Code School plans to open its doors and start training students in early 2018. –Andrew Moore


Hughes Investments announces CenterPoint Mauldin development

Greenville developer Phil Hughes of Hughes Investments announced in August that he plans to develop an urban village along Interstate 385 in Mauldin with at least 1 million square feet of new apartments, offices, shopping, dining, lodging, and entertainment, including a public park with an amphitheater.

The 40-acre site is bordered by I-385, Holland Road, Bridges Road, and a Greenville Health System distribution center.

With help from Mauldin, Hughes intends to connect the development to the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail via a pedestrian bridge over the interstate.

Mauldin officials said they’ve agreed to provide public infrastructure — landscaped streets with sidewalks and water and sewer service — and pay for it with property-tax revenue generated by the development. Hughes said he intends to develop the entire village — estimated to cost $100 million — over 18 months. Construction of the first phase is not expected to be completed until 2020.

An office building that Hughes developed on the property for Charter Communications 16 years ago would be incorporated into the village.

A conceptual site plan shows nine mixed-use complexes along both sides of a main street with retail space on the ground level and apartments or office space on upper floors. It also shows locations for two hotels and a movie theater.

The Shopping Center Group, an Atlanta-based real estate services company, has been hired to recruit retailers to the village from across the country and overseas. –Ariel Turner



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