The Greenville, SC Chamber's Blog

Welcome to the Greenville Chamber's blog. Here you will be able to find Chamber news and happenings as it happens. Comments and responses to our postings are encouraged. Please, get connected with us, so that we can get connected with you (other social media links can be found below to the right). For more information on the Chamber, please visit us at or give us a call at 864-242-1050.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Congrats to Rick Lenz!

Congratulations to the Greenville Chamber's Ambassador of the Month, Rick Lenz.

Rick is the owner of FASTSIGNS of Greenville. Prior to purchasing FASTSIGNS, Rick spent twenty-five years honing his customer service skills in various positions with some of the top companies in their respective fields. His past employment includes management positions with Marriott Hotels, Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Rick had spent eighteen months looking for the right opportunity for a FASTSIGNS center when the Greenville store became available. One visit to Greenville and he was sold.

Rick feels that both Greenville and FASTSIGNS have a great potential for growth. He has spent the last year and a half reorganizing and expanding the capabilities of his FASTSIGNS center. “We have rededicated ourselves to top notch customer service and providing a variety of superior products” said Rick.

Rick looks forward to making FASTSIGNS the premier sign company in Greenville, getting more involved in the community and to spending many years here in Greenville with his wife and two children.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Greenville Chamber Releases First Update to the Greater Greenville Economic Scorecard

The Greenville Chamber announced today, during its first quarter Advantage Greenville Luncheon, the results of the first update to the Greater Greenville Economic Scorecard.

“The results of the Scorecard demonstrate that much work remains to be done to achieve the Chamber’s vision of creating a premiere business community,” said Advantage Greenville Chair Irv Welling of Elliott Davis. “But the first step is complete. We’ve identified our challenges, and will continue to tackle those issues most pertinent to the Upstate.”

“A number of peer communities were identified through a statistical methodology created by Clemson University researchers,” said Greenville Chamber Vice President, of Economic Development Hank Hyatt. “By including these cities in our Scorecard, Greenville's leadership can get a feel for how we are advancing in creating a world-class community vis-avis these other communities. We cannot afford to remain satisfied with our past success. These other communities are moving ahead at a fast clip. The Scorecard helps us remain focused on doing what matters most."

Critical Findings Include:

· Education is the most important driver for creating higher levels of prosperity.
· Greenville has made strides in almost all areas of the Scorecard, but has not improved enough to improve our rankings vis-à-vis other communities.
· All of the Scorecard communities are actively seeking ways of improving their own prosperity. The target we seek is not static. Greenville must continue to look for new ways of enhancing those factors identified as drivers of per capita income.

To view the complete 2009 Economic Scorecard, visit For more information, contact Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Hank Hyatt by email at or by phone at 864-239-3714.

About the Economic Scorecard
In 2007, the Greenville Chamber's Advantage Greenville program asked a team of distinguished, nationally prominent researchers at Clemson University to create an econometric model that would assist Advantage Greenville in bringing the attention of local and state leaders to activities that would have the greatest benefit for Upstate citizens. The Economic Scorecard model is based on a statistical analysis of objective data from select peer communities. The Greater Greenville Economic Scorecard provides a framework to facilitate discussion among community leaders regarding issues that are critical to building one of the premier business communities in the world.

About Advantage Greenville
The role of Advantage Greenville is to champion the Greenville Chamber’s drive to build one of the premier business communities in the world by growing, informing, connecting and engaging our members in the strategic initiatives and activities of the Chamber. For more information on Advantage Greenville, visit

About the Greenville Chamber
The Greenville Chamber is the largest business organization in the Upstate, serving more than 2,200 members. The Chamber's mission is to build one of the premier business communities in the world by: Leading through collaboration, building community prosperity, being the voice of business and enhancing quality of life. For more information on the Greenville Chamber, call 864-242-1050, or visit

Legislative Update

While the Legislature is in session, the Greenville Chamber sends out a Legislative Update each week to those members interested. Not receiving the updates, but interested? Contact Sunnie Harmon or John DeWorken at 864-242-1050 or by e-mail ( or

Below is last week's update from Columbia:

Point of Sale Assessment Eliminated
The Full House Ways & Means Committee passed out H. 3272 with a favorable report Thursday afternoon. H. 3272 eliminates the point of sale assessment and applies a 15% increase cap on reassessments. Before being amended the bill included a retroactive provision that would require counties to reimburse property owners for the inflated taxes paid 2006 to 2008. Representative Annette Young (R-Charleston) offered an amendment to this provision deleting the retroactivity to save counties from suffering through another loss in revenue. The amendment was adopted with a vote of 14-11. Those legislators opposed to the amendment were worried of the effects it would have on taxpayers, who bought homes from 2006 to 2008. It now moves to the House floor for debate.

Watered Down Comprehensive Tax Reform Passes Ways & Means
Movement of a truly comprehensive tax reform study commission came to a halt Thursday during a House Ways and Means committee meeting. The Tax Realignment Commission created in Senate Bill 12 would look at sales tax exemptions, property tax, income tax and fees, fines and forfeitures. That commission was charged with recommending to the General Assembly what changes needed to be made to South Carolina’s tax structure to make the state more competitive in attracting businesses and residents. The Upstate Chamber Coalition supported the TRAC bill in its form leaving the Senate. House leadership wishes for the commission to look solely at sales tax exemptions and then at a separate time study the remaining components of the current tax code. The Upstate’s Representatives Rex Rice (R-Pickens) and Dwight Loftis (R-Greenville) voiced their concerns during the meeting of such a piecemeal approach to studying the state’s tax structure. Please call your House delegation members and urge them to speak up on the House floor when Senate Bill 12 and House Bill 3415 are debated and promote comprehensive tax commission, one with a holistic approach.

Speaker’s Cigarette Tax Bill Moves to House Floor
A 50-cent cigarette tax increase was sent out of Ways and Means with a favorable report. The tax is estimated to generate approximately $150 million for the state. The bulk of this revenue would provide premium assistance to employers with low-income employees, as well as to high-risk individuals. It is estimated that about 17,000 would benefit from the passage of this legislation. An amendment was proposed during the committee to lower the tax to 30-cents in an effort to keep South Carolina’s tax below Georgia and North Carolina’s failed with a vote of 14-10. Many border counties are concerned that convenience store revenues will decrease greatly if SC’s tax on cigarettes is greater than its neighbors. H. 3584 is sure to attract a lengthy debate on the House floor.

LCI Committee Hearings Held on Red Tape Regulations
Labor, Commerce, and Industry Chairman Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee) along with his committee members heard testimony Wednesday and Thursday from business owners regarding red tape regulations and procedures hindering their competitiveness. A myriad of concerns were voiced including DHEC regulations and business license fees. Sandifer and his subcommittee intend to gather all information heard this week and draft legislation to be introduced next week. The subcommittee’s intent is to improve the business climate in South Carolina by eliminating unnecessary, burdensome and redundant state and local government regulations and policies.

Bedingfield Scores Large Victory for Business Community

The business community is one step closer to protecting workers’ rights to a secret ballot in union elections thanks largely to Representative Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville) who lead the fight in the SC House in passing H. 3305 with a vote of 88-25. H. 3305 is a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a worker’s right to a secret ballot in the event of a union election. Since this legislation does amend the constitution, a two-thirds majority is required for passage. South Carolina, along with 39 other states is moving this legislation through its General Assembly. The bill moves to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee for discussion before moving to the floor for debate. Thirty-one votes will be needed for passage in the Senate. If both bodies pass it, it will be up to the citizens of South Carolina to vote for a referendum in November 2010 to amend the constitution.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

State House Breaking News: Workers Rights Bill Passes House

A bill sponsored by Representative Eric Bedingfield that guarantees workers rights to a secret ballot when voting for unionization passed the House today. This bill (3305) is a constitutional amendment that provides that when employees votes whether to unionize or not they would be guaranteed secret ballot voting. The bill passed with 88 votes supporting the bill, well above the two-thirds needed to pass a consitutional amendment.

This bill not only guarantees workers rights, but also combats the Federal Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that eliminates secret ballot voting and provides forced contractual mediation on employers. The Federal version of the bill was introduced in the US House and US Senate last week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Employee Free Choice Act Update

Today, Sen. Arlen Specter announced that he would oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, and vote against the bill as well as a cloture motion. This is a major development as Sen. Specter was the only Republican to vote in favor of cloture in 2007. Many supporters of EFCA have argued that they would have the necessary votes this year by assuming all Democrats would support cloture, that Al Franken would become the next Senator from Minnesota, and that Sen. Specter would again support cloture. This announcement means that supporters must find another way to get to 60 votes.

This announcement does not mean that the battle over EFCA is over. One of the many decisions that EFCA supporters need to make is whether they will try to find some other way to pass EFCA this year, whether they will instead try to elect more EFCA supporters in 2010, or whether they will instead push some other alternative bill (indeed, Sen. Specter left the door open to potentially supporting EFCA in the future should the economy improve and no amendments were made to the NLRA).

Your help has been critical in getting us to this point and we will continue to call upon you and we strive to ensure that EFCA and similar legislation is taken off the table for good.

Needless to say, other bills (such as the RESPECT Act related to supervisory status) that would ease organizing are out there or may be introduced that we must also be prepared for.



(GREENVILLE, SC) The Greenville Chamber announces its upcoming events for April 2009:

Small Business Owners' Forum
Firing on all Cylinders!
Wednesday, April 1 at 12:00 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Small business owners are invited to attend the Chamber's monthly Small Business Owners' Forum, which will feature an interactive forum on "people issues" -- from gaining maximum productivity from every employee to understanding generational differences.

Regional Business After Hours
Don't be "Foolish," Do Business in the Upstate!
Wednesday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Greenville Drive Stadium, 945 S. Main St.
In addition to regional networking, this event will kick off a $1,000,000 Good News Radio Campaign featuring businesses “doing great things” in the Upstate.

Political Symposium
Making A Difference: Politics & Public Service
Friday, April 3 at 8:00 a.m.
BMW Zentrum, 1400 Highway 101 S
This program will unravel the mystery of public service and is designed for those interested in participating in public service and/or running for office.

PULSE Social Event
Tuesday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m.
Rick Erwin’s, 648 S. Main St.
PULSE Socials provide an opportunity for young professionals to network. Attendees will be offered a special three-course menu, offered exclusively to PULSE members.

Non-Profit Alliance
Managing People In Difficult Times
Tuesday, April 7 at 12:00 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Jill Vales, president and owner of HR Experts On Demand, will lead a discussion on managing people during economic downturn.

BWIA Networking
Delivering a Strong Message
Wednesday, April 8 at 7:30 a.m.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 851 Congaree Rd.
Business Women In Action (BWIA) will present this networking event to assist Upstate businesswomen deliver a quick and strong elevator speech.

Manufacturers’ Group
Wednesday, April 8 at 12:30 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Open to senior leadership of Chamber-member firms, who manage production operations, the group discusses best practices in manufacturing (participation by invitation only)

Eastside Area Council
Thursday, April 9 at 11:30 a.m.
Hilton Greenville, 45 W. Orchard Park Dr.
Howell Clyborne, vice president of Strategic Initiatives & Governmental Affairs at Greenville Hospital System and member of the SC Board of Economic Advisors will address how the BEA works with the Legislature and Executive Branch in Columbia.

Business Before Hours
Tuesday, April 14 at 7:30 a.m.
Commerce Club, One Liberty Square
A monthly breakfast event for Chamber members who want to network and make business contacts but don’t have time after hours

Sales Roundtable
Wednesday, April 15 at 12:00 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Mel Friessen of Dale Carnegie Training of S.C. will present best practices for sales professionals.

FMLA Workshop
Complex, Challenging, and Changing
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Thornblade Club, 1275 Thornblade Blvd.
This one day intensive workshop is designed for HR and benefits professionals.

The Six Essential Questions for Ethical Excellence (and the Answers too!)
Monday, April 20 at 7:45 a.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Advancing the conversation from theory to action, the Chamber Foundation’s third ethics seminar will feature author David Gill, who will examine the six essential questions that must be answered to create an ethical environment in any organization.

Salute to Quality
Tuesday, April 21 at 4:15 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
Salute to Quality is a showcase gallery of Carolina First Center for Excellence partner schools' Quality work. Partner educators will display Continuous Quality Improvement work of their students, including student created mission statements, learning and behavior goals, data notebooks, and problem solving tools.

Business After Hours
Tuesday, April 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Zen, 924 S. Main St.
Mix and mingle with Chamber friends after hours.

Kuder Connect 2 Business for South Carolina…
at 2:30 p.m.
… Educators at 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 23 (times listed above)
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
C2B helps students and adults discover extended learning and career opportunities directly from local employers, while allowing business and industry to connect with their future workforce.

Member Orientation
Thursday, April 23 at 12:00 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
New members and new employees of existing members are invited to come learn about the Chamber's four lines of business, how to track referrals and much more.

Red State / Blue State: Obama’s First 100 Days
Wednesday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m.
Greenville Chamber, 24 Cleveland St.
The nationally recognized Elon University Poll will provide a revealing glimpse at how South Carolinians differ in their views of the early days of the new presidency as compared to their neighbors in North Carolina. Open only to the Chamber Board of Governors, Advantage Greenville members and selected guests.
For more information or to register for these or any Chamber events, visit the events page at

The Greenville Chamber is the largest business organization in the Upstate, serving more than 2,200 members. The Chamber's mission is to build one of the premier business communities in the world by: leading through collaboration, building community prosperity, being the voice of business and enhancing quality of life. For more information on the Greenville Chamber, call 864-242-1050, or visit



Don’t be “Foolish,” Do Business in the Upstate!

(GREENVILLE, SC) The Greenville Chamber today announced that it will host its first annual Regional Business After Hours in partnership with the following chambers: Anderson, Clemson, Easley, Fountain Inn, Greer, Greenwood, Laurens, Mauldin, Oconee, Simpsonville, Spartanburg, Walhalla, Westminster, and the South Carolina Hispanic Chamber. It will be held on Wednesday, April 1, from 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at Fluor Field – home of the Greenville Drive, located at 945 S. Main Street in Greenville. Due to the event date being April Fools’ Day, its motto is Don’t be ‘Foolish,’ Do Business in the Upstate!

Virginia College is the sponsor of this first-ever Regional Business After Hours that will provide a great networking opportunity with exciting music by the renowned Swingin’ Medallions. The event will also serve as a kick-off to a $1,000,000 radio campaign featuring area businesses doing “great things” in the Upstate. Eleven radio stations (listed below) have joined forces and donated 14,000 commercials to showcase the “good news” of the Upstate through the end of the year.

Attendees will discover how their good news can be promoted throughout the evening’s activities. The radio stations and every Chamber plus select organizations will have booths and displays to share their news and happenings. The event is free and open to everyone in the Upstate community. Concession stands will be available for refreshments.

"Considering the constant national news barrage that often misleads folks in our region about the state of our own economy, we thought this event and kick-off would be a great way to put positive local and regional news back on the radio,” said Greenville Chamber President and CEO Ben Haskew. “I encourage the community to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to learn about the ‘great things’ we’re doing in the Upstate!”

For more information, visit online at or contact Andrea Powell, Director of Corporate Development, at

Radio Station Sponsors
1. 92.5 WESC-FM Country Clear Channel
2. 93.3 WTPT-FM Alternative Rock Entercom
3. 93.7 WFBC-FM CHR/Pop Entercom
4. 96.7 WBZT-FM Christian Contemporary Clear Channel
5. 98.1 WHZT-FM Rhythmic Contemporary COX
6. 98.9 WSPA-FM A/C Entercom
7. 100.5 WSSL-FM Country Clear Channel
8. 101.1 WROQ-FM Classic Rock Entercom
9. 102.5 WMYI-FM A/C Clear Channel
10. 106.3 WGVC-FM News/Talk Entercom
11. 107.3 WJMZ-FM Adult Urban Contemporary Cox

About the Greenville Chamber of Commerce
The Greenville Chamber is the largest business organization in the Upstate, serving more than 2,200 members. The Chamber's mission is to build one of the premier business communities in the world by: Leading through collaboration, building community prosperity, being the voice of business, and enhancing quality of life. For more information on the Greenville Chamber, call 864-242-1050 or visit

Friday, March 20, 2009

This Week's Legislative Update

While the Legislature is in session, the Greenville Chamber sends out a Legislative Update each week to those members interested. Not receiving the updates, but interested? Contact Sunnie Harmon or John DeWorken at 864-242-1050 or by e-mail ( or

Below is last week's update from Columbia:

Slow Week in Columbia
The SC House of Representatives enacted one of its furlough weeks March 17-19, while the SC Senate met for one day in the Senate Chambers before implementing perfunctory days on Wednesday and Thursday. During perfunctory days, the Senate does not meet in the Senate chambers to debate legislation. They do, however, continue committee meetings. This week Senate Finance subcommittees met in preparation for drafting the Senate’s version of the budget.

Anti-EFCA Concurrent Resolution Passed out of Subcommittee
House Bill 3222 passed out of a Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry (LCI) Subcommittee Wednesday with a favorable report. Upstate Senators Bryant (R-Anderson), Bright (R-Spartanburg) and Nicholson (D-Greenwood) are commended for their positive comments regarding the bill. H. 3222, which passed the SC House of Representatives, is a concurrent resolution asking the South Carolina congressional delegation to oppose any legislation that would remove South Carolina workers’ rights to a secret ballot election when deciding whether or not to unionize. H. 3222 is part of South Carolina’s efforts to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which has been introduced in both the US House and US Senate. The Upstate Chamber Coalition, along with the SC State Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, has been active in the fight against EFCA. The bill will now move to the full Senate LCI committee for discussion.

More Budget Cuts
The South Carolina Budget and Control Board announced another $100 million cut in the budget. K-12 will feel the greatest cut of approximately $45 million in funding. The House passed its budget last week, so it will be up to the Senate Finance Committee to work with the newly reduced budget. SC Lawmakers are trying to determine how much of the budget gap can be filled by the Federal Stimulus money.

EFCA Constitutional Amendment up for Debate on House Floor
House Bill 3305 introduced by Representative Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville), is set for debate on the House floor on Wednesday, March 25. The bill would amend South Carolina’s constitution to guarantee a worker’s right to a secret ballot in a union election. Since the legislation amends the constitution, a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate will have to pass H. 3305. Once passed, it will be up to the citizens of South Carolina to vote for a referendum in the 2010 election. Currently, H. 3305 has 75 co-sponsors.

Seed Capital Legislation to be introduced by the Speaker
Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) has committed to act as the primary sponsor of the Upstate Chamber Coalition’s Seed Capital legislation. This bill will create a seed capital fund manager who would invest in South Carolina pre-start up and start-up high impact companies. Those who invest a minimum of $100,00 in the fund will receive a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the total investment. South Carolina currently has a program called SC LAUNCH!, which can invest up to $200,000 in pre-startup and startup companies in addition to venture capitalists who invest $1million or more in already established companies. The intent of the Seed Capital bill is to fill this investment gap and to encourage entrepreneurs and promote the establishment of SC grown high-impact businesses and headquarters. Upstate Chamber Coalition lobbyists are signing up co-sponsors before the Speaker introduces the bill in coming weeks.

For more legislative information, visit

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Congrats to the March Small Business of the Month!

This morning, during the Greenville Chamber's Board of Directors meeting, Carolina Safety Consultants were recognized as the March 2009 Small Business of the Month.

A big thanks goes to this month's Small Business of the Month sponsors: HR Experts On Demand and QBS.

About Carolina Safety Consultants (CSC):
Carolina Safety Consultants (CSC) provides environmental, health and safety training and consulting services to small-to-mid-sized companies throughout the Carolinas. A significant percentage of CSC’s client base represents general business and industry, as well as certain types of government entities (e.g., counties and municipalities). In addition, CSC has specialized expertise in the construction, light manufacturing and healthcare sectors. David J. De Vita, president and founder, has a well-rounded career in safety training, consulting and implementation that spans nearly 20 years. His professional credentials include a Bachelor of Science degree in Health & Safety Management from Clemson University (1990). De Vita’s personal knowledge and experience provides insight into applicable regulatory standards and interpretations, and assists management in providing a safe workplace — thereby positioning them for a competitive advantage in their respective industries. “We are proud to offer a service that has the potential to make a real difference in the operations of the company or organization that hires us,” notes De Vita.

Prior to establishing Carolina Safety Consultants in 2004, David De Vita held strategic roles with two of the Southeast’s most reputable insurance companies as well as the Carolinas Associated General Contractors (CAGC). He has worked extensively with many of the region’s leading general and specialty contractors in addition to healthcare, manufacturing and health/spa club organizations. De Vita currently serves as an adjunct instructor at Clemson University and develops safety-related curriculum for higher-education institutions and businesses.

Last Week's Legislative Update

While the Legislature is in session, the Greenville Chamber sends out a Legislative Update each week to those members interested. Not receiving the updates, but interested? Contact Sunnie Harmon or John DeWorken at 864-242-1050 or by e-mail ( or

Below is last week's update from Columbia:

House Finishes Budget
In the old days, that usually means before Operation Lost Trust and before cameras were placed in the chambers of the Senate and House, the budget debates ran into the late hours of the night, accompanied by brown bagged bottles being shared throughout the chambers. What was in those brown bags usually spiced up members’ Coca-Colas. Though those days are over, the House did run extraordinarily late Wednesday. At 3:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, the House finished this year’s budget. In a sign of the times, it is a significantly scaled down version of last year’s budget. It will now go into the hands of the Senate for its consideration.

Tort Reform Possibly to be Considered in Summer
With only ten weeks in the legislative session, Senate leadership is considering to debate the merits of tort reform into the summer and fall months, instead of trying to pass a bill this year that would be significantly watered down. In consideration is placing reasonable caps on non-economic damages and punitive damages. Four years ago, the first part of the tort reform package was passed, which included provisions to deal with venue, joint and severability, and medical malpractice caps.

Senate Subcommittee to Take Up EFCA
A Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Subcommittee will consider a bill to call on the US Congress to kill the Employee Free Choice Act, which is a bill that was introduced this week in the US House and US Senate that will eliminate secret ballot voting when workers vote whether to unionize and would provide mandatory arbitration measures when workers unionize.

Local Option Tourism Development Fee Act Passes Subcommittee
A bill that would allow a county to increase its sales tax by a penny passed a Senate Finance subcommittee this week, chaired by Senator Billy O’Dell (R-Greenwood). The bill provides that any county that collects at least $14 million in accommodations tax for the preceding year, would be able to increase its sales tax by a penny, which could be used for tourism-related initiatives and advertising. Horry County is the only county that qualifies for this bill.

Senate Budget Subcommittee Hearings Begin
The Senate Finance Committee was in full force this week, conducting hearings from constituents and agencies. The Senate Finance Committee will receive the budget from the House this week, which passed it Wednesday.

House, Senate to Furlough Next Week
After working long hours on the budget, the House will take next week off, leaving only the Senate to fill the State House, which it will only on Tuesday for a full day session. Other than that, the Senate Finance Committee will be conducting hearings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chamber CFCE Partner School, Bell's Crossing, Receives Recognition

Bell's Crossing, a partner school of the Greenville Chamber Foundation's premier program, Carolina First Center for Excellence, was recognized for being one of the best schools in the state.

As a CFCE partner school, Bell's Crossing incorporates Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) strategies in classrooms. CQI is a data driven system developed for the business world and adapted by CFCE staff for education.

Click here to read an article published on the front page of The Greenville News on March 15, 2009, about Bell's Crossing and its recent recognition.

Click here to view a complete list of CFCE partner schools. If you don't see your child's school on that list, contact your school's administrator today and encourage them to become a partner school of the Greenville Chamber's Carolina First Center for Excellence program!

Schools or anyone interested in learning more about this program are asked to visit us on the web (click here), or contact one of our staff -- listed below.

Photos and Examples of CQI at Bell's Crossing:

Pictured to the LEFT: An example of a 2nd grade classroom's mission & vision. Each class' mission and vision is created by the students, along with the guidance of their teacher. The mission and vision statements will guide the participation in learning throughout the school year.

Pictured to the RIGHT: A "Top Quality Student," as defined by the students in the classroom. This "tool" shows how the students define a "Quality Student," using their own words and voice, not their teacher's.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Upstate Chambers Featured on GSA Business Podcast

Sunnie Harmon says she wanted to be a lobbyist since she was 19. Along with John DeWorken, she now represents 6,300 businesses through an Upstate coalition of six chambers of commerce. This week Sunnie was featured on GSA's weekly podcast. She discussed political action committees, comprehensive tax reform, seed capital for entrepreneurs, health care costs and getting more businesses involved in the political process.

Click here to listen:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekly Legislative Update

While the Legislature is in session, the Greenville Chamber sends out a Legislative Update each week to those members interested. Not receiving the updates, but interested? Contact Sunnie Harmon or John DeWorken at 864-242-1050 or by e-mail ( or

Below is this week's update from Columbia:

Tort Reform Debated in Subcommittee
When the Upstate Chamber Coalition sent out surveys to its memberships, overwhelmingly, businesses said that tort reform was a major issue. As a matter of fact, this issue ranks in the top ten annually of issues that must be addressed in the General Assembly. Four years ago, the General Assembly answered that call to a large extent by passing tort reform provisions to reduce the number of years for statute of repose (years that a homebuilder and other construction-type businesses are liable) from 13 years to eight years (near the national average), as well as provisions to curb joint and several liability (stopping trial lawyers from only going after the businesses with the largest pockets in a multi-defendant case), and providing for tighter restrictions on venue (stopping plaintiffs from demanding that cases be heard in “judicial hellholes” like Hampton County).

Now, four years later, the business community is calling the Legislature to finish what it began those four years ago by implementing reasonable caps on punitive damages and non-economic damages.

Interestingly, in today’s Subcommittee hearing, chaired by Senator Larry Martin (R-Pickens), who is joined by four other senators, Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg), Luke Rankin (R-Horry), Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), and Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), one of the guests of the panel made a comment that a $500,000 claim against a business was a relatively small claim. Your Upstate Chamber Coalition team ensured that the Committee knew that there wasn’t a small business in the state that would agree with that guest.

The bill has a long way to go and the session is getting shorter. Though session ends on the first Thursday of June, the Senate is taking a week furlough and will take two weeks to discuss the budget, leaving only 30 legislative days to pass a complex tort reform bill.

It is expected that this bill will be considered throughout the end of session and into the summer and fall months, teeing the legislation up for passage in 2010.

Cigarette Tax Increase Set for Consideration
A few weeks ago, Speaker Bobby Harrell introduced a bill to increase the cigarette excise fee from 7 cents per pack to 57 cents per pack, with the new revenue going to tax incentives for small businesses to offer health insurance to their employees and incentives for working individuals to get health insurance coverage. The remaining portion of the revenue will go to smoking cessation programs and to the Department of Agriculture for marketing South Carolina grown crops.

Last year, a 50-cent cigarette tax increase passed the House and Senate. It would have expanded Medicaid, which is why Governor Sanford vetoed the bill and the House upheld his veto. This year is much different, though the Governor did say that he would like to use the excess revenue to reduce corporate income taxes.

Though the House provision is different, the General Assembly will face the same challenge in passing this bill. The Senate is divided on not only whether to increase the cigarette tax, but also how to spend the revenue. Some Senators want to get more Medicaid matching dollars, while others would use it for small business tax incentives.

The bill currently is in the House Ways and Means Committee, where it should be considered in the next couple of weeks. There it will have to gain approval, then from the House and then head to the Senate for its consideration.

Permitting Reform Bill Gaining Traction
A common complaint from businesses that must gain permitting approval from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is that DHEC’s approval process in terms of the time it takes to consider permits is not predictable. Where one permit would take 90 days, a similar permit takes 120 days. The problem is that businesses must budget time into their projects. Therefore, Representative Jeff Duncan (R-Laurens) introduced a bill that would ask DHEC to lay out the time in which it needs to consider a permit and then hold DHEC to that time. The bill provides that if DHEC goes over the time allotted to consider a permit, then that permit automatically receives approval.

Interestingly, DHEC officials have said that they favor this bill.

Point of Sale Eliminated in Subcommittee
A House Ways & Means Subcommittee passed House Bill 3272 out with a favorable report Wednesday with a 3-2 vote. The bill was amended to extend the 15% cap on assessment increases in current law to all assessable transfers of interest (ATIs) occurring in 2008 and beyond. At the next countywide reassessment, the purchase price plus the 15% must be used as the basis for the next property tax year and for the next reassessment. Point of sale was completely eliminated with the adoption of the amendment. H. 3272 now moves to Full Ways & Means for consideration.

For more legislative information, visit