In a Nutshell: Our financial futures are often tied to the communities in which we live and work. That’s why it’s so important to live in areas that are trending upward. A good example is Mauldin, South Carolina, which is experiencing marked growth. The city’s power and communication infrastructure has made it especially attractive to manufacturers and corporate call centers. To keep up with expansion, Mauldin is adding more residential housing and a new downtown area to the city; these, alongside community features, like arts and sports centers, offer a rich cultural experience for residents. With a high quality of life and dedicated government support at the local, county, and state levels, Mauldin is in a strong position for continued growth.
One day, Van Broad, Community Development Director of Mauldin, South Carolina, received a call from the city fire chief.
But the call wasn’t about a fire; instead, it was concerning the city’s burning need for housing. The chief had met a Charlotte resident who wanted to sell 45 acres of land in Mauldin, and Broad proceeded to facilitate a deal to sell the land and develop it into residential housing.
The city’s demand stems from a marked increase in industrial and service jobs. Over the last decade, Mauldin has enjoyed sustained prosperity.
According to Best Places to Live, Mauldin saw an unemployment rate of 4.90% in 2016, which was below the national average of 5.20% at the time. Median household income was also high, sitting at $56,619, nearly $3,000 above the national average. It also experienced above-average job growth — 2.82% versus the 1.59% national average. Over the next 10 years, future job growth is projected at 40.75%, which is almost 3% higher than the expected national average for job availability.
Mauldin’s success stems from solid infrastructure, community-oriented development projects, and civic officials dedicated to residents’ quality of life. Because of the strong economic growth and employment potential created by these factors, we’re recognizing Mauldin as one of the Best Cities to Jump-Start Your Career.
Recently, Mauldin has experienced an influx of manufacturing and communications jobs, and more are still to come. The city is building two new town centers, which will bring construction jobs, and, once completed, a variety of service-oriented jobs. Broad’s message about his city is simple: “Mauldin is ready for business and open for business.”
Infrastructure for Industry and Communications
Part of Mauldin’s allure is its infrastructure. According to Broad, power availability and redundancy make it attractive to manufacturers, and the availability of high-speed internet makes it prime real estate for communications-based services.
Recent manufacturing growth includes Turbine Technologies, Inc., which is a veteran-owned and operated company that moved from Boston to South Carolina. A GE supplier, Turbine Technologies invested $20 million in its Mauldin operations.
Another is MP Husky, which designs and manufactures cable tray systems, wire mesh and basket cable tray systems, and cable bus power distribution systems for industrial and communications cables. Its new 150,000-square-foot facility, set to open in 2018, adds 50 additional employees to a 100-strong existing workforce. Once the new operation is up and running, the company plans to build an additional 175,000-square-foot facility, which will create another 150 new jobs.
The corporate office of Charter Spectrum (a cable, phone, and internet service provider) also makes Mauldin its home. Broad says the abundance of internet access and bandwidth has created a niche market for call centers in Mauldin.
“We’ve gotten six or seven call centers located here within the last five years-plus,” Broad said. Esurance’s call center alone created 450 jobs. Verizon recently invested $3.5 million in its Mauldin call center, adding another 270 jobs. Samsung also operates a call center in the city.
Other notable job creators in Mauldin include BB&T, which opened a 140,000-square-foot mortgage servicing center in 2017. While this realigned pre-existing jobs from around the county, the company plans to add more new jobs there, as well. Another new business arrival is Morley, which located an event planning center in Mauldin. It invested $1.7 million in an existing building and brought 270 additional jobs to the city.
“When you add all of that up, we’ve grown jobwise 2,000-plus in the last couple years. And we expect another 2,000-plus jobs in the area in the next few years, too,” Broad said. “That trend line is going up in Mauldin.”
The flip side of job growth and a high employment rate is a shortage of people to fill emerging labor vacancies. In anticipation of rising population, Mauldin is developing living and leisure spaces to help attract new workers.
“The biggest lagging for us is residential housing,” Broad said. “We’ve got about four projects we’re working on right now within a 2-mile radius of downtown. There are about 1,500 to 2,000 new units coming online within the next year and a half to two years.”
To accommodate rising population and expectations for quality of life, Mauldin is working to improve commercial activity in the city.
“Mauldin’s a very undersold market,” Broad said. “It’s hard to think the population that’s the 17th largest in our state can be an underserved city and an underserved market. But we leak $30 million in retail out of our market a year because everything is growing around us, peripherally, and Mauldin’s just kind of sat still.”
But two major town center projects are about to change that.
“Both of them are well over $50 million to $80 million projects that will include hotels, retail, office complexes, residential facilities, and restaurants,” Broad said. All of these new additions will further expand Mauldin’s job market. “Obviously, you grow industry, you grow residential, and retail follows all of that.”
Beyond attracting jobs and building the local economy, the city of Mauldin ensures a high quality of life for citizens outside working hours.
“Mauldin’s been underutilized. It’s got some great tools and resources that it’s not utilized to its best advantage,” Broad said. “We’ve kind of shaken the dust off those.”
One such resource is the city-funded cultural center. “We’ve added an art school to that,” Broad said. “We’ve added programming inside, in our auditorium theater.” This programming has included children’s theater, comedy shows, and a beach music series and a farmer’s market in the outdoor amphitheatre.
In addition to the cultural arts center, Mauldin also operates a high-quality sports center. “It’s a great facility, and a lot of people take advantage of that,” Broad said. “We offer corporate discounts to local companies, as well — for them and their employees.” The center features free weights, weight machines, bicycles, treadmills, a track, and activities like Zumba, yoga, and kickboxing classes.
“Those kind of quality-of-life things — they’re good for a city,” Broad said. “They create a sense of identity, a sense of place, and they help people have a spirit of pride in their community.”
Government Commitment to Excellence
Broad thinks just as highly of Mauldin as he does of his team within the local government — and that team is a driving force in Mauldin’s continued prosperity. Local government has spurred growth through a streamlined, responsive permitting process.
“We wanted to make sure we had a 10-day review period,” Broad said. “I think we’re up to 12 right now, because we’re so busy.”
He added that the business services department is expanding to keep up with plan and code review. The city’s commitment to new business is evident. “If you need an inspection at 9 o’clock at night, we’ll send a code inspector out there,” Broad said. “We’ll make sure we get these businesses inspected as they’re building and developing.”
Thanks to this accommodating attitude (among other factors), Mauldin has seen growth. “But I wouldn’t say it’s the kind of growth that would create a town center or an urban district or anything like that. And that’s been the missing element for Mauldin,” Broad said. “That’s kind of been my mission, to help the city figure out how to move the city center project forward, plus a few other projects that it’s had languishing on the table.”
Broad was born in Greenville and lived most of his life in Charleston. Before getting involved in community development, he spent 20 years as a music and youth minister. He and his wife moved to Fountain Inn, 10 miles south of Mauldin, 21 years ago, when Broad took a job at a church there. Eleven years later, Broad decided it was time to spend more time with his children — and for a career change.
At the time, the Greenville area was already developing. Then, Fountain Inn put out a call for a new manager of economic development. Broad earned the position thanks to his marketing experience through the church and his familiarity with the community.
“I felt like I knew what the city needed, and I felt like I had the skill set to bring to the position,” he said. Broad built on his existing skills and knowledge base with a state-offered economic development course, which he said was crucial to his success.
“When I inherited that job, we were 60% vacant downtown. When I left, we were 95% occupied,” he said. “We tripled hospitality growth in the city and have a full-blown art center down there.”
In late 2015, Broad went to Mauldin with the goal of helping the city achieve similar results. According to Broad, the local government was already poised for success. “Our city administrator has this city in great financial health,” he said. “We’re a Moody’s and Standard and Poor AA-Plus rating. We’ve got one of the highest ratings in the county.”
Broad said the low burden of debt ratio and the city’s supportive attitude makes his job much easier. “When your boss gives you that blank slate to work with, that gives you the ability to move out and do things,” he said. “Then, when the council votes in the affirmative, 7-0, to move forward on projects that you think are important to the health and life of the city, that’s hugely important.”
Although Broad’s experience and community interest have played a crucial role in Mauldin’s growth, he refuses to take all the credit. “Development is a team sport. It takes everybody working together to make it successful,” he said. “And I think that’s the most important thing. This city has been working hard and working together to make things happen.”
Greenville County and the state of South Carolina have also contributed to Mauldin’s success. “I think our state has done some great things to make us open for development,” Broad said. “We would not be anywhere without the South Carolina Department of Commerce. They’re the front line of industrial development and recruitment in our state.”
Mauldin has worked closely to align itself with the department’s recruiting efforts. “If we get somebody, nine times out of 10, it’s because of them. They’ve done so much homework on the front end — calling, visiting, recruiting, showing people sites. That makes a huge difference.”
Broad also praised Mauldin’s partnership with Greenville County, particularly the industrial recruitment arm called Greenville Area Development Corporation. “I think the work it does has created the opportunities we have in Mauldin,” Broad said.
At the local, county, and state levels, government has played a crucial role in Mauldin’s growth and development. “The political winds of the city are all catching the same sail,” Broad said, “and moving in the same direction.”
An Idyllic Setting for Prosperity
While the opportunity to find quality jobs is crucial, it’s also important to consider quality of life before making a geographical move. Luckily, Mauldin has this aspect covered, as well.
“Mauldin’s a great place to live,” Broad said. “The people are, by and large, genuine and make everybody feel welcome. I guess that’s part of the Southern charm of the State of South Carolina.”
Additionally, Mauldin’s crime rates are low; the city reports it ranks among the top 20 safest cities in South Carolina, according to SafeWise and the National Council for Home Safety and Security.
Broad recounted a recent meeting with the director of Charter Spectrum. He told Broad that he and his wife fell in love with Mauldin when they moved there. He went on to say that, if he ever left Charter Spectrum, he would look for another job in Mauldin, so they wouldn’t have to leave the area.
Broad certainly agrees with the sentiment. “Mauldin and the Greenville region is just a beautiful area,” Broad said. “Companies see quality of life here.”
That attraction, coupled with the positive social and economic environment, keeps Mauldin poised to enjoy sustained growth and prosperity for years to come, which is certainly attractive to anyone looking to start over somewhere new.