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Manufacturing Adds to Greenville’s Appeal

See how the manufacturing sector adds to the vibrancy of Greenville’s economy and culture

By Bill Lewis on June 4, 2018

Greenville, SC
Greenville / Courtesy of NEXT Manufacturing LLC

Janet Foster Whitley and Will Whitley were looking for a great city where they would find not only professional success but also a welcoming home where they could raise a family and be involved in the life of their community.

They found everything they were looking for in Greenville, where they are executives for Michelin. The international tire company is one of the region’s major employers and has been a key part of the manufacturing sector since the 1970s.

“We built our first home in Greenville in 2007 where we still live today. We enjoy being part of a great community with close proximity to the ICAR (International Center for Automotive Research) campus and the ever-expanding area of the Woodruff Road/85/385 corridor,†the Whitleys say.

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Janet Foster Whitley is Michelin’s director of sales operations for North America. Will Whitley is director of events/chief of staff for communications and brands.

Working for Michelin has provided many different opportunities to work directly and indirectly with their international colleagues.

“At various times throughout our careers, we have both traveled and worked with colleagues in Mexico, Canada and France. As a result, we have developed professional relationships and gained a better understanding of how Michelin operates on a global scale,†they say.

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Their careers provide an opportunity to give back to the community.

“We are both passionate, longstanding members of the Greenville County United Way Palmetto Society. We also stay very busy participating in different volunteer activities with the Greenville County School system. As a YMCA board member, Will coaches multiple sports programs there,†they say.

Synergy Mill

This coworking maker space inside Greenville’s NEXT Manufacturing building is the shop everyone wants at home, complete with CNC machines, a laser cutter and equipment for wood and metal working, welding, sewing, soldering, electronics and programming.

But Synergy Mill is much more, says cofounder Doug Cone.

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“Nothing at Synergy Mill is so special that you couldn’t get one for yourself, but the people that work here, sharing their expertise and helping with the various questions and challenges of making, are something that’s nearly impossible to get in your shop at home. It’s the key feature of this space and what keeps our members coming back for more,†he says.

At least 700 to 1,000 individuals have participated in activities at Synergy Mill and are adding to the excitement of Greenville’s manufacturing sector.

Several businesses have gotten their start via Synergy Mill, and others are still growing and deciding what’s next. Businesses launching at Synergy Mill include Digitize Designs, Tao Life Sciences, Pins Fast, Maker Pipe and Drone Racing Supply

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“We foster creativity and creation. Our space has directly or indirectly created nearly a dozen jobs, but more importantly, we’re helping small businesses get started, with lots of assistance, and easy access to space and resources that are very capital intensive. Making is critical to the economy, and enabling as many people as possible to do it makes Greenville more competitive and interesting,†says Cone.

Lockheed Martin

Elliott Clemence, Navy call sign “Hemo,†says he has the best job in the world as a test pilot for the F-35 fighter jet program. He’s also the test pilot for the T-50A, the company’s offering for the U.S. Air Force’s competition for a new training aircraft.

Clemence has been busy testing the T-50A in the skies above Greenville, where Lockheed Martin plans to build the aircraft at its final assembly and checkout facility if it wins the contract.

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Lockheed Martin has major operations in Greenville County. The company provides modification, maintenance, repair and overhaul services for both military and civil aircraft from its 16-hangar facility at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center.

Recent projects include providing support for the C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane and the Black Hawk helicopter, preparing for production of the F-16 fighter jet and testing the T-50A.

“The T-50A is an extraordinary aircraft to fly in that it’s docile enough to teach new pilots basic airmanship skills and also capable of training them in the advanced tactical environment. When you blend that aircraft capability with our ground based training system, it takes training to an entirely new level.†says Clemence.

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