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The News from Greenville, SC: Some Sprawl...


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All articles are from the Greenville News (11/18/03)


By Rudolph Bell


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The early projection that Clemson University's automotive research park in Greenville could generate as many as 20,000 jobs remains an optimistic guess, but experts say the development's potential is enormous.

If the International Center for Automotive Research reaches the national average for employment at university research parks, and does nothing more, it will be home to nearly 3,500 jobs, according to a trade association's survey.

Clemson disclosed its initial corporate partners in the project during a groundbreaking ceremony last week.

The biggest announcement came from BMW Group, which said it will put a research center focused on information technology in the park, right next to Clemson's planned new graduate school of automotive engineering.

BMW didn't say how many employees it would house in the four-story, 80,000-square-foot research center during comments from the podium or in a press release announcing the project.

But during an interview, Bennie Vorster, the executive who will oversee the center, said BMW may eventually house up to 300 employees there. It will likely start with 40 to 50 employees, including some already working at its Greer plant, said Vorster, an information technologies vice president.

Executives with International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp. said their companies would join BMW in conducting research at the park, but they stopped short of making significant commitments of personnel.

"Over time, we're very interested in enhancing our own presence in the area, and it could be possible that a major commitment from IBM could be evaluated," said Todd M. Kirtley, general manager for the industrial sector of IBM Global Services. "But we're going to wait and see."

Greenville-based Michelin North America Inc. said it would also join in the effort, but hasn't yet defined its role.

Chris Przirembel, Clemson's vice president for research, predicted more company announcements in the days ahead.

"We've been in serious negotiations with a good number of global corporations," Przirembel said. "I envision over the next months and years we will periodically announce a new corporate partner that will join us on campus."

Clemson's long-term plans for the park include a full-scale wind tunnel that it would make available to motorsports teams as well as laboratories focusing on automotive electronics systems, safety/crash-worthiness, fuel economy and alternative fuels.

The new graduate school should have about 25 employees when it opens in the fall of 2005, said Tom Keinath, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson.

Over time, the campus work force should include not just highly paid engineers and scientists but also many technicians, secretaries and maintenance workers, he said.

"I think a lot of people are going to want to work at this place just because of the excitement of what they're doing," Keinath said.

He said that work at the Greenville campus will focus on systems integration, which integrates the mechanical and electrical systems of automobiles and is emerging as one of the biggest needs in the automotive industry.

Przirembel said that said that systems integration is especially important as the electrical and computer systems of cars become more complicated and all them to do more for their drivers.

Tom Barton, president of Greenville Technical College, said that "with research going on, with theoretical engineers at the top, you're going to have to have a tremendous number of support personnel."

Clemson president Jim Barker said that his school will collaborate with Greenville Tech to prepare the technical staff that will be needed as the campus develops. Barton said that according to general guidelines, every research engineer needs four to five technicians for support.

"That's pretty common across the country. And right now there's a huge shortage of technicians in this country

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By John Boyanoski


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Nicholtown residents point with pride to Beck Academy, Phillis Wheatley Center and numerous churches as symbols of their neighborhood.

What many don't like is the old-red brick Jesse Jackson Townhomes that sprawl across 50 acres, taking up about one-sixth of the neighborhood, located in center of Greenville.

"It's a real good community, but they need to do something with the buildings," said Jackie Scott, 29, who has lived in the public-housing unit since May.

"I've had a gas leak. I have had no air. When you get out of the shower in the summertime it feels like the Devil is patting you on the back. You can't remodel them. There straight brick."

The plan is to tear down the 348-unit complex, and build a mix of 350 apartments, town houses and single family units, said Dale Johnson, of the Greenville Housing Authority. The rebuilding would not start until 2005 and finish around 2009.

It was part of a plan unveiled Monday at the Phillis Wheatley to add over the next 15 years almost 700 new or improved housing units throughout Nicholtown, as well as sidewalks. They also want to add walking trails, and more greenery along the Reedy River, which runs through the community.

Community members helped design the plan through a series of workshops last week.

"It looks and sounds like a good plan to me," said Sylvia Palmer, who smiled approvingly through most of the presentation. "Everybody wants this to happen."

A final plan will be submitted to City Council in the future, and then funding the project will be discussed, said Ginny Stroud, community development administrator.

Some at Monday's meeting wanted more details on times, but officials couldn't give exact dates because the plan is tied to federal funding, whether or not Beck Academy will be moved and getting private money involved.

Scott, though, wants it done as soon as possible.

If given the opportunity to get a voucher to move to better public-assisted housing, Scott said she would take it. She doesn't like the complex, but said there are worse places.

"It's a roof over my head," she said. "I could be homeless."

She was hanging out on her friend Kimberly Murray's porch on an unusually warm November night Monday.

Neither are working because they said they can't find a job. Transportation is tough to find. Both are planning on trying to take classes to increase skills.

"People think we don't want to work, but that is not it," said Murray, 28. "There's isn't transportation. If we had it, we could get to work."

Murray, too, wants out. Her four kids don't like it. She wants something with a yard. She hopes living at Jesse Jackson will be temporary.

"It's all right to a certain extent to get you on your feet," she said. "It's a place to start."

Staff writer John Boyanoski covers the city of Greenville. He can be reached at 298-4065.


*hauntedheadnc sez, "Quite a breath of fresh air in that stinky public bathroom I alluded to earlier. I have to admit that the City of Greenville seems to have its ducks in a row regarding growth, but the County hasn't and likely never will. It's a shame to watch a nice City suffocating in the County's uncontrolled sprawl. Heck, if you visit the City's website, they even espouse a smart growth philosophy in recognition of the fact that they're never going to get another inch of ground from the County under South Carolina's idiotic annexation laws. Using smart growth to attract and retain residents is the only way the City of Greenville can maintain the tax base. Sadly though, in competition with the County of Greenville there is no competition. The sprawl of Greenville County will win out over any smart growth in the city every time. At least Greenville city's trying though. Have to give them that."*

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