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Rock Hill Economic Development Strategy


In contributing to current efforts in developing an Economic Development Strategy for the City of Rock Hill, I have developed this draft strategy on my own. I hope to share freely these ideas with anyone who is interested. So share and use them how you will. Also, I seek input from anyone who would like to share.



Principle Fact

Rock Hill is a unique and desirable place to work, live, and play.


To articulate, iterate, and create the reality and broadly shared perception of that principle fact.

This Document

This document is a living breathing developing strategy. It is (and always will be) incomplete.


As we explore any strategy, tactic, or project, we should always explore how it impacts:

  • Place
  • Culture
  • Economy
  1. Knowledge Park
  2. Sports
  3. Port of Charlotte

1. Knowledge Park / Old Town

We should focus

Within Knowledge Park/Old Town, we should focus on three things:

  • The Train – past, present, future
  • New Urbanism (place, culture, economy)
  • New Innovation Economy

The Train

With concern to the train, we should focus on three things:

  • History and Arts (Culture)
  • Local & Regional Train System
  • The Internet as a Train Parallel

We should embrace the history of the train in our art, in our schools, in our naming of streets, and in our economy. We should have murals and a vibrant museum. We should also seek train related technology companies through supporting innovation in this sector – a train/transportation institute at Winthrop maybe, related programs at York Technical College maybe, incentives of some kind, and so on.

We should develop a streetcar in Old Town, a local train that connects the hospital, and a regional train system that connects Charleston to Charlotte with a stop in Old Town Rock Hill. We should start by connecting the 485 South Blvd light rail station to a station in the center of Old Town on Dave Lyle (where the original station of our town was).

We should hold the train to be a parallel with the Internet – connectivity and economy. We should keep this metaphor at the center of the story we create about the Internet. We should continue to invest in the Internet.


New Urbanism

With concern to new urban revitalization, we should focus on three things:

  • Cultural Localism
  • Local Entrepreneurism
  • Celebrate Diversity, Address Race

When we romanticize Paris, we don’t see a place full of tourists and the stores that live off their dollars. We instead see Paris before the tipping point, under the fame and success of the city. We see a quaint cafe. We see Picasso or Dali in a public square or pub with energy and culture, but not crowdedness and tourists. This is true about any city. Austin’s draw is the Austin that was, not the Austin that is. It’s the pre-tipping-point Austin. The ground floor of a movement. This is what’s compelling to all those who continue to move there. And they still find it, underneath. Not on the crowded streets of downtown or the drunken chants of youth. They find it in a small club with a legendary guitarist. They don’t find it, usually, at the corporate-named ampitheater that hosts the same show that will be in the next city two nights later. It is the ground floor that is compelling. And that’s Rock Hill – the ground floor of a growing diverse urban creative culture. We need to paint the picture of a ground floor revitalizing downtown – already successful, but still underdiscovered as of yet.

Also, we need to directly address race/ethnicity and minority inclusion and inspiration in the process of developing the center of our community. We need Saluda to be part of Old Town, Knowledge Park even. [To write more about this, I need the help of people more intimately involved in the existing endeavors around these community divisions.]

New Innovation Economy

  • Existing private businesses
  • A government support of sector development and growth
  • A list of champions

We need to embrace what I call the Innovation Horizontal. This is the idea that every sector has an innovation slice that is thriving in the US and can be integrated in the village economy. Look at Springs Creative, for example. If you see a Marvel backpack in Walmart, it came from them. Yes, it may have been cut and sewn in China, but the knowledge work, the creative services work is done here – licensing, design, sales, logistics, operations management, financial management, etc.

We need to invest in institutes – a textiles institute would make the most sense. But other ideas should be explored as well.

We need to invest in platform technologies, like mechanical engineering – making machines that make stuff and letting the market innovate on what to make.


We should invest

  • In physical and virtual connectivity.
  • In arts, events, and cultural vibrancy.
  • In people, skills, and talent.
Invest in physical and virtual connectivity.
  • Placemaking in Old Town (walkable urbanism)
  • Public Transportation and Bike Culture
  • Internet, Internet, Internet

We should continue to invest in making Old Town an amazing place to be, to live, to work, and to play.

We should invest in public transportation as a core initiative of city infrastructure. Moving people is everything. We are overly dependent on the automobile.

We should turn on free WiFi for the entire city – as powerful as we can, free to everyone. We should support Comporium’s efforts to bring 1gig to the entire city.

Invest in arts, events, and cultural vibrancy.
  • Public Art
  • Arts Venues
  • Winthrop

We should invest in public art the way Joe Lanford wanted to. Talk to him. He has a good vision on how to do this.

We should support the new performing arts venue (Comporium’s project). We should also support the private development of venues. I know a great guy who wants to open an arthouse movie theater in the old Pix. We should support that. I know another guy who puts on music shows in the old courtroom, we should support that (and we do).

We should embrace Winthrop’s role as an arts institution and integrate student work into all facets of public investment. Tom Stanley is probably the best person to talk to about this.

Invest in people, skills, and talent.
  • Incentivize training in the Old Town area.
  • Invest in collaborative projects.
  • Inspire minority participation

We need to invest in training programs, as we have done – York Technical College, Winthrop University, Private Sector, and Public/Private Initiatives.

We need to develop a more robust initiative to include and inspire the minority populations around Old Town to participate and succeed in the new economy.

We should address

  • A parking garage for the White Street parking lot in Old Town.
  • Minority participation in the process of Old Town and Knowledge Park.

2. Sports

We should focus

In terms of “alternative” sports, we should focus on three things:

  • Bikes
  • Soccer
  • Variety

And here’s what I think about Winthrop Football.


  • Velodrome
  • BMX
  • Community

[I need the help of someone who is a champion of the biking community.]


  • Manchester
  • Charlotte
  • What’s Next?

[I need the help of someone who is a champion of the soccer community.]


  • Disc Golf, Quidditch
  • ?
  • ?

[I need the help of people who are champions of the respective alternative sports communities.]

We should invest

  • NOT in football, but in futbol and swimming and biking and running and volleyball and other existing programs that fall into “alternative” sports.
  • In alternative sports facilities.
  • In alternative sports events.

Invest in Winthrop being excellent in a variety of “alternative” sports.

  • ?
  • ?
  • ?

I need the help of a champion from the Winthrop sports community.

Invest in high-quality, well-maintained facilities as major community gathering places.

  • Maintain and operate current facilities.
  • Improve and grow current facilities.
  • Add new facilities.

Invest in the constant operation of events large and small.

  • Court high-profile events.
  • Manage and serve mid-range events.
  • Excel in local events.

We should address

  • ?

3. Port of Charlotte

We should focus

In terms of being the port the largest economy anywhere around, we should focus on three things:

  • South Carolina’s access to the largest economy around
  • Recipient of benefits of Charlotte
  • Unique among the Charlotte spokes

SC Access

  • Increased Connectivity and Integration with Charlotte
  • Connect Charleston to Charlotte with High-Speed Passenger Train
  • Tax Reform

We need to lead the charge of SC’s connectivity with Charlotte. This is our role in the state. We are a port to Charlotte like Charleston is a port to the Western world.

We need to think about connectivity in terms of people, not just goods. People are the currency of the new economy. We need the infrastructure to support this – planes, trains, and automobiles, so to speak.

We need to understand our state taxes in context of their interplay with North Carolina.

Charlotte’s Benefits

  • Economy
  • Cultural Events
  • Airport

The economy of Charlotte is significant. Our businesses and professionals should be encouraged to capitalize on that – whether for a job or a client. We need to get rid of this idea that we don’t want people to work in Charlotte and live in York County. The only reason that’s a bad thing is because of the SC tax laws that put us in the red on every citizen with hopes to cover costs with businesses. Otherwise, it’s a great benefit of living in Rock Hill to have access to the job market in Charlotte. We should embrace that as one of our greatest strengths.

We should market and support the cultural events in Charlotte – arts, sports, etc. We should not try to stop people from going to Charlotte to enjoy these things. We should tout them as one of our greatest benefits as a community.

The airport gives us global access.

Unique Spoke

  • CRP
  • Spoke-and-Wheel Community Collaboration
  • Articulating our Uniqueness Among Them

York County is a unique community in the spoke-and-wheel communities around Charlotte. We are the only one in SC. We need to work with the other communities, and we need to articulate our uniqueness.

We should invest

  • In connecting a train from the Port of the Atlantic (Charleston) to the Port of Charlotte (Rock Hill)
  • In certain South Carolina Laws that are part of the problem
  • In Innovation in Textiles being our sector differentiation in the Charlotte spoke-and-wheel

Start the process of developing a high-speed passenger train network from Charleston to Charlotte.

  • Local
  • Regional
  • Global

We need a high-speed passenger train system that connects the entire state of SC. We start with connecting the I-485 South Blvd station for the Charlotte Light Rail to a station in Old Town Rock Hill where the local streetcar connects to it. Then, we connect that to Columbia (allowing Chester and Lancaster and others to tap into it from the sides). Then we connect to Charleston, and bring Greenville in from the west. Then, we bring in Myrtle Beach from the east.

Rally law makers to make significant changes to problematic state laws.

  • Tax reform
  • Contracting
  • Transportation Revolution

As long as we are losing money on every residential home, we are destined to fail. It’s like running my business, if I am losing money on every client, there’s only so long I can even have a business.

The politics stopping a repeal of Act 388 demonstrates the dysfunction of government. My challenge to our state government is to focus and achieve something greatWe need tax reform in South Carolina. If the government can’t get it done, we need to find another way.

The W2/1099 laws in SC are outdated and should be changed.

We need to rethink transportation. We have a $1 billion short fall for transportation needs that we will never catch up on. We need to be thinking radically differently – solar roads, trains, and more.


Develop the world’s leading innovation community in the textiles sector.

  • Support the development of a creative textiles district in the textile corridor
  • Support the development of a textiles institute
  • Design and produce a conference on textiles in the new world

We should address

  • SC Tax Reform

How do we proceed?

  1. Convene local, regional, national, and global leaders regularly.
  2. Inspire and manage constant flow of public input.
  3. Invest in projects that affect change.