What is the “Upstate”?
Many of us living in Beacon Shores are not native South Carolinians. And before we “found” the upstate we thought South Carolina was all about the coast – Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head. But, now we know better.
South Carolina is generally divided into 3 geographic sections: Coastal, Midlands and Upstate (or the more historically used “Upcountry”). The Upstate is generally considered the 10 counties in the far northwest corner of our triangular state. It is tucked in a corner of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains; just south of North Carolina and east of Georgia. About 3-4 hours up I-26 from the coast and about half way between Atlanta and Charlotte along I-85.
The region's population was 1,438,550 as of 2013 and it is the fastest-growing region of South Carolina. Greenville is the largest city in the region with an urban population of 400,492, and is the base of most commercial activity.
The Upstate has a rich history. It is the ancestral home of the Cherokee Indians and a key area in the Revolutionary War. Its remote location and rugged topography provided early settlers with amazing beauty and bountiful hunting, but farming was difficult and industry was very limited. The lack of large tracts of tillable land contributed to a very low rate of slavery in the area, but the hardscrabble way of life also contributed to a very independent nature (e.g., the Upstate had one of the highest volunteer rates during the “War of Northern Aggression”).
After the Civil War, life continued to be very difficult for most in the area. Things began to change in the late 1800’s when the textile industry arrived. The industry continued to grow until the 1970’s at which time Greenville referred to itself as the Textile Center of the World. But, foreign suppliers began to take more and more of the textile business and by the late 80’s the size and impact of the industry was significantly reduced. Greenville and other Upstate textile towns suffered greatly.
The area economy began to change dramatically in the late 1960’s. At that time Duke Energy built Lakes Jocassee and Keowee to provide cooling for the Oconee Nuclear Station. The Lakes and power plant provided a new stimulus to the area with new employment, increased tourism and major home construction activity.
Then in the 1970’s-90’ economic development accelerated. Two of the most important developments involved Michelin and BMW. In the 70’s Michelin opened several plants in the upstate and in the late 80’s moved their North American Headquarters to the area. Then in 1993 BMW located their North American headquarters in the Upstate and subsequently expanded to include all worldwide production for BMW SUV type vehicles. These two major manufacturing and administrative operations provided a solid economic base for the area. Greenville began a massive revitalization of its very dilapidated downtown area and many other smaller communities followed suit. The Upstate is now a thriving and vibrant part of the Southeast.
What makes The Upstate so great?
For many of us it comes down to beauty, activities, location and cost.
The foothills area is amazingly beautiful. The Blue Ridge Mountains, the fall foliage, the lakes, etc. make this area spectacular. In 201, National Geographic named the 40,000 acre Jocassee Gorges area as one of "50 of the World’s Last Great Places".
The number of available activities is amazing. If you like the outdoors, there is hiking (over 50 waterfall hikes in Oconee County alone), sailing, kayaking, biking (Greenville is the home to a number of professional bike riders), boating, water skiing, rafting, softball, golf, and much more. If you want culture we have everything from traveling Broadway shows at the beautiful Peace Center in Greenville to small local theater groups to Museums to art galleries to local craft shops to … And if you like big time sports: Just go to one Clemson home football game and you will be hooked for life. Or enjoy professional hockey and baseball in Greenville.
If you like to eat you are in the right place. From the local “meat and 3s” to the outstanding upscale restaurants sprinkled across the area (downtown Greenville has dozens of great restaurants).
The Upstate has all the benefits of a remote and quiet place, but it is also only a short drive to just about anything you might want. Beautiful Asheville, NC (with the Biltmore Estate and lots more) is less than 2 hours; Atlanta is 2 hours; Charlotte (major league sports, NASCAR racing, etc.) is 2 ½, Charleston is 4 hours and Hilton Head just a little more. If you need an airport, Greenville and Ashville both provide excellent service and from Atlanta and Charlotte are gateways to everywhere.
And to top it all off, the cost of living in the Upstate is very, very reasonable. Low taxes, some of the lowest gas prices in the country and other factors make living in the Upstate very affordable.