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Greenville Area Development Corp. CEO to step down

Krys Merryman //August 30, 2023//

Greenville Area Development Corp. CEO to step down

Krys Merryman //August 30, 2023//

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After a 38-year economic development career producing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investment, Greenville Area Development Corp. President and CEO Mark Farris today announced his retirement from the organization, effective Oct. 1.

Under the leadership of Mark Farris, the GADC posted impressive numbers in business recruitment and led efforts to create the infrastructure to attract more. (Photo/Provided)Farris has led the GADC’s record-setting economic development initiatives since fall of 2014.

The GADC Board announced that it will conduct a national search for Farris’ successor, according to a GADC news release.

Senior Vice President Kevin Landmesser, GADC’s second-ranked executive who joined the organization in July 2001, will serve as interim president and CEO until a successor is officially named, the release said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Greenville County during the last nine years and will enter retirement knowing that we added value to this community during that time,” said Farris. “Early in my life and by example, my parents taught me that leadership is not about issuing directions but rather working diligently in service to others. And I am looking forward to finally having the time to do more backpacking and hiking.”

Under Farris’ direction, the GADC has announced more than 17,959 new jobs and $3.9 billion in capital investment in Greenville County for more than 220 projects managed. An economic impact study conducted in 2022 by USC’s Moore School of Business showed that GADC’s economic impact on Greenville County now exceeds $6 billion annually, with a cumulative impact since 2001 of more than $55 billion, the release said. GADC has also announced more than 35,000 jobs and $6.7 billion in new capital investment.

The GADC was created by Greenville County Council in 2001 and tasked with promoting and enhancing quality of life in the county by facilitating job growth and investment for the benefit of Greenville County and its citizens.

Under Farris’ leadership, GADC adopted its first-ever Economic Development Strategic Plan in 2022, establishing clear and measurable metrics in the arenas of business attraction and retention, expansion of tools and sites for development, and organizational outreach and capacity. The plan also identifies five key industries of focus for Greenville’s development into the future, the release said.

Among numerous economic development accomplishments during Farris’ nine-plus years of leadership have been more than 220 announcements across Greenville County, including notable wins such as Bosch Rexroth, Michelin, Lockheed Martin, Lima One Capital, GE, Kiyatec, ScanSource, Pierburg, AVX, Verizon and more.

In addition, Farris had a leadership role in critical initiatives such as establishing Greenville’s first new industrial park in 20 years — Fox Hill Business Park, now home to multiple companies. GADC also prioritized current company support by establishing the organization’s first existing industry program, branded as Industry Engage, and has worked to encourage new developers to invest in the county, resulting in more than 20 new speculative buildings, the release said.

Farris led the GADC through the turbulent times associated with the COVID pandemic, partnering with the Greenville Chamber, Greenville County and its municipalities to establish the first set of response guidelines called the Greater Greenville Pledge — providing safety protocols for business and industry struggling to cope with one of the most challenging periods in history.

“Throughout his tenure as president and CEO, Mark Farris has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure positive economic growth,” GADC Board Chair Jim Burns said in the release. “Under Mark’s leadership, thousands of jobs were created, and billions of dollars invested right here in Greenville County. Mark has also done an exceptional job of building a team that is one of the most respected economic development organizations in all of America.”

The GADC has gained record numbers of private sector supporters, counting more than 125 investor organizations whose annual investments support GADC marketing efforts to create better jobs and future for the community, Burns added.

Farris is a former president of the South Carolina Economic Developers Association and past director of the Southern Economic Development Council. He has been honored with Area Development's Thesis Award for "The I-85 Corridor of Economic Development in South Carolina" and named to Greenville’s 50 Most Influential People and Business Hall of Fame, the release said.

“Greenville County is enormously grateful to Mark not only for his years of tremendous contribution to this community, but also for his development and cultivation of a strong and talented team that will ensure Greenville County remains on the right course,” Dan Tripp, Greenville County Council chairman and a GADC board member, said in the release. “Mark is leaving our community in a better place than when he arrived here and has prepared us well to enter a new and exciting era for Greenville. We could not be more appreciative of his contributions.”