A lot of communities are trying to attract business. In Powdersville, a lot of businesses are trying to build community.
The Powdersville Business Council is planning Rhythm on the River at Dolly Cooper Park on May 2 and the plan got a boost with one of two $5,000 grants from the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate program at a recent Ten at the Top anniversary celebration.
Hughes Investments has provided more than $90,000 in funds to nearly 30 area communities to help provide the initial funding support for community-based programs that promote community and economic vibrancy.
Geography and an I-85 interchange have brought economic vibrancy to Powdersville already, said Gordon Brush, a member of the Powdersville Business Council, but what the unincorporated community is lacking is an identity of its own.
“People like living here. More and more people are moving in,” he said. But many of them drive out of the community to work and then after work go home and stay there. It’s not quite Greenville, not quite Anderson, not quite Easley. As the community has grown, with more than 2,000 new homes and businesses in the last 10 years, a number of efforts have been made to create a Powdersville identity.
The Powdersville Business Council, which operates under the umbrella of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce, is “about the only civic organization that has been able to survive but it’s going pretty good now,” Brush said. “We’ve been trying to create a sense of place in Powdersville.”
The council has been active since 2007 and has been successful organizing a semiannual trash pickup and an annual golf tournament at Southern Oaks. They raised money to install a more elaborate “Welcome to Powdersville” sign.
The goal now is to get the growing collection of neighbors to get to know one another.
“Our idea was to do something with the Dolly Cooper Park,” Brush said. “We’ve been wanting to highlight that asset of Anderson County. It is right down on the river. It’s a property that most counties would kill to have. It could be a really beautiful park and they’re making some progress but we wanted to highlight that in this annual event.”
The Powdersville League of Athletic Youth has developed a ballfield and parking area in the park. Brush and other members of the council think it’s a good place for the rest of the community to convene. Community reaction so far indicates a lot of support, he said.
“I think we’re making good progress,” he said. “We’re excited about the traction we’re getting. We’re very appreciative for Elevate Upstate for the grant that went a long way toward helping us fund this event. We want it to be really a fun time where everybody in Powdersville gets together — businesses and families — and realize what they have. I think the Powdersville Business Council efforts are helping that because we see more things that are Powdersville-centric and this Rhythm on the River is part of that. Our goal is to make this a place that is cohesive.”
The other $5,000 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate grant went to Main Street Laurens, which is planning the Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival. The festival is planned for May 9 in Laurens, where organizers hope to establish an ongoing effort to honor its pioneering place in the history of the genre.
Three finalists were awarded $1,000 each: A Common Thread: Textiles Past and Present (Arts Center of Greenwood); Trains on Main (Main Street Clinton), and Peg Leg Bates Dance Showcase (city of Fountain Inn).
Hughes Investments contributes at least $10,000 per year to the program with two recipients each year receiving $5,000 to support a new vibrancy initiative in the Upstate. The program began in 2013 in conjunction with a series of Community Vibrancy Workshops hosted by Ten at the Top. Since the inception of the grants program, Hughes Investments has contributed a total of $93,000 to 29 community vibrancy initiatives across the Upstate.
“The Elevate Upstate grants are for those wishing to bring new life to their communities — a spark, a fresh idea, a new tradition — something that will excite the public and bring people together from all walks of life in a new way,” Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investments Inc., said in a news release.