Upstate SC and Belgium’s Agoria: Driven to Grow

The Upstate SC Alliance wanted

to encourage new international investors.



Belgium’s Transport and Mobility Group wanted

to bring value to its members.




SC Connect brought the two together.


As 2016 drew to a close, the Upstate SC Alliance was reflecting on its growth, and considering how to build upon it in 2017.

For the past decade, the economic development group representing 10 counties and about 1.5 million people had averaged more than $1 billion in new foreign direct investment each year. Home to BMW’s largest manufacturing facility and the North American headquarters of Michelin, the Alliance and its leaders sought to attract new international companies.

Jacob Hickman, Business Development Manager, Upstate SC Alliance

“The idea was to focus on certain geographies where we haven’t spent a lot of time and energy in the past. We really wanted to invest in new markets and build new strong long-term relationships,” said Jacob Hickman, the Alliance’s director of business development.

For help, the Upstate SC Alliance turned to SC Connect.

“SC Connect is able to align the Upstate SC Alliance with potential new investment opportunities, through direct interaction with companies and industry associations,” Hickman said. “They truly understand the dynamics of the Belgium market and where the best synergies reside.”

In preparation for a summer trip by Alliance representatives, SC Connect focused on matching growing Belgian companies with the Upstate’s target sectors – advanced materials, aerospace, automotive, bioscience and energy.

At about the same time, AGORIA – Belgium’s largest employer and trade association – had created a new focus group on transport and mobility. Determined to be more than a network, the new group developed a strong mission-focused vision to increase business, particularly in the United States.

SC Connect met with the group’s leader, who was cautious at first. But over time, the group warmed to the idea and hosted a meeting between members of the group and the Upstate Alliance during the Belgian visit in June.

Building A Business Partnership

Gathering at the transport group’s modern offices in downtown Brussels, Hickman and Upstate representatives outlined the scope and depth of South Carolina’s automotive industry, and the opportunities for Belgian ingenuity.

Both groups left feeling that partnerships were possible.

Through the summer of 2017, the Upstate SC Alliance, AGORIA’s Transport and Mobility Club and SC Connect worked to connect the Belgian group to the South Carolina automotive sector.

As a result, Belgian industry representatives will travel to the SC Automotive Council’s annual conference in 2018 and present to state  leaders on agile manufacturing, one of the group’s specialties.

“The success of that trip was first, getting a good understanding of the genetic makeup of Belgium,” says Hickman. “And, second, we’re going to have a delegation from the Belgian mobility sector coming in February, so Belgian companies will be interacting with South Carolina companies.”

“You’re not always going to get projects out of trips like that,” he said. “But now that there are boots on the ground in the form of SC Connect, there’s a connectivity that hasn’t been there before.”