Spartanburg, SC

The city of Spartanburg, the seat of Spartanburg County, is situated in northwest South Carolina.

The textile industry dominated the local economic and social landscape until the mid-20th century. In 1994, BMW opened its largest manufacturing facility just outside the city. Other businesses and industries followed, and the race was on to train thousands of workers for the new economy – a challenge that persists to this day.

Five local institutions of higher learning both prepare a highly skilled workforce and share a commitment to the well-being of the community. A robust non-profit sector, which enjoys the strong support of the private sector, is relentlessly innovating approaches to making the choice to thrive easy. 

According to the National Association of REALTORs, as of late 2021 metro Spartanburg was the area with the most opportunity for homebuilders in the US. New businesses, new housing, new schools, and some of the same old problems – poverty, racial inequities, diseases of despair – create the backdrop against which this small southern city rushes into the next decades of the 21st century.

Spartanburg SC Map

Works in Progress​

Long-term Shared Goals

Wellville advisor Jeff Doemland supports the work in Spartanburg. Among many other things he does, he works with Live Healthy Spartanburg, the local health collaborative formed in 2021 as the merger of two local health improvement initiatives, the Road to Better Health and the Way to Wellville.

Live Healthy Spartanburg has four focus areas, with a committee assigned to each:

  • Complete a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP): The State Department of Heath and Environmental Control (DHEC) has committed in-kind services for the completion of the community health improvement plan (CHIP). Working with Live Healthy Spartanburg, DHEC will involve its epidemiologists to pinpoint the data revealing health and well-being gaps in the community. It will also lend its knowledge and expertise in crafting an actionable CHIP that will point Spartanburg to addressing these gaps.
  • Improve access to care: In many poor communities – like historically marginalized neighborhoods in Spartanburg – accessing the care needed to treat people when they’re sick and the care needed to prevent them from getting sick is a multi-faceted challenge. Meeting that challenge takes more than the health care system.
  • Improve community engagement and capacity building: Building equity among those who lack it means changing the norms informing whose voice matters as well as how we listen to those whose voices have historically been absent from public discourse. For decades the city has tried – and only succeeded in small measure – to involve all citizens in the process of forming a civic whole. Something most want but few know how to make happen.
  • Policy change: What policies changes are needed to support the kind of improvements laid out in the CHIP? And what institutions and organizations stand to benefit by doing so?
Man with microphone in hands speaking
Spartanburg Assistant City Manager Mitch Kennedy at the 2019 Wellville Gathering
Chris Story, tk and Kathy Dunleavy meet at the Mary Black Foundation
Chris Story, tk and Kathy Dunleavy meet at the Mary Black Foundation

Current Initiatives

In addition to the long-term shared goals above, Wellville continues to support a number of organizations focused on making Spartanburg a place where all can thrive:

  • The City of Spartanburg
  • Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
  • Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Speaking Down Barriers
  • The Bethlehem Center
  • The Spartanburg Academic Movement
  • The United Way of the Upstate

Here are some examples:

Live Healthy Spartanburg will conduct public presentations of local health data, complete its CHIP, and round out the committees charged with improving community health and well-being.

Racial equity: In the aftermath of the tumult of the summer of 2020, a heightened awareness of race-based inequities has begun to inform public attitudes and civic action. The City Council adopted a Healing, Reconciling, and Unity resolution, with language apologizing for the city’s racist past. Several council members worked on the resolution with a newly formed citizen watchdog and action group –  the Spartanburg Initiative for Racial Equity Now (SIREN). SIREN has also acted to curb gentrification in an historically Black neighborhood and improve voter registration and participation in local elections. In 2022, SIREN and other, allied organizations will continue seeking ways to ensure that those too long ignored are able to participate fully in Spartanburg’s recent and rapid growth.

Early childhood development: After almost seven years of planning and development, all families with newborns in Spartanburg will have access to a continuum of free services that ensure their children show up at the schoolhouse door ready and able to learn. The program, called Hello Family, was conceived in 2014 as part of the Way to Wellville. It will begin serving families and children in January 2022.

Four of the seven programs are being financed through a pay-for-success model. Pay-for-success financing supports the expansion of programs with a track record of helping children thrive, which means the benefits of these programs will now be experienced by every child in Spartanburg, and, over the long-term, by the entire community.

Our Stories

Spartanburg Councilmember Jerome Rice Jr.

Spartanburg City Council acknowledges, apologizes for systemic racism

Last Monday the Spartanburg City Council approved unanimously a “Healing, Reconciling and Unity” resolution, acknowledging “the historical antecedents of systemic racism” and apologizing to residents for “racial injustices and long-lasting inequities that have resulted from those policies.” The unprecedented resolution also enumerates specific actions Council members will take, including to “promote racial equity through all policies approved by City Council” and “support community efforts to amplify concerns about racist policies and practices.”

Read More »
black

Close the gap: Racial equity is fundamental to our health

There is so much in our hearts and minds following these tumultuous past few months and intense past few days. This is a moment to consider the causes of the consequences that are now on full display. It’s time to call out what led to such health disparities and what will it take to improve outcomes for all.

Read More »
Man presenting to a medium size group of people

All Hands on Deck

When Covid-19 hit the US, we asked ourselves: Now that everyone is just trying to stay alive and save jobs, is Wellville just a distraction? We can’t just preach about the long term and what people want to achieve by the end of the Wellville project while they are busy responding to the short term. Instead, we tried a different question: How can we build a better long-term future even as we address current needs?

Read More »

By the Numbers

The data below represent an overall picture of health and wellbeing in Spartanburg – a realtime snapshot, if you will. For data that’s tied to the specific work we’re doing, see above and in the stories we share. 

Demographics

Population: 319,785

Land area (sq. mi): 807.93
Median age: 38.2

Social and Economic Indicators

Median household income

2019 data

Poverty rate

2019 data

High school graduation rate

2015-2019 data

Severe housing problems *

* Percentage of households with at least 1 of 4 housing problems: overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen facilities, or lack of plumbing facilities (2013-2017).

Health Behaviors and Outcomes

Adult obesity

*2017 data

Adult smoking

2018 data

* Years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population.

Years of potential life lost *

* Years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population. Data covers 2017-2019.

Health Care

Uninsured *

* Persons under the age of 65 (2019 data)

Per capita Medicare spending *

* As a percentage of insured; does not include uninsured. Data from 2019.

Insurance sources

2019 data