SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. -- It's been 25 years since German auto-making company BMW decided to take the road less traveled, putting their first American plant in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.
More jobs, more revenue, more people poured into surrounding towns. A 2014 University of South Carolina study estimates the economic output at more than $16 billion. It's change people saw right away.
"The first thing you notice - the BMWs that were all over town."
Hamp Lindsey has been in Spartanburg all his life. He runs Wade's Diner, the restaruant his parents opened in 1947. Since BMW came in 1992, he's seen a revolution.
"The most amazing thing right now is in between east and west is our downtown Spartanburg."
Lindsey is also part of the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Spartanburg. He says tourism has boomed, especially with new shops and restaurants downtown.
It's the same story over in Greer, where the plant is actually located.
"The first time I came to downtown Greer there was nothing here," says Jason Clark.
For Clark, all roads lead back to BMW.
"Actually, I was contracted to come down to make BMW's food service and change it around a little bit."
He's since left to start his own restaurants, BIN112 and The Strip Club 104, both in downtown Greer. He can't imagine leaving a place he helped build up.
"Everyone says hi! How can you walk away from a neighborhood where everybody cares that you're there?"
The growth hasn't stopped. 25 years later and areas surrounding the plant are still reaping benefits. Greenville, Spartanburg, and Greer all have revitalizing downtowns.
"Without companies like BMW, downtown Greer would not be on the map right now," Clark tells.
The Piedmont Triad is a top contender for its own auto plant. Toyota Mazda is looking at the Greensboro-Randolph megasite for a new operation that would bring in about 4,000 jobs plus a more than billion dollar investment in the community.
The company is expected to make an announcement in early 2018, but could perhaps be even sooner.
WFMY News 2 will continue brining more stories of impact from South Carolina, as we wait to learn about the chances of similar impact in North Carolina.
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