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Charleston Business

GADC President & CEO Mark Farris Retiring From Economic Development Organization

Aug 30, 2023 09:00AM ● By David Dykes

After a 38-year economic development career producing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investment, Greenville Area Development Corporation President and CEO J. Mark Farris, who has led the GADC’s record-setting economic development initiatives since fall of 2014,  announced his retirement from the organization effective Oct. 1, 2023.  

The GADC board said it will conduct a national search for Farris’ successor. Kevin Landmesser, the GADC’s second-ranked executive who joined the organization in July 2001, will serve as interim president and CEO until a successor is named.

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 managed projects.

An economic impact study conducted in 2022 by USC’s Moore School of Business showed that GADC’s economic impact on Greenville County exceeds $6 billion annually, with a cumulative impact since 2001 of over $55 billion. 

GADC has also announced in excess of 35,000 jobs and $6.7 billion in new capital investment here, benefiting the community’s tax base.

The Greenville Area Development Corporation was created by County Council in 2001 and tasked with promoting and enhancing quality of life in Greenville County by facilitating job growth and investment for the benefit of Greenville County and its residents. 

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. 

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

In addition, officials said Farris’ leadership has been pivotal in such critical initiatives 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 locally, resulting in over 20 new speculative buildings. 

Farris led 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.

GADC also has partnered extensively with county municipalities, SCTAC, Greenville Chamber, SCbio, SC Department of Commerce and others on community-benefiting initiatives. 

“Throughout his tenure as President and CEO, Mark Farris has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure positive economic growth.  Under Mark’s leadership, thousands of jobs were created and billions of dollars invested right here in Greenville County,” said GADC Board Chair Jim Burns.  “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.”

“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!”

A graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and secondary education and a master’s degree in city and regional planning, Farris also is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD).

He began his professional career with the Anderson County Planning and Development Board before being named director of the York County Economic Development Board. 

While with GADC, he has served on boards including the Greenville Chamber, United Way of Greenville County, and Visit Greenville.

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 one of Greenville Business Magazine’s 50 Most Influential people and inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame.

A South Carolina Certified Economic Developer, Landmesser is a past co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee and current member of the South Carolina Economic Developers Association, a member of the International Economic Development Council, and a member of the Japan America Association of South Carolina. 

Following graduation from Clemson University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, Landmesser served in the United States military before earning a master’s degree in economic geography from the University of South Carolina. 

He then joined Fluor Corporation’s Global Location Strategies site selection team and later was an economic developer at the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce prior to joining the GADC in 2001.