The NEXT Innovation Center

In the fall of 2007, a group of Upstate entrepreneurs who were members of the steering committee for NEXT, Peter Waldschmidt, Peter Barth, and Andrew Kurtz, starting talking about the need for space to grow-to grow more than their respective businesses. They wanted a building for their work that would also contribute to increasing the quality of life for everyone associated with their endeavors as well as for the extended community in the Upstate.

Later they connected with Bob Hughes to outline their vision. In an ideal world, they said, they would:

  • be located near the center of activities in downtown Greenville
  • be along the Reedy River
  • be in an environmentally conservative building
  • have economical space for their businesses today
  • have convenient access to more space as business grew
  • be surrounded by neighbor tenants who shared a zest for innovation
  • have plenty of space and tools for collaboration

As part of an Upstate economic development team, Jeff Papenfus traveled to Dublin, Ireland to visit a technology center called The Digital Hub. When he returned, he meet with the three Upstate entrepreneurs to develop what would become the Upstate's own technology hub, the NEXT Innovation Center.

In the following months, the team explored buildings and locations throughout the area before finding the ideal opportunity to develop the NEXT Innovation Center - a vacant, 60,000 square foot structure in an area where Greenville's expanding renewal had not yet reached. As a bonus, the site is along the Reedy River and is only a short walk away from the coffee shops, restaurants, and parks in downtown Greenville.

NEXT, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the City of Greenville, and Hughes Development Corporation created the NEXT Innovation Center. The entire project has been a collaboration of entrepreneurs, architects, designs, government and non-government organizations.

This model of collaboration and development can be employed in any metropolitan area. In addition to revitalizing unused existing buildings, the process can revitalize the entrepreneurial spirit of the community.