The U.S. Census Bureau named the city of Greenville the fourth fastest-growing city in the U.S. Wochit
The L is not even open yet and already Kristina Murphy is regular fielding inquiries. The recently announced space that will become part of the Larkin’s Catering & Events trove of event venues will add an historic, beautifully restored space with room for upwards of 300 people in the heart of downtown, and Murphy and her team are preparing for a busy season once it opens In March.
The city’s rapid growth has given new life to the events business. Companies that specialize in private functions have seen a rapid increase in demand, a result industry experts say, of the city’s business and population growth, and Greenville’s rising popularity with those from outside the area.
In the past year, several event spaces have opened, including Avenue, The Upper Room, Revel, and The Rutherford, and more are on the way. Saskatoon Lodge, with its dedicated events space is now open, and The L is slated to open in March.
“With the hotels and apartments and the influx of people moving to Greenville, it’s grown,” said Murphy, vice president of Larkin’s Catering & Events. “All businesses are growing and adding to their staff. There are other big businesses coming here and setting up headquarters in Greenville or near Greenville.”
Between 2011 and 2015 (the most recent year available), Greenville County saw the 2nd largest growth in the number of employer establishments in South Carolina, said Hank Hyatt, vice president of economic competitiveness for the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, citing US Census data.
The county also saw the third largest growth in terms of employment, Hyatt said, a trend that is, “by what we are seeing on the ground, obviously continuing.”
Greenville is also growing as a destination, not just as a place to visit, but as a place to hold events. As the city’s number of hotel offerings grows, VisitGreenvilleSC has been instrumental in marketing the city to associations and corporations specifically for their events, said David Montgomery, vice president of sales for VistiGreenvilleSC, but this has also meant a greater need for events space.
That’s where more restaurant groups like Larkin’s are finding opportunity.
For Edmund Woo, whose Saskatoon Lodge opened earlier this month just off Halton Road, adding an events space was about good business. Simply, he saw a need.
Within just two weeks of opening the 7,5000-square-foot Lodge, Woo and his team had already hosted four corporate holiday parties, and was already fielding inquiries regarding weddings.
“We said we need to create a space where we can have different income profit centers out of it and serve different markets,” Woo explained his thinking. “And also have those markets be complimentary. So in June, people love downtown, but then we could do weddings.”
Casey Reid and Christy Medford, who own the full-service corporate events company, Eleven Events, see another reason there is such high demand for event spaces now – the changing nature of events. Whereas once, functions were primarily about food and décor, Eleven’s clients, want something that actually uniquely communicates their brand.
“So people are becoming more and more creative to make their meeting exciting and fun so people a) will come and b) will be entertained and will retain what was said,” Medford said. “It adds more, so it makes these events grow more too.”
And with the growing number of events, the growth of the city and the new needs related to events, there is big opportunity in the events venue sector.
This year, VisitGreenvilleSC is on track to fill 85,000 hotel rooms through its events marketing efforts, up from 45,000 the year before, Montgomery noted, the result of a concerted effort to bring outside corporate and association events to Greenville.
“I think it’s a trend we’re seeing across multiple marketplaces,” Montgomery said of companies holding destination events in other cities. “So if we don’t have it in our marketplace, there are other options in other markets, and that’s why I think it’s important for us to keep this at the forefront.”