In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a corner of South Carolina sits a town that should be economically dead. For decades, Greenville was the heart of the state’s textile industry—and its economic engine. First attracted by the area’s fast-moving rivers as a way to power looms, textile manufacturers employed tens of thousands of people here. Beginning in the 1970s, however, facing competition from lower-cost manufacturing regions like Mexico and Southeast Asia, these companies began to struggle. Over the next decades, many factories closed. Others moved production overseas. In 1990, 48,000 people still worked in textile manufacturing in the Greenville area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today fewer than 6,000 do.

Yet Greenville is booming.

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