In early 2017, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce launched a five-year initiative called OneSpartanburg, designed to raise levels of prosperity and improve quality of life for all Spartanburg County residents. In the two years that have followed, organizers and volunteers identified four key drivers linked to that goal — talent, economy, image and place — and developed plans to meet that goal.
The OneSpartanburg Year Two Scorecard shows forward progress in obtaining those goals, with an increase in county and downtown investment and a growth in the talent pool. Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg chamber, said the city has a collaborative nature and partners committed to improving “every single person in the county.”
“Many of these issues will take much longer than five years to address. In fact, issues such as education attainment are generational in nature,” Smith said. “But I’ll put it to you this way — if I was betting on a community to move the needle on all these issues in the shortest amount of time, I’d be putting my money on Spartanburg.
“Snazzy marketing campaigns, glitz and glamour are nice but at the end of the day, its remarkable what can happen when you put people at the center of a community’s focus.”
In February Spartanburg was ranked the eighth-fastest growing small metropolitan area in the nation for millennial population growth, according to Headlight Data, a national economic and workforce development data company. Spartanburg saw a 17.8% increase in the percentage of residents age 25-34 between 2012-2017.
“Millennials view Spartanburg as the place to call home,” Smith said.
OneSpartanburg and its Spartanburg Academic Movement partnered to address college and career readiness and are actively researching local issues that impact college enrollment, according to the second-year scorecard. Close to 80% of Spartanburg County students intend to enroll in college but not all who intend to go actually show up in the fall, the report said.
OneSpartanburg partnered with community organizations to expand Spartanburg Regional and Northside Development Group’s Construction Training Program, allowing Spartanburg County residents to train for skilled construction jobs and fill a workforce need. Each 25-member class represents a potential for a $500,000 wage influx, according to the report.
“In order to raise per capita income, we had to diversify our approach and get strategic and aggressive with corporate recruitment efforts,” Smith said. “In terms of investment, Spartanburg has no equal in the Upstate, but the project mix doesn’t include nearly enough office interest.”
To attract white collar jobs, OneSpartanburg hired Avalanche Consulting to develop a strategy and action plan for corporate recruitment, outlining opportunities, goals and strategies critical to a successful recruitment initiative. The Economic Futures Group has begun implementation, naming Jansen Tidmore as executive vice president of corporate and urban development. There are already four projects in the pipeline. Smith did not elaborate on those projects.
The Economic Futures Group managed 20 economic development projects in 2018, totaling more than $779 million in capital investment and creating 2,094 new jobs, according to the report. And over the course of 18 months, downtown Spartanburg experienced more than $80 million in development, including the Montgomery Building.
Image is key to Spartanburg’s success, as people’s perception of a place plays a role in its ability to compete for jobs, talent and investment, according to the OneSpartanburg scorecard.
“The metrics within the scorecard speak for themselves,” Smith said.
More than 200 leaders and 12 boards have received training on the benefits of board diversity and inclusion through the Pipeline Project. So far, 154 leadership program graduates have opted to be listed in a new searchable database designed to match nonprofits and potential board members based on skill set and interest, according to the report.
Through a social media tool empowering individuals to share news, 50 social ambassadors have amplified 569 positive messages about Spartanburg, shared 3,609 times, resulting in a cumulative reach of 2,931,370. The tool has resulted in 74,109 clicks, an estimated ad savings of $33,184.
The #OneSpartanburg social media campaign is raising awareness of Spartanburg and its assets, including a collection of more than 34,400 Instagram posts.
“We are using data-based approaches to target people and businesses all over the world,” Smith said. “The Spartanburg story and our recent remarkable success is no longer a secret.”
“Investing in cultural amenities is a must if you are serious about recruiting and retaining talent,” Smith said.
OneSpartanburg partnered with the Chapman Cultural Center to fund programming in the Downtown Cultural District. In 2018, there were 305 entertainment experiences featuring 58 different musicians for 30 weeks of the year, the report shows.
OneSpartanburg also partnered with Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement and Keep SC Beautiful to establish a countywide affiliate, Keep OneSpartanburg Beautiful, dedicated to long-term key corridor cleanup and litter prevention countywide.
In addition, pedestrian foot traffic counters in downtown Spartanburg show an average of 233,500 foot traffic counts per month; new welcome signs were put up along Interstate 26 in Landrum, and 80 volunteers cleaned up 1,550 pounds of trash from roadsides in Spartanburg and Inman during Clean-up Spartanburg.
What does the future hold for the city of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County?
“I don’t want to show all our cards, but we intend to double down on our recent success with talent retention and attraction,” Smith said. “Additionally, I think you will see some real movement on the corporate front. We are at 99.2% occupancy — something has to give.”