Richard Blackwell, economic development director for Oconee County and executive director of the Oconee Economic Alliance, is resigning both positions, effective Aug. 2. He has taken a job as vice president of development for the southeast region for industrial developer Agracel. He will be based in the company’s Greenville office.
“After 14 years serving the Upstate region through pursuing economic development opportunities in various roles, this new challenge intrigued me with Agracel as it aligns with my deepening passion in strengthening the rural markets, as I’ve seen firsthand how jobs can change family trees,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell has served as executive director of the Oconee Economic Alliance since April 2012. A search for his replacement will begin soon, he said. Janet Hartman, Destination Oconee manager for the county, will serve as the interim director.
During Blackwell’s tenure in economic development, Oconee County saw the creation of 1,591 new jobs and capital investment of more than $500 million spread over 38 economic development projects.
“The unemployment rate in our county dropped to 2.7% for both April and May 2018,” Blackwell said. “It has not been that low since April 1998 and has fallen a total of 11.9% since July 2009.
The number of Oconee citizens employed has climbed from 28,762 in January 2012 to 33,381 as of May 2018, Blackwell said, an increase of 4,619 Oconee citizens employed.
Highlights during his time in Oconee County include:
- Three project-ready industrial parks, at a cost of more than $15 million — Oconee Industry and Technology Park, Golden Corner Commerce Park, and Seneca Rail Park.
- The county’s first BMW supplier, Baxter Manufacturing, in 2016.
- A workforce development campus in the Oconee Industry and Technology Park that includes a new campus for Tri-County Technical College and the Oconee County high school career center.
- Hartwell Village, which brought in new retail and restaurant opportunities for Oconee County.