OneSpartanburg, One Vision

Spartanburg County has recently undergone a year and a half of self-reflection and is poised to use what it has learned in a five-year effort to increase the prosperity and quality of life for all of its citizens. That initiative is called OneSpartanburg—so named because there is no other Spartanburg, town or county, in the country, but also to emphasize that, although numerous entities will be working on a variety of fronts, ultimately they are all working on one big vision for Spartanburg.

The process began in the fall of 2015, and in early 2016, the Spartanburg Area Chamber ofCommerce contracted with Market Street Services—which is, according to its website, “a premier provider of community, workforce, and economic development strategic planning services throughout the United States.”

Market Street took a six-phase approach, starting with stakeholder input—including in-person interviews, focus groups, and a community-wide survey, which garnered 3,180 responses—and ending with a detailed implementation plan, ensuring that the information gathered will be paired with appropriate action.

The four phases between input and implementation were community assessment, target business analysis, marketing review, and community and economic development strategy. The community assessment was an honest and unflinching look at what’s really going on in the city and county of Spartanburg, but that honesty was necessary in order to make improvements where needed and build on the strengths that are there.

OneSpartanburg executive vice president Meagan Rethmeier quotes John Stockwell, executive director of Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM)—a key implementation partner—who says that negative data should be used as a flashlight, not a hammer. “They rely a lot on data,” she says of SAM. “Some of it is not very pretty, but if you use it as a flashlight rather than a hammer, it’s meant to help us better understand who we are so we can do something about it.”

On January 24, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce held a public launch of OneSpartanburg at the Chapman Cultural Center, and it was standing room only in the 475-seat auditorium. In addition to launching the plan and its eight driver areas, Rethmeier was introduced in her new position (she was formerly the director of entrepreneurship for the Spartanburg Economic Futures group).

The eight driver areas (referred to as eight “stories”) come from Market Street’s assessment report:

  1.  Low Educational Attainment and Signs of a Growing Gap
  2. Spartanburg County’s Economy: A Competitive Edge in Manufacturing and Transportation Bolsters Prosperity
  3. Uneven Prosperity and Rapid Growth in Childhood Poverty Threaten Long-Term Outcomes
  4. Homegrown Talent: Raising Standards and Retaining the Best and Brightest
  5. A Significant Need for Young Talent in a Challenging Regional Environment
  6. Quality of Life and Place Enhancements are Vital to Better Talent Attraction and Retention
  7. Entrepreneurship: Unrealized Potential
  8. Community Cohesion and Identity: From a Mill Village History to #OneSpartanburg

Each of those driver areas will have an action team assigned to it, with money to fund programs and improvements. The action teams are open to anyone who wants to serve on them; each will have its own structure and function, as some have broad goals while others have concrete deliverables. The teams’ leadership will include someone from OneSpartanburg’s implementation partners, and decisions about spending money, although left to the discretion of the teams, will be guided by specific measurement metrics to maximize the impact of the money.

Because one in five people who answered the survey listed downtown improvements as something they would want to see over the next ten years, a new downtown development partnership was announced at the launch, and the hiring process has begun for two positions to focus on the quality of life, image, and development of downtown Spartanburg. But, Rethmeier emphasizes, this is a county-wide initiative, and the downtown partnership does not mean that the focus is entirely on the city.

Will Rothschild, communications manager for the City of Spartanburg, and Allen Smith, CEO and president of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce joined Christopher George on a podcast after the launch to recap the event and talk about what OneSpartanburg means going forward.

Visit OneSpartanburg’s website for more information about the process and how to get involved.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at