Katherine O’Neill takes the helm at Economic Futures Group

The former Spartanburg County administrator will again be in the thick of economic recruitment and expansion.

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Economic development
Katherine O'Neill is the new EVP of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce's Economic Futures Group. Photo provided

One of the Upstate’s most influential community leaders has a new job.

Former Spartanburg County administrator Katherine O’Neill is the new executive vice president of the Economic Futures Group of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the chamber division that handles economic development for the fast-growing county, the city of Spartanburg and its surrounding municipalities.

As county administrator from 2012 to 2018, O’Neill was responsible for a budget exceeding $200 million. As part of her duties, she facilitated negotiations for more than $5 billion in new economic development including the recruitment and expansion of multiple international and domestic businesses including Toray, Keurig-Dr. Pepper, BMW, Auriga, Michelin, Albis Plastics, Plastic Omnium, Ritrama and Kobelco, according to a chamber announcement.

Prior to her 2011 arrival in Spartanburg, O’Neill served as administrator for Lexington County, helping to recruit companies such as Amazon and Nephron as well as a Home Depot distribution center.

O’Neill currently serves as chief operating officer of The Palladian Group, a marketing, public affairs, organizational development and digital agency headquartered in downtown Spartanburg.

In addition, she serves as chair of the executive board of the area chamber for the 2019-2021 term.

O’Neill succeeds Carter Smith, who earlier this year announced his retirement as head of the Economic Futures Group but who remains with the chamber as a part-time director of special projects.

Sustained momentum

According to the chamber’s website, the Economic Futures Group, a public-private organization, attracted capital investments of $786 million in 2018, creating 2,138 jobs, and total investments of $4.3 billion and 8,413 jobs over the last five years.

The county ranks sixth in the nation for industrial demand, according to a 2019 market study.

The study, released in July by CoStar Group, a Washington, D.C.-based publishing and research company, said that more than 7 million square feet of industrial space was snatched up in Spartanburg County in a recent 12-month period, outpacing Philadelphia and Phoenix and placing just behind Houston.

CoStar cited Spartanburg County’s pro-business climate, its strong manufacturing base and an abundance of available land as three key reasons for its attractiveness.

At the time of publication, rents were running about 40 percent less than in Charlotte or Atlanta, the CoStar report added.

Colliers International, whose downtown Spartanburg office has increased its staffing in recent months, also remains bullish on the Interstate 85 corridor.

“Overall absorption in the Greenville-Spartanburg industrial market has increased exponentially over the past four years despite the fact the market has increased to approximately 206.88 [million] square feet of industrial inventory,” Colliers’ second-quarter analysis said. “The year-to-date 2019 absorption of 5.15 [million] square feet is poised to surpass the 2018 annual absorption of 6 [million] square feet.”

A spokesperson for the chamber said O’Neill will assume her new responsibilities on Nov. 4 and will resign as chair of its executive board before then.

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