Next month Greer Chamber of Commerce President Allen Smith will head about 20 miles east to become CEO of the Spartanburg Chamber.
He will begin working in Spartanburg June 16. “We were contacted by the leadership over there several months ago; the more I learned about the momentum in that community, the more interesting it became,” Smith said. He was enticed by Spartanburg’s growth and opportunities created by a structure that has the Spartanburg Chamber, the Economic Futures economic development group, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau operating under one roof.
Smith accepted the position because it was a good career move and also allows his family to remain in the Upstate. He and his wife will move to Spartanburg County as soon as possible, he said.
“We are thrilled to have Allen joining us in Spartanburg,” said Colleen Perry Keith, chair of the Spartanburg Chamber’s board of directors. “We are looking forward to his energy and enthusiasm as we believe it will help us to soar higher. He will be a tremendous asset to our work in workforce development, convention and visitors bureau, accelerating small business development and overall economic development.”
Keith said the search committee of representatives from the financial, legal, philanthropic and young professional communities reviewed 78 applications from around the United States and foreign countries. She said Smith’s success in developing a strong social media presence for the Greer chamber influenced the committee’s choice, as did the Greer Chamber’s “2012 Carolinas Chamber of the Year” recognition under Smith’s tenure.
Smith is a native of Greenville, N.C., who moved to Greer to join the chamber in 2010. Among the highlights of his time in Greer, Smith said the chamber’s growth to its current 716 members reflected the value the people have placed in the organization. “To have the confidence of the Greer business community means a lot,” he said. He was also proud of “Keep the Green in Greer,” a buy-local campaign, which has brought $200,000 to local businesses through pre-loaded spending cards.
Smith said people’s opinions of chambers are changing, and such tangible results are in demand.
“It used to be a civic responsibility kind of thing,” he said. “But 85 percent of our members are small businesses… they want to see an impact. They want the chamber to make it rain.” At the same time, he said the community displayed a notable sense of unity across sectors from transportation to government to business.
Smith is also proud of the Chamber’s leadership role in speaking out in favor of the proposed sales tax increase to support infrastructure improvements in Greenville County.
In Spartanburg, Smith will head a 1,124-member organization. He said immediate goals are to evaluate the chamber product and make sure it’s what it needs to be.
He will replace Charles White, who was named to a six-month term as interim CEO in January after former CEO David Cordeau retired in December 2013. Cordeau had headed the chamber for seven years.
The Greer Chamber will conduct a regional and national search for Smith’s replacement. Smith said he considers his soon-to-be-vacant post one of the best jobs in South Carolina, offering leadership in a high-growth, pro-business community.