Kind eyes and a warm smile beneath a thick but well-managed beard are the key features of the face that will lead efforts to improve downtown Spartanburg.
The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce announced Monday, May 1, the hiring of Jansen Kent Tidmore as executive vice president of the Downtown Development Partnership (DDP).
DDP (not to be confused with pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page) is the new downtown development-focused entity birthed from Spartanburg County’s five-year community and economic development strategy One Spartanburg.
Tidmore, 32, originally of Dothan, Ala., previously served as executive director of his hometown’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority (DDRA) since 2011.
“For me, it’s very exciting,” Tidmore said. “There are a lot of great assets here. … During the interview process, I met with leaders from each of the cross-sections of the community. I could tell that there was a lot of support behind this. That’s great because this is called a ‘partnership’ for a reason.”
Tidmore said he plans to spend the next few weeks meeting people and touring some of the vacant buildings in downtown. He said he wants to get a firmer grasp on local history.
For the time being, he is living at Drayton Mills Lofts. His wife, Laura, and their two daughters, Madison, 8, and Londyn, 4, will soon join him. The couple plans to settle in the Converse Heights area.
“From sports to the arts and education, Spartanburg really hit all of the marks we were looking for,” Tidmore said.
Tidmore said his office is in the Spartanburg Chamber’s headquarters building at 105 N. Pine St.
He said his plan out of the gate is to focus on creating the DDP and establishing a governing board, bylaws, operational procedures, and all of the other elements that go with that task. Then, it will be up to him to help craft a larger vision for the organization and move that vision forward.
Tidmore said he has already received a lot of feedback from local leaders and residents. One of the recurring observations they have made is a need for more jobs in downtown.
In Dothan, he said he focused on building what he called a “quality of life economy,” which means creating a downtown that is attractive, vibrant, and enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
Under Tidmore’s leadership, the DDRA acquired more than 100,000 square feet of property in downtown Dothan, developed more than 60,000 square feet, and increased the business count by nearly 40 percent.
A few notable projects included a retail incubator and a technology industry accelerator.
Tidmore said he hopes to bring some of those same “no-collar jobs,” or tech jobs, to Spartanburg. He said that could help the community’s efforts to attract and retain talent.
He said that could help the community’s efforts to attract and retain talent.“You can’t overemphasize what a tech economy can do here,” he said.
“You can’t overemphasize what a tech economy can do here,” he said.
Tidmore said he’s not opposed to bringing regional or national chains to downtown Spartanburg.
In contrast to Spartanburg, Tidmore said Dothan did not have investor support for downtown development. The city of Dothan initially funded the DDRA with $400,000.
“We became the developers in downtown [Dothan],” he said. “We were willing to take one for the team. For example, we had one property owner who wanted $200,000 for a property that was worth $40,000. We paid the full price because we were the only ones who could do that. In the private sector, a commercial developer would not be able to justify that.”
Tidmore said the DDP could potentially perform similar functions in downtown Spartanburg, but that remains to be seen, as there are several projects already in the works, including the $20 million AC Hotel, $29 million Montgomery Building redevelopment, and $10.5 million Aug. W. Smith Building renovation.
“Our goal would never be to compete with the private sector, but to fill the gap or be the catalyst,” he said. “I don’t see that development capacity for us in downtown Spartanburg right now.”
The young leader said the DDRA provided resources for minority- and women-owned businesses, such as microloans and mentoring. He said he hopes to provide opportunities for those businesses in downtown Spartanburg.
Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Chamber, said Tidmore was chosen from a pool of 74 applicants.
“We were very impressed with Jansen,” Smith said. “He hasn’t just been a lifelong public sector practitioner. He has also been very active in the private sector. He can empathize with a developer or business owner because he’s been on both sides of that coin.”
Smith said during the second phase of the six-phase research and strategic planning process for One Spartanburg, the Atlanta-based consulting firm Market Street conducted an online survey that was completed by 3,180 Spartanburg County residents — the third-highest return in the company’s history.
One of the questions focused on what residents would most like to see improved. The responses were overwhelmingly “downtown,” he said.
“They understand that downtown is the stomach that feeds the rest of the body,” Smith said. “It represents our county’s vitality.”
Smith praised the city of Spartanburg’s efforts to spur development in downtown. He said the city was very involved in the interview process for the executive vice president of the Downtown Development Partnership because that organization will have to be in “lockstep” with the city.
“We are very pleased to see the [Spartanburg] chamber’s Downtown Development Partnership moving forward,” said Chris Story, Spartanburg’s assistant city manager. “It’s a good time in downtown, but there’s certainly a lot more we can and should be doing to bring the word to Spartanburg and the right ingredients that make a thriving downtown. We look forward to working with Jansen. He’s got a great vision for Spartanburg.”