Spartanburg County could soon have a strategic development plan similar to those that lit up Austin, Nashville, Portland and Greenville.
Along with business and community partners, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the effort to hire Atlanta-based Market Street Services to craft a five-year community and economic development plan for the county. The 10-month process would result in a unified long-term vision that will move the entire county forward, according to Chamber President and CEO Allen Smith.
“At the end of the 10-month process, this is going to be a product that the whole community helps develop,” said Smith. The chamber is in the process of completing fundraising from community partners to support the plan, he said. “Everybody’s going to be at the table, and as a result everybody is going to be responsible for implementing it.”
Smith would not disclose fundraising goals, but said the chamber is on track to finish the campaign by mid-November and ink a deal with Market Street Services to start in December or January. The company would then use a six-phase inclusive process to develop an actionable plan for maximizing economic opportunity and improving social conditions.
“They’re going to look at all the entities in Spartanburg and ask, how are they doing?” he said. “We want to get the entire report and assessment, warts and all.”
Market Street has worked with 160 communities in 32 states, and each final deliverable is different and specific to the community. That makes it hard to predict what the final strategies will be, he said.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘What are they going to find?’ or ‘What are they going to do? What is this plan going to contain?’” said Smith, noting that Spartanburg would be the 161st community for Market Street. “If I answer that question, I’m undermining the whole process.”
The six-phase process begins with gathering community and business input during the first two to three months. The Market Street team works with a 25-30 member steering committee to reach as many stakeholders as possible – including residents, area chambers of commerce, businesses, nonprofits, government entities – using one-on-one interviews, focus groups and online community surveys.
The second phase is a community assessment about the county’s competitiveness as a place to live, work, visit and conduct business.
The third phase identifies and assesses the community’s existing strengths in industry business sectors and clusters, especially those that can be sources of future growth and wealth creation.
The fourth phase is a marketing review that examines existing marketing programs for the county and finds ways to improve them.
The fifth phase involves discussions with community steering committee to determine overarching goals and plans for the community and economic development strategy.
Finally, the sixth phase is targeted at making sure the developed strategy goes to use, and will include detailed implementation plans with action lists, priorities and timelines.
“The most important part of all those phases is number six, the implementation plan,” Smith said. “This is a collective effort. This isn’t a chamber plan… This is a community plan.”
[ Photo by Greg Beckner ]