Britt Blackwell liked the two candidates up for an economic development job so much, he wished he could hire both of them.
The chairman of the York County Council got his wish.
Rich Fletcher, who has experience handling development issues and working with local governments at SCANA Corp. and the state Department of Commerce, already is at work as head of the newly formed South Carolina I-77 Alliance, of which Blackwell is chairman.
Another candidate for that position, Charlotte-area business recruiter David Swenson, soon will take over as York County’s new economic development director.
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“Rich is a natural fit for the regional coordination of an economic development alliance, with his experience at SCANA and with the Commerce Department,” Blackwell said, “while David is the kind of aggressive guy who can go out and recruit businesses for the area.”
Both are starting work within days of each other. Fletcher just took over as the first-ever president and CEO of the I-77 Alliance – which includes York, Chester, Fairfield and Richland counties – last week, while Swenson will move into the county’s economic development office in Fort Mill on Wednesday.
Swenson won’t have far to go. He and his family already live in Fort Mill, from where he commutes to North Carolina for his job with the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
“We live in Baxter Village, and I have two young children, so it will be good to be close to home,” he said.
For the last eight years, the Minnesota native has worked on marketing and business development on both sides of the state line, but he thinks the time is right for South Carolina to start landing more business – and for York County in particular to take advantage of its proximity to the state line.
“This area has a lot of strong things going for it,” Swenson said. “The business climate in South Carolina is very attractive right now. There are some things in North Carolina that pose some challenges to new business, and I think you’ll see more of them looking here.”
At almost the same time Swenson is settling in, Fletcher will be working on getting a coordinated effort up and running among the counties along South Carolina’s I-77 corridor. He just finished his first week on the job as the only president/CEO the Alliance has ever had.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got a good team here, and we’re going to set up a program and start moving forward.”
Fletcher was hired away from SCANA, where he managed the power company’s economic development and local government activities in eastern and southern South Carolina from its Charleston office. Before that, he worked for 14 years at the Commerce Department.
His job with the I-77 Alliance is to develop marketing initiatives for the corridor region, but Fletcher also sees himself as a middleman between the four counties on the one hand and businesses and outside agencies on the other. The “founding group” of the I-77 Alliance already had a strong vision for what they want the region to look like, he said.
“A lot of that will generate from the counties themselves,” he said. “I’m not arrogant enough to think I’m going to bring businesses here alone. I have to work with the county economic development directors and the county council members.”
The convergence of the two jobs was unplanned. When the board of the I-77 Alliance voted at its August meeting to extend a job offer to Fletcher, Blackwell said, he had no idea Swenson would end up taking the York County job shortly thereafter.
“I was certainly hoping,” he said.