Economic Vitality and the Emergence of Spartanburg

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Economic Vitality and the Emergence of Spartanburg

The following was written by Jansen Tidmore, Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President of Corporate and Urban Development

You have to love industry words.  A few years ago, it was all about creating synergy.  We left that one behind in order to start moving the needle and now we move on to the metric of vitality.  Haven’t quite caught up to this new buzzword yet?  You will, but until then we got you covered with all you need to know.

By its simplest form, vitality is the state of being active and strong.  It is the personification of energy.  As we look over the past few years and the level of investment in Downtown Spartanburg has grown – we likely all agree to have felt a new energy through some interaction with downtown.  You feel it when you drive Main Street.  You feel it when you stroll the sidewalks.  You feel it when you shop and eat at one of the 76 new businesses.  The sights, the sounds they all add up to an energy that give you FOMO (fear of missing out, mom).  That is economic vitality.

So how do we measure this intangible feeling?

The International Downtown Association (IDA), the professional organization for all things downtown, partnered with the firm Stantec to create a Downtown Vitality Index.  Spartanburg was honored to be part of the initial 35 communities evaluated, alongside Austin, Pittsburgh, Durham, and more.  IDA states:

The Vitality Index reflects the pioneering IDA research in The Value of U.S. Downtowns and City Centers, and measures vitality through three principles identified in the VODT study: economy, inclusion, and vibrancy. Through these three principles, and five core indicators in each principle, the Vitality Index aims to capture the pulse of the downtown and enable urban place managers to objectively quantify and benchmark their district’s performance metrics among peer cities. The index utilizes a benchmarking system to understand how each of three vitality principles contribute to an overall combined score, calculated by comparing each metric to the national average. Most valuable, the index serves as a baseline and provides insights for the strategic evolution of a community.

So what did we learn as part of the first cohort?

  1. Spartanburg is an emerging downtown
  2. Spartanburg’s strong economic growth rates higher than national benchmarks
  3. Spartanburg’s vibrancy is on par with national averages
  4. Like all but one community, we have work to be done in inclusion

Data is critical to make informed and intentional decisions.  This data gives us the chance to utilize our resources to the highest impact.  Spartanburg has been proactive these last 2.5 years in collecting numbers such as this.  But it is more than just spreadsheets on why we do this.  It is imperative that Spartanburg be included and on the front end of conversations such as this.

Our involvement on such national levels is a testament to the level of commitment and innovation being placed into our Downtown development strategy.  We want need to keep these conversations going.  Don’t rest on success.  Keep pushing, because we plan to scale beyond an emerging district into a growing one.  As we do that, come one down and take part in the energy.  After all – it is you – the citizen that makes all this possible.

Want to dive deeper into how Spartanburg stacks up?  Head on over to these links:

Three Principles


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