What brings young, talented workers to Spartanburg? What keeps them here? Those are questions businesses large and small across the county are working to answer.
The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce are working to figure it out, too, as their Talent and Economic Inclusion team work to ensure opportunities are available for anyone looking to come to Spartanburg.
They recently updated their Talent Attraction Guide, which is available to businesses free of charge thanks to OneSpartanburg.
But the best answers often come straight from the source. At the March Caffeinated Conversations, Spartanburg Chamber featured three young professionals who chose Spartanburg and learned why they stayed here, what’s important to young workers and how Spartanburg can best position itself as a destination for talent.
Terrance Hawes, the Talent and Economic Inclusion Coordinator, led the discussion featuring three members of the Spartanburg Young Professionals board: Daniel Craig, attorney at Johnson, Smith, Hibbard & Wildman Law Firm, Cierra Fowler, Campaign Director at the United Way of the Piedmont, and Angela Heinrich, financial advisor at Spartanburg’s Merrill Lynch office.
What brought you to Spartanburg?
Craig, who’s from Woodruff, went to the University of South Carolina for his undergraduate and law school degrees, but knew he wanted to get back to Spartanburg County.
“I always knew I wanted to get back to Spartanburg. My wife’s family is here, my family is here,” he said. “Spartanburg is home and it’s always been home for me.”
Fowler worked for several years in Greenville County before finding her way back to Spartanburg.
“I always wanted to be here, not just live here, and that’s what drew me back in. I kind of feel like Spartanburg chose me,” she said.
Heinrich discovered Spartanburg while applying for colleges. After a visit, she decided she wanted to go to Wofford College. One summer internship at Merrill Lynch later, she knew she wanted to stay in Spartanburg.
“It’s home now,” she said.
How important is it to you to be involved in the community?
Fowler: “It meant more to me to be apart of the community. At SYP, I got to meet young professionals that were like me, still striving and looking for opportunities,” she said.
Hawes: “The opportunity to be involved and to make an impact in the community is really important. I feel like in Spartanburg, you get more of that involvement. As YPs, it’s important for us to feel like we’re invested in something and a part of something, and that’s a niche Spartanburg has right now.”
Craig: “Every attorney in our firm has been through Leadership Spartanburg…I met so many people through that. I had no idea what SYP was or what a young professionals organization was. I got back here and said, ‘I’ll give this a shot. There’s got to be young people I can meet now in my 20s and if we stay here, we can grow up together in Spartanburg.’ You can do so much if you just take the leap and get involved and go, and don’t be scared of taking a chance. This community realizes young folks can make a difference.”
Are there advancement opportunities available to young professionals in Spartanburg?
Fowler: “I see there are opportunities and what I need to do to gain those opportunities.”
Hawes: “You’ve got to be so confident in yourself that you invite yourself into rooms you’re not supposed to be in… Your age does not determine your success. You can be 20-something and network and strategize and build yourself up.”
What’s the most important career-development tool you’ve found in Spartanburg so far?
Heinrich: “I think it’s just having mentors and people you can look up to. There’s a lot of soft skills, and they don’t teach you that in school. Look up to someone and do as they do. A lot of the older generation is accepting of the younger ones, it’s not always ‘these darn millennials.’ They’re willing to show you the path and mold you.”
Craig: “If I had to challenge everyone over 40, I’d say get anyone seeking a mentor and be a mentor to them. Everyone under 40 in the room, if you don’t have a mentor, find one. Pick their brain.”
Fowler: “I think you should also not be afraid to learn. I found that, coming back to Spartanburg and going from healthcare to nonprofit, I had to find a mentor and I had a lot to learn.”
Why are social amenities important to young professionals, and does Spartanburg have those amenities available?
Fowler: “YPs are always looking for something after work. I think for our Downtown and everything going, I think Spartanburg is on the right path to retain young professionals. Everything Spartanburg is doing right now to grow and to retain our young people is what’s really needed.”
Craig: “It goes without saying you need things to do outside of work and your homes.”
How does Spartanburg stack up for young professionals compared to places like Charlotte and Atlanta?
Craig: “I don’t know that we’d really compare to those places in some ways, but a selling point for Spartanburg is there are young people here, you can have all the experiences you’d have anywhere else. You can put your roots down here, at 22 years old, and five years later, you can start a family and not feel like you have to uproot your life and go somewhere else.”
Heinrich: “I grew up in a big city, I think Houston is the 3rd-largest city in the country, but no matter how big the place, you can get in a rut or you could go to the same few bars and restaurants… I think most of it is breaking the misconception that there’s not a lot going on here. There’s a lot more opportunity here.”
Please visit www.spartanburgchamber.com for additional information on local initiatives.
Prepared by the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.