Creating a better Oconee

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By Richard K. Blackwell


How are you doing on your New Year’s resolution? I hope that’s not already a touchy subject, and I only mention it because at the Oconee Economic Alliance, we made a New Year’s resolution of sorts, which is to offer a better understanding of how we are doing on our job of fostering economic development in Oconee County.

So we’ve kicked off the New Year with an expanded set of performance metrics. We are building on the foundation of the traditional metrics used to measure economic development – namely, jobs and capital investment – to create a fuller picture of the county’s economic development landscape, and how we can best continue to drive investments and new jobs to create a more-rewarding quality of life in Oconee County.

Our new metrics will include capital investment and jobs creation since 2012, since these two cornerstone measurements can help us better understand how we are progressing with the county’s five-year Strategic Plan for Economic Development that kicked off in 2013.

In addition, we will compile data on the number of private establishments; labor participation and employment growth year over year; median household income; unemployment rate; annual population estimates; sales tax, “A” Tax and “H” Tax revenue growth; industrial square footage/acres absorbed in the local market from 2012 to now; and any change in poverty level.

We will gain a better understanding of the success of our marketing efforts by tracking a range of marketing metrics, including the number of followers we have on social media; the frequency of hashtag mentions such as #ThinkOconee and #OconeeSC; and the ratio of engagement activities, such as retweets, forwards and likes, to the number of followers in each social media platform.

As we compile the data from all metrics, we will keep you informed on how the county is doing.

If this sounds ambitious, that’s great! To continue the analogy of a New Year’s Resolution, any good gym you join is going to make sure you weigh in when you begin a fitness program, but the best gyms will also check your height and measure your waist, your thighs, your biceps, and so on.

Likewise, by adding more measurements, or metrics, we gain insights not only into growth, but also into the ripple effects that are created by economic development. As we create wealth in our community, we should see decreases in unemployment, an increase in the number of new businesses, rising incomes and decreasing poverty.

These new measurements dovetail nicely with our mission, which goes beyond recruitment to focus on workforce development programs and small business growth. Our goal is to generate greater economic prosperity for future generations in Oconee County; using these measurements will help ensure that we meet that goal.


Richard K. Blackwell is the executive director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit

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