Albemarle City Council introduces new economic development director

ALBEMARLE — As a former textile town that has transitioned into a growing city with advancing industries, Albemarle has a new face in charge of overseeing its local economy. 

Keith Tunnell was formally introduced as the City of Albemarle director of economic development at Monday night’s Albemarle City Council meeting. 

“I’m honored that you have put this trust in me, and I’m looking forward to getting started and doing great things for this community,” Tunnell, a native of Greeneville, Tennessee, told council members.  

City Manager Michael Ferris appointed Tunnell to begin on Oct. 12 with the duties formerly held by Mark Donham, who retired this past August after six years at the city position.  

“We’re glad to have Keith on board,” Ferris said. “This council knows that we went through an extensive, detailed recruitment process because it’s a very critical position for the city. We had applicants from all over the eastern half of the United States. We did cast a broad net, but with Keith, we were able to find someone with a significant level of experience.” 

Prior to his latest position, Tunnell worked as the owner of the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based marketing company MyWebsiteGuys and of Vision Economic Development Consulting. Tunnell also has experience consulting with McClancy Seasoning Company in Indian Land, South Carolina, as well as OceanaGold in Kershaw, South Carolina. 

He is a former president of the Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation from 2003-2015. Before taking that position, Tunnell served as the City of Sevierville’s public information officer in the Smoky Mountain Tourism Region and as the research director with the South Carolina Department of Commerce. 

“I’ve been in the private sector for five years, and I can tell you that just in the past week since starting, those juices have come back,” Tunnell said. “I’ll be reaching out to the council members in the coming days and meeting with you all, one-by-one, to discuss issues and our vision of moving the department forward.” 

According to Tunnell, two of his main priorities initially are to successfully implement the new Pfeiffer University Health Sciences Center and to assist in the development of the 282-acre Albemarle Business Center. 

Plans for the business center indicate that it will have up to 15 sites, all but two having a minimum of 10 acres and support buildings exceeding 200,000 square feet or more; the current offering price has been estimated at $19,000 per acre. 

“I’m very excited about downtown and I think there are a lot of opportunities already in place that we can grow from,” Tunnell said. “First and foremost is getting the business park completed so that we can have a class-A industrial park to recruit to and bring good high-paying jobs to the residents of Albemarle; with that is the income that’s generated by those jobs that will go into downtown — it’s all complementary of one another. We’re also going to focus on business retention expansion, not only on the industrial side, but in the downtown and commercial areas as well.”