About The Oconee Economic Alliance
The Oconee Economic Alliance (OEA) is a public-private nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing new jobs and capital investment to Oconee County. Serving as the economic development arm of Oconee County, the OEA focuses on increasing per capita income, diversifying the local tax base and generating awareness of Oconee County as a business location. Going beyond the traditional role of recruitment and retention of industry, and workforce development, the OEA also assists with downtown revitalization and large scale retail projects. This additional focus on quality of life and sense of place gives the OEA a unique perspective to analyze economic development from multiple angles. With workforce becoming such an important part of economic development, the OEA understands the need to create a community that people of all ages will want to call home today and in the future.
Meet the OEA Staff
Over his career, Gilbert has facilitated the recruitment and expansion of hundreds of global businesses in a variety of sectors including advanced manufacturing, aerospace, customer and financial services, food processing, headquarters operations, information technology, life sciences and metal fabrication. In 2019, Gilbert was named one of the Top 50 Economic Developers in North America by Consultant Connect.
Gilbert has a lifelong passion for economic development as his Father was a city planner, economic developer and private developer. Growing up around economic development he saw first-hand the positive impact it made on communities and chose to make it his career path. He holds a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from Clemson University and a Bachelor’s Degree in political science from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). He is a South Carolina Certified Economic Developer (SCCED) and a designated Economic Development Master Practitioner by the Advanced Economic Development Leadership Program.
Tyler James is a South Carolina native, growing up in Laurens SC. He attended Anderson University for his undergrad and Clemson University for his MBA. He started his career working for Congressman Jeff Duncan as his Regional Director here in South Carolina for a number of years before entering the finance world in 2019. After 2 years in the industry, Tyler decided to return to the world of government work and begin his career in economic development, something he has always been passionate about.
Tyler married his wife Katelin in October of last year and now lives in Seneca. He is an avid hiker and backpacker and loves spending time in the Oconee mountains and on the Chattooga River. Some of his hobbies include BBQ judging, his is a master judge with the SC BBQ Association, and martial arts where he is a black belt in karate.
Meet Our Board of Directors
Joey Hawkins is a 1989 graduate of Wofford College and is the Director of Industrial Relations and Gas Control at Fort Hill Natural Gas Authority. For over twenty years, Joey has served on the boards of the Economic Development agencies in Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson counties. He is currently serving as the President of the Carolinas Public Gas Association. The father of two was born and raised in the Upstate and currently resides in Anderson. In his free time, Joey enjoys traveling with friends and serving in the youth program at his church. Joey serves as the Chair for the Oconee Economic Alliance Board of Directors.
Chuck Perry, Area Executive of First Citizens Bank, currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Oconee Economic Alliance Board of Directors.
Bio coming soon!
Rush Thrift is the oldest son of Gary Thrift and was raised working for his family’s business on the construction side as well as in the hardware stores. Rush graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Building Construction. He received his Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama in 2015. After graduation, Rush was admitted to practice law in Alabama and began working as an associate attorney for Laney & Foster, P.C., a civil defense firm specializing in defending architects, engineers and general contractors. He lives in Seneca with his wife, Blaire, and their son, Clayton. Rush serves as Treasurer on the Oconee Economic Alliance Board of Directors.
Amanda Taylor, Regional Director – AT&T South Carolina – State Legislative & Reg Affairs, AT&T
Amanda Taylor is Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T-South Carolina. In this role, she works with elected officials and other key stakeholders throughout the Upstate to help bring new technology, jobs and investment to the region and improve the quality of life for all residents.
Prior to being named to her current position in 2019, she served in the External Affairs organization for AT&T Arkansas and was a manager in the company’s Office of the President, where she supervised teams of caseworkers in investigating and resolving customer escalations. She began her telecommunications career with AT&T’s predecessor company, Cingular Wireless.
In addition to her responsibilities with AT&T, Amanda is involved in a variety of economic development and community activities. She serves on the boards of the Upstate SC Alliance, the Oconee Economic Alliance, and
the Greenville and Anderson Chambers of Commerce, in addition to Serve & Connect and Communities in Schools of South Carolina. She is actively involved with Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM) and serves as a
mentor in their Women and Children Succeeding (WACS) program as well as being engaged in the Government Relations Committee with OneSpartanburg, Inc. She previously served on the boards of Innovate
Anderson and the Tri-County Technical College Foundation.
A graduate of Leadership Greenville, she is a recipient of the ATHENA Young Professional Award, presented by the Anderson Chamber of Commerce.
Amanda has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix. She and her husband, Mark, live in Simpsonville with their two daughters.
Mr. Kyle Thomas is a graduate of Clemson University and the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. He serves as the President and CEO of Blue Ridge Bank and has over 30 years of experience in the banking industry. Kyle has spent much of his career in Upstate, South Carolina and has served in multiple roles at the South Carolina Bankers Association, including Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, member of the Community Bankers Council, and member of the Federal Legislative Committee. Mr. Thomas is actively involved in the community as a current board member of the Oconee Economic Alliance, Vice-Chairman of the Prisma Health Hospice of the Foothills, a member of Seneca Rotary Club, and a former chairman of the Oconee Medical Center Foundation. Mr. Thomas is a native of Pickens County, and he, his wife and children reside in Clemson. Kyle Thomas currently serves as the Immediate Past Chair for the Oconee Economic Alliance Board of Directors.