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Greenville Business Magazine

Gold Standard

Sep 05, 2018 09:58AM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Chris Haire
Photography by Amy Randall Photography

It’s not easy saying goodbye to a career, especially when the firm you work for bears your name, and that name means something at home and across the nation. But that’s what Mark Sweeney is doing.

For nearly 18 years, Sweeney served as one of the leaders of McCallum Sweeney Consulting, Inc., a firm he co-founded with his late partner Ed McCallum. And during that time, his small Greenville company had become one of the most high-profile site selection firms in the country. For some, getting a site certified by McCallum Sweeney Consulting had been the industry’s gold standard.

Over the course of McCallum Sweeney’s history, the company wrangled new headquarters for Nissan USA in Nashville, Tenn., and Hertz in Ft. Meyers, Fla., and landed the first Boeing Dreamliner facility in Washington State, among the Greenville firm’s many success stories.

And to make all of that happen, Sweeney estimates that some years he spent half of his time away from his home.

“We were on the ground looking in almost every state,” he says. “You don’t do site selection from your desk. You have to get out.”

One of Greenville Business Magazine’s Most Influential, Sweeney reached the decision to retire, and close his firm, in April following a long business lull.

“This had been our longest stretch of declining activity,” Sweeney says.

Faced with the twin prospect of reinvesting more capital in the coming year and the simple fact that he was now in his 60s, Sweeney wondered if the time had come to hang up his hat. Internally, the McCallum Sweeney Consulting crew met and discussed what to do next. A decision was made.

“The first thing was actually relief. There was an element of certainty,” Sweeney says.

However, the worry of responsibility came next. “We were always a very close group of people,” Sweeney says. “The second thing was great concern and angst over my employees.”

Sweeney’s happy to report that all of his employees have either lined up jobs or retired. The office officially closed on June 30.

When we spoke with him, he was the last remaining employee of McCallum Sweeney Consulting, tasked with tying up all the company’s loose ends.

“Now the emotions are mostly very good. McCallum Sweeney accomplished a lot,” Sweeney says. “I’m sorry my late partner didn’t live to see the end.”

Respected across the industry, Ed McCallum passed away in 2013.

“Ed was one of the kindest men I ever met, as well as smart, talented ,and fun. We wound up with the best partnership I can imagine,” Sweeney says, noting that McCallum was the optimist to his pessimist. Sweeney says their work relationship was “beautifully complimentary.”

McCallum and Sweeney first met in 1989 while they were employed at then-Fluor Daniel. After two years at Fluor, Sweeney left for a job at the South Carolina Development Board, now the Department of Commerce. In 1995, he returned to Fluor, at McCallum’s urging. Together, they started McCallum Sweeney Consulting in July 2000.

“He was, and is, sorely missed by me and his former [McCallum Sweeney] colleagues,” Sweeney says.

As a small firm—at max 10 employees—McCallum Sweeney Consulting could be overlooked—much to the detriment of those interested in a new site.

“If a company doesn’t do a little looking around, they aren’t going to find us,” Sweeney recalls. “If we ever did get a shot, we weren’t afraid at all.”

He adds, “Even though I knew you couldn’t win everything, I took the approach of I would like to win everything.” He adds playfully, “How could they possibly make such a grave mistake and miss us?”

As for the future, Sweeney has no plans to lead the run-and-rush life that helped him guide one of the nation’s premier site selection firms.

“If a flight starts before 9 a.m.,” Sweeney says, “you won’t find me on it.”