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south carolina Economic Development Guide

A Bountiful Business Agriculture, food production industries grow

Pro Business Natural assets, partnerships drive investment

Building Momentum

Innovation, diversification propel production throughout region

Sponsored by The North Eastern Strategic Alliance | 2013

Proudly brought to you by Raines Development Group Inc.

2660 Hospitality Blvd. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 468-2800

2670 Hospitality Blvd. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 317-9050

2680 Hospitality Blvd. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 662-7066

Grand Opening May 2013, Hotel Florence offers guests the unique boutique experience with an uptown flair in historical downtown Florence. Victor’s Bistro is located on the first floor and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, full-service bar, and hotel room service. Conveniently located within walking distance of Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, Florence City-County Complex, restaurants, shopping and the business district. 126 W. Evans St. • Florence, SC 29501

Inn at the Crossroads

Lake City, S.C., has a new boutique hotel opening October 2013. Raines Development Group Inc. and Lake City Partnership Council have partnered to bring their emerging downtown a unique hotel to serve as the cornerstone for business and leisure in the community. The Stables conference center is located adjacent to the Inn at the Crossroads and will provide space for large meetings and gatherings. Main St. • Lake City, SC •

The Country Club of South Carolina is a residential golf community with a magnificent 30,000-square-foot clubhouse. CCSC features an Ellis Maples designed championship 18-hole golf course woven into the neighborhoods, forested groves, rolling hills and lakeside views. Come experience our Southern hospitality and what true country club living is meant to be.


An online resource at

Lifestyle Find out what it’s like to live here and what makes the community such a special place to be.

14 Workstyle Pro Business


Natural assets, partnerships drive investment

A Bountiful Business


Agriculture, food production industries grow

See the Video Our award-winning photographers give you a virtual peek inside North Eastern South Carolina.

Building Momentum


Innovation, diversification propel production throughout region

Workstyle A spotlight on the innovative companies that call the community home go online

The North Eastern South Carolina Economic Development Guide is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through the North Eastern Strategic Alliance. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by e-mail at

For more information, contact:

The North Eastern Strategic Alliance 121 S. Evander Dr. • Florence, SC 29506 Phone: (843) 661-4669• Fax: (843) 661-1293

Visit the North Eastern South Carolina Economic Development Guide online at ©Copyright 2013 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Ste. 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member

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Economic Profile


On the Cover Technician Paul Quarrella overhauls the tail section of a plane at AvCraft, a Myrtle Beach-based firm that provides maintenance services to private aviation companies. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto

Custom Content Council

Member The North Eastern Strategic Alliance Editor Emily McMackin

On the cover: AvCr aft technical services, located at Myrtle Beach international airport, provides regional aircraft mro services. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto


All or part of this magazine is printed with soy ink on recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer waste.

Please recycle this magazine

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N o r t h Ea s t e r n S o u t h Ca r o l i n a E c o n o m i c D e v e l o pm e n t G u i d e

South Carolina’s Business Corner Searching for the best place to build a business and a life? Look no further than the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region the region is still seeking to expand its already strong ground transportation infrastructure. Local leaders are also working together to support the proposed Interstate 73, which would run from Myrtle Beach to Michigan.

In the NESA Region — named for the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, a regional economic development organization representing nine counties in South Carolina’s northeast corner — helping entrepreneurs and executives build and grow their companies is the community’s central goal. Investment in infrastructure, a top quality workforce and an ideal location have all contributed to the region’s reputation. But what has earned it the title “South Carolina’s Business Corner” is the community’s commitment to helping businesses.

Hospitable to Businesses In addition to being a right-to-work state, South Carolina offers a host of incentives to perspective employers. Qualifying companies are eligible for tax credits of up to $9,000 per job created, which can be used to offset up to 50 percent of a company’s state income tax. The state and region’s corporate taxes are below competing areas on the East Coast, as are industrial electricity rates. Setting up shop in the state also

excellent infrastructure Home to a seaport, a regional and international airport, miles of rail, and Interstates 20 and 95,

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qualifies businesses for sales tax exemptions on electricity and fuel used in manufacturing, machinery and equipment used in production, and raw or packaging materials. The third leg of the stool is the NESA Region’s workforce, which is one of the most productive in the Southeast. The foundations for success on this front are the region’s higher education institutions, as well as the state’s Ready SC program.

A Place for Innovation But the NESA Region isn’t just courting new big businesses; it is an incubator for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs as well. The Southeastern Institute for Manufacturing and Technology has coupled open-enrollment with on-site and customized training, as well as manufacturing startup assistance and consulting services, to help employers develop an advanced workforce. The SiMT features an Advanced Manufacturing Center, a Virtual Reality Center and a National Robotics Center that has been utilized by Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs and others to train, develop new products and gain access to new technology.

A Quality of Life to Envy




The NESA Region is home to Myrtle Beach, a top-rated vacation destination. Residents enjoy 60 miles of coastline, first-rate golf courses, warm summers and balmy winters, fine dining, museums, theme parks and the Darlington Raceway. It is rare for nine neighboring counties to band together to bring jobs and growth to their community. The NESA Region recognizes that success in business is central to living a happy, healthy life, and the community is committed to working together and helping its neighbors thrive. It is that attitude that makes the NESA Region a great place to build a business and a life. b u s i n e s s c l i ma t e . c o m / n e - s o u t h - c a r o l i n a



Calling All Entrepreneurs A Peachy Idea A sweet treat concocted in the kitchen of Crady’s Restaurant, a Main Street staple serving up eclectic Southern cuisine in downtown Conway, is getting national exposure from leading food-service distributor US Foods. The company picked Crady’s peach cupcakes topped with apple butter frosting as one of 30 finalists in its “Next Top Product” contest. The cupcake is the original creation of restaurant owner Barbara Whitley, who rises at 5 a.m. to make all of her desserts from scratch. Since Whitley’s recipe hit the national spotlight, its demand has been so great she’s hardly been able to keep the cupcakes in stock. For a look at the restaurant’s menu, visit

Attracting young entrepreneurs to Lake City and getting them to stay invested and involved in the community is the mission of the new Lake City Young Professionals Association. Sponsored by the Greater Lake City Chamber of Commerce, the association is focused on recruiting and retaining talent and supporting entrepreneurs who want to help grow the local economy. The organization, which targets adults ages 21-40 with entrepreneurial aspirations, is open for membership. Visit for more details.

Downtown Rebound Plans are progressing to renovate two historic buildings in downtown Florence: the Waters-Kimbrells Building on South Dargan Street, which formerly housed the Art Trail Gallery, and Schofield’s Hardware, a vacant turn-of-thecentury building on West Evans Street. Developers have also broken ground on Hotel Florence, a boutique hotel comprising three historic buildings that will feature more than 50 rooms and a restaurant. The revitalization is part of a renaissance that began with the construction of the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation Library and the Florence Little Theatre, and it includes the recent opening of the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center.

Room to Grow For more than 50 years, Dillon Furniture Manufacturing has been one of the region’s business success stories, and it’s about to grow even more. The Dillon County manufacturer is expanding its current operation, investing $2.6 million to add equipment, space and more than 100 new jobs over the next few years. The company builds furniture for a variety of retailers, including J.C. Penney, Pottery Barn and Sears.


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Virtually Speaking

Festival Fun North Eastern South Carolina is known for its festivals, including these five popular ones: South Carolina Pecan Festival: From a “Run Like a Nut� half marathon to savory samples from hundreds of pecan vendors, this November festival in Florence celebrates all things pecan, along with art exhibits, live music and a kid-friendly carnival area. FoxTrot Festival: Named for South Carolina Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion, aka "The Swamp Fox," this May festival in historic downtown Marion features an annual Street Dance, along with arts, crafts, pony rides, a petting zoo, live music and fireworks.

For executives needing a presentation to wow a sales force, marketing group, staff training sessions or trade show audience, the Southern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) can help. The Florencebased SiMT is home to a 3D/ Virtual Reality Center that is one of six interactive digital centers in the world. The center helps companies develop 3D interactive simulations for sales and marketing presentations and has the capability to develop these technical services for companies across an array of industries, including transportation, industrial, retail, architecture, construction, computer and electronics, education, and defense. Learn more about its capabilities at

Pig Pickin' Festival: This three-day October pork fest in Kingstree includes amusement rides and a barbecue cook-off. Tobacco Heritage Festival: Celebrating the rural heritage of Horry County and its one-time cash crop, this August festival, held at the L.W. Paul Living History Farm in Conway, includes demonstrations of hand stringing and tying tobacco, along with children's activities, live entertainment and interpretations of early farm life. Coastal Uncorked: Each April, this food, wine and spirits festival in Myrtle Beach showcases the culinary and fine dining talents of restaurants throughout the Grand Strand area.

Dive In Myrtle Beach is known for its beaches, which are ranked among the best in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, but that's not the only reason it attracts more than 14 million tourists a year. U.S. News & World Report named Myrtle Beach among the country's most affordable and family-friendly beach destinations. Restaurants, shops, a water park, children’s museums and minor league baseball are in the area, as well as more than 40 golf courses. Tourists can also enjoy casino cruises, skydiving and other adventures. Plan a trip at

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Business Climate

Pro Business Natural assets, productive partnerships drive investment in North Eastern South Carolina Story by Kathie Stamps Photography by Jeffrey S. Otto


rom taxation and facility costs to wages and salaries, doing business in the ninecounty North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region is costeffective, but that’s not the only reason new and existing companies are choosing to locate and grow in the area. The region’s temperate climate and diverse topography are other factors making it an easy place to live. The spirit of community is also a draw. Open communication between business leaders and elected officials makes the region

Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA)


ripe for corporate growth, and partnerships between universities, colleges and local industries keep the workforce highly trained. logistics, transportation assets attract newcomers “Our best sales brochure is a map of the East Coast,” says Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, which facilitates economic development in the area through everything from lead generation for growing companies to infrastructure initiatives. Interstates 95 and 20 pass through the region, along with the proposed I-73. Companies have access to both Class 1 CSX rail and bulk and break-bulk cargo transport through the Port of Georgetown. $200 Million in Investment In 2012, 16 businesses announced nearly $200 million in investments for new builds and expansions. Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls opened its longawaited battery recycling facility in Florence. The company’s $150 million capital investment, which will allow its current 200 employees to ramp up production of recycling 132,000 metric tons of automotive batteries per year, is estimated to create 250 new jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs.

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German manufacturer BauschLinnemann North America plans to invest $8 million to construct a new Myrtle Beach production facility. The company, which produces surfaces and edge bandings for furniture makers, will establish its North American headquarters in Horry County. The region is also the global headquarters of packaging solutions company Sonoco, which is located in Hartsville and was recently recognized as South Carolina’s largest corporation in terms of sales. Manufacturing is just one of the region’s top industries; others include agribusiness and food processing, customer service and call centers, and logistics. Aerospace and aviation is also taking off in the region. AvCraft Technical Services, a leading supplier of MRO services to regional, corporate and luxury aircraft, recently expanded its Myrtle Beach facility by investing $1 million and creating 150 jobs. And the first phase of construction has been completed on Myrtle Beach’s 450-acre International Technology & Aerospace Park, expected to open in fall 2013. “South Carolina is one of the leaders in national aerospace growth,” says AvCraft Technical Services President Michael Hill.

“It’s very exciting for us to be part of that.” Business-Friendly Approach Collectively, these industries strengthen the region’s economy; individually, each business is appreciated in the city and county where it sets up shop. “Our communities put together packages that address a specific company’s needs rather than offering a cookie-cutter approach,” McKay says. Brad Lofton, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, credits SC Commerce – the state’s department of commerce – and NESA for helping to make the region one of the most business-friendly places in the country. “We work with SC Commerce and NESA every day,” Lofton says. “It’s those partnerships that are making us so successful. It’s 100 percent a team effort.”

Stellar ServiceRegion welcomes customer service, call centers Hospitality is a natural asset in North Eastern South Carolina, so it’s no surprise that customer support and call centers are flocking to the area. The region is home to customer support centers for several businesses, including ADP, JP Morgan,, Safe Auto, Sykes Enterprises Inc., and the business process outsourcing company PGBA LLC, a subsidiary of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Assurant Specialty Property employs 1,080 workers at its Florence service center, and PGBA LLC recently received new contract work requiring it to add more than 400 jobs to its Florence headquarters and 100 jobs to its Surfside Beach site. Connecticut-based Frontier

Communications recently expanded its call center in Myrtle Beach, creating 100 new jobs. “The Myrtle Beach community, from business owners to local public officials, has been supportive of our efforts in every respect,” says Tim Ruedy, Frontier Communications’ area general manager for South Carolina. “We have been able to recruit quality employees whose skills support our mission of delivering quality customer service.” Skilled workers have access to education and training, including four-year degrees at liberal arts colleges and customized tech training at technical colleges. Companies can also hire from a pool of 52,000 workers in the hospitality industry. – Kathie Stamps

Left: Kemp and Gaie McLeod own McLeod Farms in McBee, which is home to peach orchards that cover 650 acres and produce 22 varieties of peaches. Right: McLeod Farms sells pickles and relishes, preserves and jams, butters, sauces and salsas, salad dressing, and ciders under the Mac’s Pride brand, which also carries candies, snacks and baked goods.

A Bountiful Business Agriculture, food production industries grow in North Eastern South Carolina Story by John Fuller • Photography by Jeffrey S. Otto


n a state where agribusiness is a top industry, North Eastern South Carolina is an agricultural powerhouse, accounting for nearly a quarter of the state’s farmland and agricultural revenue. The nine-county North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region continues to build upon its rich farming heritage with a thriving agriculture and food production sector that is growing from both


expansions and investment by new and existing companies. The region’s low land and labor costs, extensive infrastructure and proximity to major ports make it an ideal location for agribusiness and food processing operations that sell and distribute products outside the region. Reaping Profits “This region has been a great home for our company,

N o r t h Ea s t e r n S o u t h Ca r o l i n a E c o n o m i c D e v e l o pm e n t G u i d e

providing an excellent business environment,” says Woody Swink, sales manager for McCall Farms Inc., a 175-year-old, sixthgeneration family farm operation that produces canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. Not only does the family grow produce on its 2,000-acre farm, but it also contracts with farmers in three other Southeastern states to produce about 40 products for

Cultivating Opportunities NESA region showcases agribusiness growth

brands such as Margaret Holmes, Glory Foods and Peanut Patch. McCall Farms recently completed a $10.6 million, 50,000-squarefoot expansion of its operations in Florence County that will allow the company to increase its production lines. The investment should generate 80 new jobs over the next three years. “We look forward to continuing to build on our success and appreciate all the support we’ve received from state and local officials,” Swink says. McLeod Farms in McBee is also growing. The company sells produce, bakery items, preserves and jellies, and candies under the brand name of Mac’s Pride. The farm is best known for its peaches and grows more than 650 acres of them annually, employing more than 200 workers at the height of its production season. “This is very much a family business with a great deal of local support,” says Kemp McLeod, owner of McLeod Farms. Along with the farm’s wholesale grocery store supply business and roadside markets, it has also profited from agritourism, putting on events such as farm tours, corn mazes and festivals.

Elsewhere in the region, farmers are also looking for ways to diversify. Many Marion County farmers are now experimenting with peanuts, and across the region, peanut farming covers nearly 100,000 acres. Brand-Name Producers The area also continues to attract well-known food and beverage makers. Heinz makes frozen dinners for its Weight Watchers and Boston Market brands in Florence, and Popz operates a microwave popcorn and packaging facility in Bennettsville. Other area food processing companies include Perdue Farms, House of Raeford Farms, SoPakCo and National Choice Bakery. Carolina Canners Inc., an independent Pepsi bottler and production cooperative, is planning a $20.8 million expansion of its Chesterfield County facility. “For 44 years, the city of Cheraw, S.C., and Chesterfield County have provided a great business climate, and we are looking forward to this positive relationship for many years to come,” says Jeff Stevens, chief executive of Carolina Canners.

The North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region is putting its agribusiness sector on display. In January 2013, the region hosted the SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo, the largest event of its kind in the state, at the Florence Civic Center, bringing together thousands of farmers, suppliers and vendors in the industry. Agribusiness is an economic driver in South Carolina, responsible for nearly 200,000 jobs with an estimated impact of $34 billion. The NESA Region represents more than a quarter of the state’s farm receipts and 19 percent of its farmers. Agribusiness has been a key industry in the region for more than 200 years, and it continues to attract agriculture and food processing industries with its infrastructure and proximity to ports in Charleston, Wilmington, Georgetown and Savannah, its land and labor costs, and its diverse products. “Agribusiness is a target industry for our region, and this event was designed to generate even greater exposure for it,” says Jeff McKay, executive director of NESA. “We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” adds Brian Davison, sales coordinator for the expo. “The expo highlighted a booming industry for our region and state – and we think it will pay big dividends in the future.” The event focused on agricultural equipment, education, commodity spotlights, feedstocks, value-added enterprise, youth development, and industryspecific exhibits and activities. Along with the expo, the region hosted a three-day consultant event last summer, sponsored by NESA, that focused on attracting more agribusiness opportunities. – John Fuller

AvCraft Technical Services in Myrtle Beach is a leading provider of aircraft maintenance and technical support.

Building Momentum Innovation, diversification propel production throughout North Eastern South Carolina 10

N o r t h Ea s t e r n S o u t h Ca r o l i n a E c o n o m i c D e v e l o pm e n t G u i d e

Story by Nan Bauroth Photography by Jeffrey S. Otto


nnovative companies have one thing in common: A determination to develop new products and markets that create a continuum of growth. For Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc., the desire to break new ground has found the right fit in the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region, where the company is investing $8 million to open a facility in Florence County to produce its revolutionary flax fiber, CRAiLAR – the first sustainable natural fiber that perfectly complements cotton. “Our decision was primarily based on work that the USDA extension office in Clemson University had done on flax fiber grown in the region as a winter rotational crop,” says CEO Ken Barker. The region’s proximity to Carolinas-based Hanesbrands and its spinning partners also caught the attention of the firm, which began growing flax fiber for its CRAiLAR brand in Kingstree in 2011. “From the agricultural and labor market perspectives, we have been very pleased with what we have seen in this region of South Carolina and are earmarking it for continued expansion,” Barker says. Kingstree biotech firm DSM Nutritional Products LLC is another regional innovator, producing natural, fermentationbased products, including omega-3 fatty acids that are shipped globally. According to John M. Rutten, senior director of Asset Technology Americas, operating in the region

has provided the firm with major advantages, including affordable wages for workers, a positive-minded labor force, proximity to ports and businessfriendly incentives. Blueprint for Growth AvCraft Technical Services, a leading supplier of regional aircraft MRO services, has discovered its perfect flight path for growth in Myrtle Beach, where it recently expanded its headquarters operations located in retasked military hangars at Myrtle Beach International Airport. “Myrtle Beach is ideally situated for many different customers within our market reach, including airlines servicing Europe, the Caribbean, South America and even Hawaii,” says executive vice president Donald Kamenz. Kamenz says that customers who must park their planes in the area for several weeks find it to be highly desirable for extended stays. “Myrtle Beach also gives us a competitive advantage in attracting more technicians to fulfill our MRO workforce needs,” he says. AvCraft’s latest $1 million expansion is expected to create 150 additional technically skilled jobs in the region. Improving Efficiency, Expanding into New Markets Other area companies are also upgrading their facilities. GSE Environmental, which

manufactures geotextile fabric and synthetic drainage products used in waste management and precious metals mining, is investing $5 million to expand production at its Kingstree facility, a move expected to generate 24 new jobs. Sonoco, a global producer of packaging products, is investing $75 million to add a biomass boiler at its Darlington County plant, replacing two aging coal-fired models and boosting the sustainability of its paper-making process. “Developing a reliable, low-cost cogeneration energy source that utilizes North Eastern South Carolina’s abundant woody biomass fuel resources was a key factor in Sonoco deciding to upgrade our largest paper mill operations in the U.S. for future growth,” says Roger Schrum, vice president of investor relations and corporate affairs. Nucor Corp., one of North America’s largest steel bar producers, is also modernizing and enhancing its Darlington County facility to meet growing demand by energy, automotive, heavy truck and heavy equipment manufacturers. Remelt Sources Inc., a producer of cobalt and nickel-based alloys for the precision investment casting and forging industries, has opened a new technical center with a state-of-the-art engineering laboratory next to its Darlington County plant to house operations and technical staff.

Workforce Training Resources, Support for Manufacturing Startups Businesses seeking training and technology to maximize workforce productivity in advanced manufacturing environments have a valuable resource in the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT). Located in Florence, SiMT provides open enrollment, on-site and customized training in engineering/CAD/ CAM, rapid prototyping and 3D/virtual reality services, as well as leading edge manufacturing workforce

development and business process training. For startup manufacturers, SiMT houses a Manufacturing Incubator Center that offers assistance with commercializing ideas. Companies can also utilize SiMT’s consulting services run by experienced manufacturing personnel who can design turnkey systems and processes for nearly every functional area of business. To learn more about SiMT, visit b u s i n e s s c l i ma t e . c o m / n e - s o u t h - c a r o l i n a


Molding the Future Plastics makers find the right chemistry in North Eastern South Carolina A growing cluster of plastics manufacturers are shaping business in North Eastern South Carolina, where plastics is one of the fastest growing industries. Home to nearly two dozen plastic and plastic resins producing firms, the region employs more than 4,000 people in the industry, representing more than $1.4 million in revenue.


BauschLinnemann, a German manufacturer of laminates and furniture edgings, recently announced plans to move its North American headquarters to Horry County. The $8 million investment will create 55 new jobs. After acquiring the assets of Coastal Paper, which had a plant in Myrtle Beach and Conway, the company

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had initially planned to consolidate operations in Greensboro, N.C., but chose to remain in the region instead. “Subsequently, we saw a good workforce and the availability to expand the workforce at the current factories,” says CEO and President Michael Phillips. “The attitude of Horry County and the state of South Carolina was definitely pro business.” The company had already been utilizing the Port of Charleston to receive products from its German factory since 1984, so the Myrtle Beach location offered a more convenient solution for the transfer of those goods. “The state of South Carolina is in tune with German-owned companies and the way they approach business,” Phillips says. In Dillon County, Diversified Plastics Inc., a plastics engineering and fabrication company, is investing $2.5 million to expand its Latta plant to meet its growing demand and increase market share. Other top plastics producers in the region include DuPont in Florence, Tupperware in Hemingway and Sonoco in Hartsville. Nan Ya Plastics Corporation runs the largest of its American production facilities for polyester filament, fiber and chip (resin) used in the textile and bottle/sheet industries in Lake City. The facility’s on-site railroad access and proximity to major interstates makes receiving and shipping materials easy. Nan Ya Plastics is also located near the Port of Charleston, giving the company a strategic advantage for exporting abroad. – Nan Bauroth


Ship Shape Region’s transportation assets include two ports, many highways Story by Kevin Litwin • Photography by Brian McCord


usinesses in North Eastern South Carolina are lucky to have easy access to two port facilities on the Atlantic Ocean. Companies importing and exporting heavy raw goods can utilize the Port of Georgetown, while companies that import/ export goods by containers have the option of shipping through the Port of Charleston, located an hour south of Georgetown. “Georgetown handles things like steel, cement and aggregate products, while Charleston deals in commodities such as food, clothing and other light goods,” says Allison Skipper, manager of public relations at the South Carolina Ports Authority. “Area companies that utilize Georgetown or Charleston include big names like BMW, Fuji, Michelin and Starbucks.”

Well-Connected The region’s strategic location midway between Miami and New York is a huge benefit to companies that ship and distribute products nationally and internationally. Interstate 95 runs north and south, while I-20 goes east and west, and plans are in place for a proposed I-73 route that will ultimately stretch from Myrtle Beach to Michigan. This region also has U.S. Highways 1, 17, 52, 301, 501, 521 and 701. Such a convenient road setup is attractive to area distribution and logistics companies that include QVC, Institutional House of Food, Walmart, Independent Grocers Alliance, Harbor Freight and local Pepsi-Cola distributors.

Air of Distinction The region also has more than 350 miles of rail with Class I CSX service that provides access to the Port of Charleston. Passenger and freight air service is also available via Florence Regional and Myrtle Beach International airports, while international airports in Columbia, Charlotte and Charleston are also nearby. “Airports are economic engines for any region, and Myrtle Beach is no exception because it attracts tourists from so many walks of life,” says Kirk Lovell, marketing director for Horry County Department of Airports. “Myrtle Beach is a commercial-use facility that has seen so much passenger traffic in recent times that we doubled the size of our terminal in time for 2013.” Lovell adds that FedEx and UPS both fly in and out of Myrtle Beach, and other commercial jets carry cargo in their hulls to accommodate businesses wanting to get a product quickly from one destination to another.

“Along with Myrtle Beach International, Horry County Department of Airports oversees Conway-Horry County Airport, Grand Strand Airport and Loris Twin-Cities Airport,” he says. “All four of our airports offer convenient transportation outlets, and we don’t use tax dollars to operate. We are a self-sustaining enterprise.”

Prime Location for business White Hawk Commerce Park is one of five U.S. shovelready parcels to earn a Select Site certification from CSX for its multimodal access. Ready for large manufacturing plants, White Hawk sits adjacent to Florence’s CSX rail terminal between two major interstates and within a mile of Florence Regional Airport. Infrastructure at the 1,175-acre complex includes electric, water, sewer, natural gas and fiber optics.

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Carolinas Hospital System is one of the region’s top health-care providers.

Collaborative Care Health network keeps growing in North Eastern South Carolina

Story by Kathie Stamps


orth Eastern South Carolina’s population keeps growing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent each year, and the region’s health-care providers are keeping up by expanding facilities, staff and services to ensure that community needs are being met. McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence recently ranked as one of the top five hospitals in the state for its quality care and became the first facility in the area to receive accreditation for its Breast MRI Unit. The hospital serves as the flagship hospital and teaching facility for locally owned and nonprofit McLeod Health, which operates four other hospitals in Darlington, Dillon, Little River and Loris. In addition to a new Heart and Vascular Institute, McLeod Health is building two new facilities slated to open in 2013 in Florence – the McLeod Center for Intensive Care and the McLeod Cancer Center, which will offer an upgraded


radiation department and an environment dedicated to treating cancer patients’ physical and emotional needs. State-of-the-Art Cardiac Services Another top health-care provider in the region is Carolinas Hospital System, which operates a growing 420-bed, acute-care facility in Florence staffed by nearly 300 physicians representing 20 major specialties. The hospital, which pioneered the noninvasive Maze procedure, a life-changing treatment option for patients with an abnormal heart rhythm, is known for its Chest Pain Center, which is the first in the region to be accredited. In 2012, the hospital invested $6 million for a new electrophysiology lab and imageguided radiotherapy (IGRT), which will enhance diagnostic and treatment services for heart and cancer patients.

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Care Along the Coast Along the South Carolina coast, residents have plenty of options for care. Georgetown Hospital System operates Georgetown Memorial Hospital in Georgetown and Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet – both of which were recently recognized as top performing hospitals by QUEST. Waccamaw Community Hospital is expanding its surgical services and recently opened Waccamaw Medical Park - West. Conway Medical Center is one of Horry County’s largest employers, with more than 1,400 employees. The hospital recently added a 9,000-square-foot outpatient diagnostic center and turned its Wellness & Fitness Center into a 24-hour operation. Serving Myrtle Beach and surrounding counties, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center is a designated Level II trauma center, and its heart surgery program recently ranked in the

top 5 percent in the nation and No. 1 in South Carolina by HealthGrades for the fourth consecutive year. The tertiary care hospital performs minimally invasive valve and lung surgery, as well as robotic-assisted surgery for gynecological and urology procedures. Its other facilities include Grand Strand Regional Diagnostic & Women’s Center/ Breast Health Center, South Strand Medical Center, North Strand Diagnostic Center, Carolina Forest Imaging Center and HealthFinders, a community resource center located in Coastal Grand Mall. “We offer comprehensive and quality health care, delivered by well-trained hospital staff and physicians,” says Grand Strand Regional Medical Center CEO Doug White. “Our Level II trauma designation and No. 1 ranking in heart surgery are a direct result of the expert staff members at Grand Strand Regional.”

Quality Care close to home The nine-county North Eastern South Carolina region is also served by several community hospitals, including Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville, Chesterfield General Hospital in Cheraw, Marlboro Park Hospital in Bennettsville and Williamsburg Regional Hospital in Kingstree.

McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence ranks high for quality care.

Versatile, Reliable, Efficient and Affordable

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Training Ground Colleges, universities add programs to prepare students for region’s top industries Story by Jessica Walker Boehm • Photography by Jeffrey S. Otto


ith access to three highranking universities and an acclaimed network of technical colleges, students in North Eastern South Carolina are well-prepared to secure jobs in the area’s top industries. Located in Florence, Francis Marion University has built a reputation as one of the South’s top universities for business, thanks to its campus-based Small Business Institute and Center for Entrepreneurship. The university recently established two new degree programs – a master’s degree in nursing with a family nurse practitioner or nurse educator specialization, and a

bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical studies. FMU also has plans to offer a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering within the next two years. The university’s newest facility is its $32 million, 61,000-squarefoot Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2011 after 10 years of planning. A recipient of the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology’s 2012 Architecture Award and the Marble Institute of America’s Pinnacle Award, the downtown center hosts national, regional and local performing artists and stages year-round concerts, dances, plays and lectures.

Recognized nationally for its interactive-based curriculum, Hartsville’s Coker College recently launched a new honors program and added a master’s degree in college athletic administration to its offerings. The degree is the school’s first that can be earned almost entirely online. Known for its coastal marine and wetland studies, Coastal Carolina University in Conway provides four-year degrees in business, education, humanities and fine arts, and science, along with new degree options such as biochemistry, accounting, economics, information systems and health administration.

Bottom left: The 61,000-square-foot Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center recently opened in downtown Florence. Bottom right: Horry-Georgetown Technical College has a new dental simulation lab where students can train on cutting-edge technology.


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Technical Colleges Serve Students The region’s technical colleges also offer several degree programs, as well as workforce training and entrepreneurial assistance. Horry-Georgetown Technical College trains students in the latest technologies at its new high-tech dental simulation lab. The college offers dental hygiene associate degree and dental assisting diploma programs that enable students to complete their courses under the supervision of licensed dentists and hygienists. “We instruct our students on the latest dental technology, including digital radiography and the use of cutting-edge dental office software, now employed by up-to-date dental facilities,” says Dr. Philip Render, HGTC’s dean of health sciences. In addition, HGTC has one of the top physical therapist assistant programs in the U.S. According to Dr. Render, almost every student who graduates from the program finds a job as a physical therapy assistant in the region. Northeastern Technical College in Cheraw is also creating jobs through the school’s growing Entrepreneurship Development Fund, established by Massachusetts-based software firm Continuum Performance Systems Inc., which operates a center in the region. Designed to help both NETC students and alumni, the fund provides seed money to aspiring entrepreneurs to help them get their operations off the ground, along with guidance from business and marketing professionals. Additional two-year colleges in the area include Williamsburg Technical College and FlorenceDarlington Technical College (FDTC), both of which offer programs in manufacturing, technology and health-care fields. FDTC is home to the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, which offers workforce training and startup resources for manufacturers.

Students Kick-Start Careers at Governor’s School High school students interested in pursuing jobs in engineering, biotech and other science- and math-related fields can get a head start on preparing for these careers at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville. The school, which has educated more than 1,000 students since its inception in 1988, offers intensive courses in science and math, along with other subjects. To attend the school, students must take the ACT, PSAT, PLAN or SAT before January of their sophomore year and submit applications, along with an official high school transcript and three recommendations, by March 1 of the same year. The school houses 128 students, but plans are in the works to expand it to accommodate 300 students. Learn more at

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Myrtle Beach is a favorite vacation destination for families thanks to its beaches, amusement parks, museums and other attractions. P h o t o C o u r tes y o f t h e M y r t l e B eac h A r ea C V B

Wealth of Wonders North Eastern South Carolina draws tourists, residents with diverse attractions Story by Jessica Walker Boehm


ome to beaches, family-friendly attractions, and diverse recreation and cultural activities, as well as affordable housing and a low cost of living, North Eastern South Carolina is an ideal place to enjoy a vacation or put down roots. With more than 14 million annual visitors, Myrtle Beach is the region’s top vacation spot. Along with 60 miles of beaches, the area offers attractions such as Family Kingdom, an amusement park and water park; WonderWorks, a museum with an inversion tunnel and more than 100 hands-on exhibits; a ropes challenge course; and more.


Another major Myrtle Beach attraction is the SkyWheel, a 187-foot tall Ferris wheel located along the oceanfront boardwalk. Offering panoramic views of the coastline, SkyWheel was named South Carolina’s “best scenic experience” in 2012 by The Official Best Of website. When it comes to dining, visitors can enjoy dinner and a show at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, which includes live jousting tournaments – complete with knights and horses – and a fourcourse meal. Pirates Voyage Fun, Feast & Adventure also provides live entertainment with an acrobatic

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competition, stunts and musical productions, as well as a four-course meal. Home to nearly 60 top-rated courses, Myrtle Beach is also a nationally known golf destination. Golf Digest ranks Caledonia Golf & Fish Club as the area’s top course, with the Dunes Golf & Beach Club scoring second place and True Blue Golf Plantation ranking third.

The Environmental Discovery Center at Lynches River County Park gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the 676-acre park.

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Distinctive Downtowns Less than an hour south of Myrtle Beach, Georgetown draws visitors to its specialty shops, museums, parks and riverfront boardwalk, which is home to restaurants like Castaways Bar & Grill, Front Street Deli and Portofinos on the Wharf. Nearby, Conway’s riverfront boardwalk and historic downtown attracts crowds with year-round festivals, concerts and other events. Further inland, Florence is home to a thriving arts and culture scene, including the Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library and the Florence Little Theatre. More plays, concerts and performing arts events are staged at the new Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, which hosts the Florence Symphony Orchestra as well as nationally

Above: Racing fans can peruse memorabilia at the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum.

and internationally acclaimed acts. The venue includes an 849seat main theater and a 100-seat Black Box space, making it perfect for both large and small events. Sports fans can find plenty of excitement at the Darlington Raceway. The track, said to be “too tough to tame,” hosts events for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, such as the NASCAR Nationwide Series 200 and the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Racing buffs can also visit the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum to peruse classic cars, memorabilia and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.

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Attention Outdoor Lovers The region’s state parks, including Little Pee Dee State Park, Myrtle Beach State Park, Woods Bay State Park, Cheraw State Park and Huntington Beach State Park, make it ideal for camping, fishing, birding, hiking, biking, picnicking and other recreational activities. Hunting and wildlife preserves are also plentiful in the area. Williamsburg County offers deer, duck, quail and dove hunting near the Black River, which is a prime area for catching bream, redbreasted sunfish, large-mouth bass and catfish. The 54-acre Lake Norton in Little Pee Dee State Park is also a top fishing spot. Water lovers can canoe, boat or kayak on the 600-acre manmade Lake Paul Wallace located in Bennettsville, the Little Pee Dee River in Dillon or Lynches River County Park in Coward.

Darlington County Economic Development Partnership

Post Office Box 100549 Florence, SC 29502


What’s Online 


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Discover more of the region’s fun attractions at ne-south-carolina.

Ad Index

7 ArborOne Farm Credit 20 Darlington County Economic Development Partnership

17 Florence Civic Center

19 Florence Convention Visitors Bureau

c3 Florence Regional Airport

2 Francis Marion University

15 Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc. 2 Johnson Controls 12 Magnolia Mall

c4 North Eastern Strategic Alliance

C2 Springhill Suites by Marriott

economic profile Business snapshot

Population (2012 estimate) North Eastern South Carolina Region: 720,332 Chesterfield County: 46,103 Darlington County: 68,139 Dillon County: 31,446 Florence County: 137,948 Georgetown County: 60,189

The North Eastern South Carolina Region encompasses nine counties, including the population centers of Florence and Myrtle Beach, and has a combined labor force of 325,000. Top industries in the region include agribusiness, food processing, manufacturing, plastics, distribution and logistics, and call centers.

Change in Regional Population (2005-2009)

Per Capita Income (2009)

NESA Region: 5.44%


Top Employers

Horry County: 282,285

Highways: Interstates 20, 95 and the proposed interstate 73; U.S. highways 17, 378, 52, 521, 701, 301, 1 and 501

Marion County: 32,457

Sonoco Products, 2,400

Marlboro County: 28,145

Honda of South Carolina

Williamsburg County: 33,620

Manufacturing, 1,553

Major Population Centers (2011 estimate)

Schaeffler Group USA, 1,200

Florence, 37,326

Mohawk Industries, 1,000

Myrtle Beach, 27,820

QVC, 1,000

Class I CSX track

Wal-Mart Distribution Center, 910

Nearby ports:

Conway, 17,513

AVX Corporation, 1,100 Perdue Farms, 1,075

Airports: Florence Regional Airport Myrtle Beach International Airport


What’s Online 

Port of Georgetown Port of Charleston Port of Wilmington port-of-wilmington

For more in-depth demographic, statistical and community information on North Eastern South Carolina, go to and click on “Facts & Stats,” then “Demographics.”


Garden City, 9,209 Georgetown, 9,138

Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, 901

Bennettsville, 8,949

International Paper Company, 831

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advertisers ArborOne Farm Credit Darlington County Economic Development Partnership Florence Civic Center Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau Florence Regional Airport Francis Marion University

NESA Region: $27,956

Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc. Johnson Controls Magnolia Mall North Eastern Strategic Alliance

Florence Regional Airport Get of f th Get dow e ground. n t o bu s iness. Choose Florenc e Regiona l Airpor t.

Springhill Suites by Marriott

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North Eastern South Carolina Economic Development Guide 2013  

South Carolina's Northeast Region covers nine counties, including the population centers of Florence, Darlington and Myrtle Beach, and is ho...