OF FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA
GAINING THROUGH TRAINING Tech schools prepare workforce of tomorrow
THE SPORTING LIFE New splash pad and canopy walk draw residents to scenic park
Shop ’til You Dine Area emerges as hub for retail and restaurants
SPONSORED BY THE FLORENCE COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP | 2008
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contents BUSINESS TM
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY
Southern Hospitality and More
A variety of companies have located within the county, adding employees and facilities at a pace that bodes well for the future.
Humming Right Along
Still Growing After All These Years
The basics of farming may not have changed much over time, but what comes from the land in this area certainly has. ACCESSIBILITY
A Bulging Piggy Bank READ MORE ONLINE
IMAGESFLORENCE . com
From Here to Anywhere LINKS Click on links to local Web sites and learn more about the business click climate, demographics, service providers and other aspects of life here. WEATHER Find current conditions, immediate and long-range, forecasts and historical averages. 0CA7<3AA
Revenue from a 1-cent increase in sales tax will transform area roadways.
Hereâ€™s to Your Health
Health care in the Pee Dee region has never been better.
Standing in Line for a Smile
Pharmaceuticals to the Fore
ONLINE VIRTUAL MAGAZINE Flip through pages of Business Images of Florence on your computer screen, zoom in to read the articles, and click on the ads to be linked to the Web sites of advertisers. B;
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ARCHIVE Read the past edition of Images of Florence.
Partners in Progress
Francis Marion University has earned a solid reputation for excellence â€“ both inside the classroom and out in the community.
Gaining Through Training
Making Dreams Come True
ABOUT THIS MAGAZINE Business Images of Florence is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is sponsored by the Florence County Economic Development Partnership. In print and online, Business Images gives readers a taste of what makes Florence County tick â€“ from transportation and technology to health care and quality of life.
â€œFind the good â€“ and praise it.â€? â€“ Alex Haley (1921-1992), Journal Communications co-founder
On the Cover PHOTO BY IAN CURCIO Lynches River County Park
Leatherman Realty, Inc.
Relocating? If you are making a move to South Carolina’s Pee Dee area, our Relocation Guide will make your move a smooth and trouble-free experience. Moving to a new community can be difficult for a family. That’s why we have prepared a comprehensive relocation package. Our goal is to make that transition as smooth as possible for your entire family. From schools to shopping, doctors to day-care, our guide has a variety of resources to help you get acclimated to your new community. Of course, there’s no obligation ... ERA Leatherman Realty believes in making real estate and the relocation process as easy as possible for everyone involved. To them, that means providing information to anyone who wants to know more about this great area. So, call today to order your free relocation package: (800) 828-6043 or order online at www.eraleatherman.com. It’s just one more way we’re going the extra mile to make your move to the Pee Dee Area a complete success.
Additional Services * Area Orientation Tours * Customized Newcomer Packages * Home Sales Assistance * Home Buying Assistance
Leatherman Realty, Inc. Relocation Specialists 2180 W. Evans St. • Florence, SC 29501 (843) 662-0388 office (800) 828-6043 Toll-free www.eraleatherman.com
Sprucing Up a Southern Belle
Florence is becoming even more sophisticated as its downtown undergoes a revitalization.
Main Street Momentum
The Real (Estate) Deal
Florence County remains one of the hottest markets in South Carolina for home sales.
A Classy Act for the Arts
The Sporting Life
RETAIL & RESTAUR ANTS
Shop ’til You Dine
At the crossroads of key east-west and north-south roadways, Florence is a regional hub for shopping and dining.
A Buoyant Mood at Indigo Joe’s
Banking on the Future
Florence County’s thriving economy is backed by a growing number of ﬁnancial institutions.
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION: SOUTHEASTERN INSTITUTE OF MANUFACTURING AND TECHNOLOGY
OF FLOR EN CE 2008 EDITION, VOLUME 2
& loving it!
ANN KING | (843) 664-7253 TWO NAMES YOU CAN TRUST SERVING FLORENCE COURT
The King’s Academy The King’s Academy is an independent, Christ-centered 4K-12th grade school. TKA is dedicated to “Mind, Body, Spirit … Educating the Whole Student,” offering Honors, College Prep and Dual-credit classes along with an excellent Fine Arts and Athletic Program.
“Being part of the TKA family for over 13 years has been a blessing to our entire family. Watching our three children grow academically, spiritually, socially and athletically confirms that The King’s Academy has been a positive, life-changing investment. Helping students discover their gifts, reach their goals and prepare them to successfully thrive and make a difference in the world is a mission of The King’s Academy and one that we are honored to be a part of.” – Kent and Carolyn Caudle Parents of Kacey (2006 Alumnus), Anna (11th grade), Drew (8th grade)
MANAGING EDITOR MAURICE FLIESS COPY EDITOR JOYCE CARUTHERS ASSOCIATE EDITORS LISA BATTLES, SUSAN CHAPPELL, KIM MADLOM, ANITA WADHWANI ASSISTANT EDITOR REBECCA DENTON STAFF WRITERS CAROL COWAN, KEVIN LITWIN, JESSICA MOZO DIRECTORIES EDITORS AMANDA KING, KRISTY WISE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS LINDSAY CHAPPELL, SHARON H. FITZGERALD, ANNE GILLEM, JOE MORRIS, VALERIE PASCOE, GARY PERILLOUX, AMY STUMPFL ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER TODD POTTER SENIOR INTEGRATED MEDIA MANAGER SUZI M C GRUDER ONLINE SALES MANAGER MATT SLUTZ SALES COORDINATOR SARA SARTIN STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS JEFF ADKINS, WES ALDRIDGE, TODD BENNETT, ANTONY BOSHIER, MICHAEL W. BUNCH, IAN CURCIO, BRIAN M C CORD PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT JESSY YANCEY CREATIVE DIRECTOR KEITH HARRIS WEB DESIGN DIRECTOR SHAWN DANIEL PRODUCTION DIRECTOR NATASHA LORENS ASSISTANT PRODUCTION DIRECTOR CHRISTINA CARDEN PRE-PRESS COORDINATOR HAZEL RISNER PRODUCTION PROJECT MGRS. MELISSA HOOVER, JILL WYATT SENIOR PRODUCTION PROJECT MGR. TADARA SMITH SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNERS LAURA GALLAGHER, KRIS SEXTON, VIKKI WILLIAMS GRAPHIC DESIGN JESSICA BRAGONIER, CANDICE HULSEY, JANINE MARYLAND, LINDA MOREIRAS, AMY NELSON WEB DESIGN RYAN DUNLAP, CARL SCHULTZ WEB PRODUCTION JILL TOWNSEND DIGITAL ASSET MANAGER ALISON HUNTER COLOR IMAGING TECHNICIAN CORY MITCHELL AD TRAFFIC MEGHANN CAREY, SARAH MILLER, PATRICIA MOISAN, RAVEN PETTY CHAIRMAN GREG THURMAN PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER BOB SCHWARTZMAN EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT RAY LANGEN SR. V.P./CLIENT DEVELOPMENT JEFF HEEFNER SR. V.P./SALES CARLA H. THURMAN SR. V.P./PRODUCTION & OPERATIONS CASEY E. HESTER V.P./SALES HERB HARPER V.P./VISUAL CONTENT MARK FORESTER V.P./TRAVEL PUBLISHING SYBIL STEWART EXECUTIVE EDITOR TEREE CARUTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR JEFFREY S. OTTO CONTROLLER CHRIS DUDLEY ACCOUNTING MORIAH DOMBY, DIANA GUZMAN, MARIA MCFARLAND, LISA OWENS, JACKIE YATES RECRUITING/TRAINING DIRECTOR SUZY WALDRIP CLIENT SERVICES DIRECTOR CINDY COMPERRY DISTRIBUTION DIRECTOR GARY SMITH MARKETING COORDINATOR AMY AKINS IT SYSTEMS DIRECTOR MATT LOCKE IT SERVICE TECHNICIAN RYAN SWEENEY HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER PEGGY BLAKE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR NICOLE WILLIAMS CLIENT & SALES SERVICES MANAGER/ CUSTOM PUBLISHING PATTI CORNELIUS Business Images of Florence is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through the Florence County Economic Development Partnership. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Florence County Economic Development Partnership P.O. Box 100549 • 1951 Pisgah Rd. • Florence, SC 29502 Phone: (843) 676-8796 • Fax: (843) 676-8799 www.fcedp.com VISIT BUSINESS IMAGES OF FLORENCE ONLINE AT IMAGESFLORENCE.COM ©Copyright 2007 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 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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TOP 10 REASONS TO DO BUSINESS IN SOUTH CAROLINA’S FLORENCE COUNTY 1. Location Florence County is in the center of northeastern South Carolina at the junction of Interstates 95 and 20. With nearly 75 percent of the nation’s population within a day’s drive, it is an ideal location for distribution, manufacturing and retail. 2. Proven Success The region is a proven location for world-class business and industry, including ABB, Anheuser-Busch, Assurant, DuPont, FedEx, GE Healthcare, Honda, Johnson Controls, Nan Ya Plastics, PepsiCo, QVC, Roche, Smurfit-Stone Container and Washington Mutual. 3. Education and Training Local public and private schools offer families a broad range of educational and extracurricular opportunities. Francis Marion University and FlorenceDarlington Technical College help create an abundant workforce. The Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology and The Center for Accelerated Technology Training provide industryspecific training.
4. Incentive Programs Florence County and South Carolina offer a series of customized performance-based incentive programs designed to reduce both start-up expenses and operating costs. Timely and aggressive programs can be devised to help meet the needs of individual prospects. 5. Low Real Estate Costs The county offers some of the lowest real estate prices in the nation – commercial, industrial and residential. Expansion Management magazine’s 2007 Business Attraction rankings placed Florence fifth in the nation for affordable housing. 6. Quality of Life With a plethora of choices in restaurants, lodging and cultural activities, Florence invites the interested to explore multiple opportunities. A symphony orchestra, museums, performing arts center, live theater, parks
Great Pee Dee River
and other recreational amenities are easily accessible. 7. Warm Climate Exceptionally mild winters allow Florentines to have fun in the sun almost year-round. The agricultural community enjoys an extended growing season averaging 241 days (March through October). 8. Top-Rated Health Care Florence County’s two major hospital systems, Carolinas Hospital System and McLeod Health, contribute significantly to the quality of life as well as the economic growth of the entire Pee Dee region. 9. Available Buildings & Sites The county has an active speculative building program, with certified sites and parks waiting for new investment. To view current buildings and sites, visit www.fcedp.com. 10. Hub of It All As the hub of retail trade, services, entertainment, business and health care for a regional population base in excess of 500,000, Florence County enjoys assets well beyond those found in most tertiary metropolitan markets in the United States. Nonetheless, small-town charm has been maintained. In short, Florence County offers “Global Reach ... With a Southern Touch.”
Olanta Scranton 378
ADVENTURES FROM MILD TO WILD Two Florence men opened Naturally Outdoors Outfitters in 2005, and the store has been climbing in popularity since. Hunter Morgan and Scott Murphy offer a large variety of outdoor clothing and equipment, and they even provide lessons and guided outdoor trips. Those trips can involve kayaking, hiking, climbing or biking. Three-day outings are available to the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The duo also schedules paddling excursions along the Little Pee Dee and Lynches rivers, as well as backpacking expeditions to Western U.S. states.
BOOKWORM’S DELIGHT The architecture is nearly as interesting as the reading material at the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation Library. The impressive 83,000-square-foot building on Dargan Street in Florence features classical columns, etched windows, chandeliers and spacious hallways. The foundation donated more than half of the funds to build the $17.4 million library, which opened in 2004. Two local physicians started the foundation to give back to their community, and today the building that bears their names serves as the headquarters of the Florence County Library System. The library is open seven days a week.
GOOD TO THE LAST CROP Out of butter beans? Low on peas? The Pee Dee State Farmers Market is open year-round on a 55-acre site off U.S. 52 where a former tobacco experimental station once operated. The open-air market has been a staple of Florence since 1983. Products for sale include fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers. The market features 16 vendors, a café, pecan kitchen and potter’s shop. It also hosts two flower shows each year – on the first weekend of October and the first weekend after Easter.
STRENGTH OF STEEL Hereâ€™s a solid fact: The New Millennium Building Systems plant in Florence is undergoing an expansion. The steel joist and girder manufacturer has embarked on a $15 million expansion project that includes the acquisition of additional property, 40 new employees, construction of new buildings and the purchase of new equipment. New Millennium has been around since 1966 when it was part of Socar Inc. Company officials have announced the current average employee salary of $32,000 is expected to increase to more than $50,000 a year as the company payroll rises from $6 million to $11 million annually over the next five years.
FESTIVE FLORENCE Party alert: The city of Florence hosts six festivals each year. The Pecan Festival occurs downtown, while Francis Marion University hosts both the International Festival and Arts Alive. Other events are the Spirit of Florence July 4 Celebration of Family, the Greek Festival and the Sankofa Festival that recognizes African-American heritage. Celebrations in neighboring municipalities include the South Carolina Tobacco Festival in Lake City, Gator Festival in Olanta and Founders Day Festival in Johnsonville.
THRILLING DEVELOPMENT A suspense film called The Strangers was filmed mostly in Florence in late 2006, with the movie released in July 2007. The thriller is about a suburban couple whose home is invaded by three masked strangers. The Florence County Economic Development Partnership and the South Carolina Film Commission offered a package of incentives to lure filmmaker Rogue Pictures. More than half of the movieâ€™s scenes were filmed in a vacant industrial building in the Florence Industrial Park, where a makeshift house was constructed. Stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman were seen in various Florence night spots during the two months of filming. Tyler was a regular at the Therapy Now bar, and the cast wrap-up party was held at Club 231.
PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS One of the oldest racetracks in NASCAR is getting a new surface. A $10 million renovation project has been taking place at Darlington Raceway, with most of the money geared toward repaving the 1.366-mile oval. The track that opened in 1949 had last been repaved in 1995, and the asphalt had become marred by several cracks and small ruts. The renovation is to be completed in time for the track’s Sprint Cup race on Mother’s Day weekend 2008. Darlington Raceway, which seats 65,000 and is nicknamed The Track Too Tough to Tame, was the site of the first stock-car race run entirely on pavement.
LOOK: UP IN THE SKY The sky’s the limit whenever the May Fly Regional Air Show occurs on Memorial Day weekend. The two-day family event takes place at Florence Regional Airport, starting with a grand parade at noon to honor the nation’s veterans. Then the show starts, with attractions such as Air Force flight demonstrations, wing walking, smoke ring aerobatics and pyrotechnics. There is also an interesting land attraction – a jet-powered 1940 Ford Fire Truck that can reach speeds of 400 mph. There is also a classic car show, an antique tractor show and a Kid Zone.
GO, GO, GO-KARTS Boring birthday plans? That will never be the case at Mister Mark’s Fun Park. The Florence entertainment destination provides a fun and safe environment for all families to enjoy birthday parties and other special occasions. The most popular birthday package includes a pizza party and access to all the activities available in the park, including go-kart racing, miniature golf and an arcade. Besides pizza, Mister Mark’s serves hot dogs, nachos and salads.
DuPont Teijin Films plant
business & industry
Businesses find Florence County an excellent place to settle – and grow
EVERYBODY INTO THE POOLE Even when one company finds it necessary to suspend operations here, another one seems to be waiting in the wings. For example, Greenville, S.C.-based David C. Poole Co., a distributor of synthetic staple fibers, purchased the Wellstrand division of Wellman Inc. in May 2007 and is in the process of getting the Johnsonville operation back up and running, says Bynum Poole, vice president. “We saw a niche spot in the market that would justify our purchasing that line, because it’s an area of fibers we don’t see being affected by imports,” Poole says. “The labor was here, and they needed jobs.” The company currently has about
20 employees at the plant and will be expanding over time. “We’ve got some ideas for growth in this area,” Poole says. “We don’t have anything specific right now, but we bought a facility that is ready for and capable of future expansion.” AT HONDA, VROOM GOES ON Honda of South Carolina Mfg. Inc., the largest industrial/manufacturing employer in Florence County, observed its 10th anniversary here in 2007. The company is looking back on the decade with satisfaction, in large part thanks to its employees, says Jeff Helton, assistant vice president of support services. “The Pee Dee area has been great for us,” he says. “We’ve got about 1,800 associates, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our workforce.” The plant makes nine models of allterrain vehicles and several different watercraft at its 600-acre site just off Interstate 95 in Timmonsville, and it can alter production on individual lines based on consumer demand. This helps keep the employee numbers stable, Helton says. “We’ve got a lot of flexibility here, so we keep an eye on inventory and just see what happens,” he says.
WELDING AND RECORD-KEEPING Things are also busy at ESAB Welding & Cutting Products at its facility just north of the Honda plant. The company, currently with about 800 employees, continues to add to its workforce at a rapid pace, says Jill Heiden, senior vice president of human resources for ESAB’s North American Group. “We’re hiring like crazy,” Heiden says. “We probably have more than 70 people to hire for ESAB North America [in the second half of 2007], and we’re continually growing. We’ve got more than 100 temps right now.” The company has teamed with Florence-Darlington Technical College for employee training. In spring 2007, Washington Mutual leased space in the former Maytag facility in Florence and opened a record-keeping center in the building several months later. According to spokesperson Lisa Friedman, the financial institution expects to have between 80 and 90 people on staff there by the end of 2007 – just one more plus for the county’s vibrant economy. – Joe Morris
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
stable workforce, transportation accessibility and economic de velopment incentives are always effective lures for new businesses. Combine those elements with Southern hospitality and the result is Florence County. Its charms have not gone unnoticed. A wide variety of companies have located within the county’s borders, and they are adding employees and facilities at a pace that bodes well for the future. DuPont Teijin Films is a case in point. The Florence operation of the global producer of polyester films such as Cronar, Melinex and Mylar has been working on plant upgrades for a couple of years, enhancing competitiveness, says Robby Redfearn, plant manager. “The plant has achieved some milestones in the last year or two, including a safety performance that is better now than it has been in the 47-year history of the plant,” Redfearn says. “We’ve also stabilized our cost base.” DuPont continues to improve its ability to recycle raw materials, reducing the need for virgin material to manufacture films, and to increase quality control. “We have extremely reliable products here, and our quality performance is exceptional,” he says. “We’re one of the best plants DuPont has in the country.”
Assistant Vice President Jeff Helton (left) and Senior Vice President Brian Newman take a hands-on approach to one of the Honda models fresh from the assembly line.
business & industry
Humming Right Along Plethora of power providers provide abundant energy resources jobs paying around $50,000 a year when it’s open. And it will have a ripple effect on the local economy.” Progress Energy, a Fortune 250 company headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is another major player here. “Florence is Progress Energy’s regional headquarters, and we are proud to team with our partners in growing the business community and to provide reliable, affordable power for our customers,” says Peggy McLean, business development executive. McLean says the company works with the Florence County Economic Development Partnership and Florence County Progress to promote business investment and job growth, as well as with the North Eastern Strategic Alliance – a regional economic development organization for Florence and eight neighboring counties. “Progress Energy’s support for industrial infrastructure and speculative buildings has helped several South Carolina communities establish highquality economic development products,”
McLean says. “The company’s financial assistance through the state license-fee tax-credit program helped Florence County establish an industrial park and speculative building.” The company plans to invest around $350 million by 2012 on transmission projects throughout its service area in the Carolinas and Florida, she says. Pee Dee Electric Cooperative also is active in Florence County. Besides providing power, it operates Pee Dee Touchstone Energy Commerce City – a 705-acre, “shovel ready” commercial and industrial park at Interstate 95 and U.S. 327. (See story, page 23.) Columbia, S.C.-based SCANA, which owns South Carolina Electric & Gas, makes its presence felt locally as well. Overall, SCANA provides natural gas to about 300,000 natural-gas customers in a 22,000-square-mile service area, and it transmits, distributes and sells electricity to 620,000 retail and wholesale customers across the state. – Joe Morris
vailable, reliable power is a must-have for any business, especially those in the manufacturing sector. In the Pee Dee region, there’s plenty to go around. Santee Cooper, Progress Energy, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative and SCANA Corp. all serve the area, and each is involved in ongoing improvements that will further brighten the power picture over time. Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s largest provider of electricity, is planning a $988 million, coal-fired generating plant on a 2,700-acre site in Kingsburg. The company is in the permitting and public-approval stages of the project, and it hopes to have the plant operational as early as 2012, says Laura Varn, vice president of corporate communications. Varn points to local support as instrumental in the project’s progress to date. “Everyone is supportive of the facility and understands the economic benefits of having it,” she says. “It’s going to bring about 1,400 construction jobs for five or six years and then about 100 full-time
Above-ground and subterranean utility lines crisscross the region.
Growing After All These Years
Ag-related businesses harvest bountiful results with new products and services
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
Workers at McCall Farms pit peaches for canning. South Carolina ranks second nationally in peach production.
he basics of farming may not have changed much over time, but what comes from the land in and around Florence County certainly has. Novel items such as yard-ready turf are supplanting some familiar crops like tobacco. Meanwhile, farmers still in the business of producing fruits and vegetables are finding new and inventive ways to get them to market, ensuring healthy agricultural growth for the region. Consider McCall Farms Inc. in Effingham. What began as a working farm in 1838 grew into a canning operation by 1954 and now produces about 70 different canned fruits and vege tables. Most recently, it expanded with a line of frozen foods under its Margaret Holmes and other brands, says Sales Manager Woody Swink. “We thought the timing was right to get into the freezing business because it really is a perfect fit,” Swink says. “This is great diversification for us.” By the time the new product line became reality in February 2007, the company had invested $3.9 million and begun the process of adding 45 employees to the 200 already on staff. Initial consumer reaction has been favorable. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, we’ll be maximizing our facility in about 24 months,” Swink says. “We’ll probably be freezing 35 to 40 different vegetables. This is going to make us a more solid company.”
WHERE THE GRASS IS GREENER Also in a growth mode is Dargan Turf Farm, which is producing grass on land where tobacco once sprouted. The farm produces several kinds of turf, includ ing Bermuda, centipede and St. Augustine, says Edwin Dargan, who owns and operates the farm along with his son, Ned. “I’d always thought about getting into this, and when my son finished at Clemson University and came back to work with me, he wanted to try it too,” Dargan says. “The tobacco situation wasn’t looking too promising, so we got into something we figured would be a good replacement.” Dargan sells primarily to landscapers but also does some business with homeowners. “Whoever calls up and wants it,” he says, “can come and get a few pieces or a whole truckload.” STRAW INTO MONEY Ground cover also is big business at East Coast Erosion Blankets, which set up shop in a former tobacco warehouse in Lake City in 2006. The Pennsylvaniabased company, which has 15 employees locally, produces erosion-control blankets and mats. It serves the Southeast market as well as Puerto Rico and Mexico, says Plant Manager Mark Hancock. “We have a lot of farmers bringing us the wheat straw we need, so there’s no
problem at all with raw materials,” Hancock says. “The business is steady, and everyone here was very helpful in getting us started.” All of this development takes money, of course, and ArborOne is one company making sure that agricultural entrepreneurs have ready access to capital. The lender, which began in 1917 as Pee Dee Farm Credit, sends its loan officers into the field, effectively using the farms as branch offices, says Jack Shuler, president and chief executive officer. As for the company’s actual headquarters, a new, $3 million building is scheduled for occupancy in early 2008 on Woody Jones Boulevard in Florence, Shuler says. “We’ve completely outgrown our existing facility,” he says. “We’re managing about $875 million in loans and assets, and we’re in one of the most active agribusiness areas of South Carolina. “Our customer base is full-time farmers, part-time farmers and people who are just looking to buy large or small tracts of land for recreational purposes or just to live out in the country.” Also investing in the area’s agribusiness future is the Pee Dee Research and Education Center of Clemson University, which sits on 2,300 acres in Florence and Darlington counties. Among other things, its staff is studying how to produce pharmaceuticals from plants. – Joe Morris
Bulging Piggy Bank
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
Revenue from 1-cent increase in sales tax will transform area roadways
Interstates 95 and 20 intersect here, and they bring sales tax revenue that will help fund further road improvements.
enjamin Frank lin would cherish the financial wisdom of Florence County. The iconic American statesman graces $100 bills, but in his day he prized the frugality of a penny saved. In November 2006, Florence voters prized that same frugality, pledging an additional 1-cent sales tax – bringing the total tax to 8 cents per $1 purchase – and placing the penny in a sound investment: roads. The investment made for a relatively easy sale when local legislator Hugh Leatherman Sr. did the math. The Finance Committee chairman in South Carolina’s Senate, Leatherman secured a commitment from the State Infra structure Bank to fund six significant road-building projects. If Florence County could come up with $148 million in matching funds, the state would bankroll the remaining $250 million. The tax goes away after seven years. Meanwhile, the $398 million transportation package will yield $876 million in increased economic activity in Florence County during the construction period and nearly 9,000 new jobs and a $1 billion impact in the greater Pee Dee region, according to Francis Marion University School of Business professors David Franck and Jeffrey Pompe. Leatherman credits the success to
Florence County Forward leaders who met weekly prior to the referendum. “Frankly, the group went out and raised money from the private sector and brought outside campaign people and approached this just as you would a political campaign,” Leatherman says. “In this case, you were selling an idea. And I can’t think of anything that will impact the Florence County community in the next decade more than this.” Cementing the bargain are projections that travelers along Interstates 95 and 20 will pay half of the local tax. Another bonus: With money for the six projects now allocated, smaller jobs financed with other dollars are expected to get the green light, too. AIRPORT UPGRADES Air transportation in Florence will thrust forward, too, in 2008. Up to $10 million in work will expand gate departure areas and terminal-building amenities at Florence Regional Airport. “Since we’ve been here as a regional airport authority in 1998, we’ve probably done about $12 million in airport improvements,” says Executive Director Hartsell Rogers. “This undertaking will be by far the largest we’ve taken on.” Among the airport’s advantages are $7.50 daily parking, easy terminal access within three minutes of parking, and a combined 11 flights daily on regional
carriers Atlantic Southeast Airlines to Atlanta and US Airways Express to Charlotte, N.C. Passenger volume is running about 50,000 annually, up 20 percent since 9/11, Rogers says. “The very first question a (business) prospect will ask is, ‘Where is the nearest airport?’ ” he says. “The very next question is, ‘Where is the nearest commercial airport?’ So having a commercial airport in the Pee Dee is absolutely great for economic development.” RAIL HERE, PORTS NEARBY So, too, are rail lines offering Amtrak passenger service and a CSX freight yard linked to the largest rail network in the Eastern United States. Through 2010, CSX will average $1.6 billion annually in systemwide capital improvements. The company employs 1,250 in South Carolina with an annual payroll of $57 million, according to spokesman John Dillard. Completing the county’s transportation trifecta is its proximity to the busy ports in Charleston, S.C., Wilmington, N.C., and Savannah, Ga. – Gary Perilloux
Above: A new baggage carousel is among recent improvements at Florence Regional Airport.
Home of the Best Associates Producing ATVs and Personal Watercraft!
1111 Honda Way â€˘ Timmonsville, SC 29161
From Here to Anywhere COMPANIES FIND FLORENCE COUNTY, AT THE INTERSECTION OF TWO MAJOR INTERSTATES, IS IDEALLY SITUATED FOR DISTRIBUTION CENTERS
and ideal transportation access would woo companies and create hundreds of quality jobs. “The whole methodology behind it was to have sites that are shovel-ready,” says Brian Kelley, vice president of marketing for the energy company, “so that when somebody comes to town, you’re not having to deal with all the locations or guess at what the utilities are. Everything is in place. We wanted this to be a showpiece for Florence County.” – Gary Perilloux
Shipping more than 100 million packages a year makes efficient distribution essential for the QVC television-shopping network. The “C” in QVC stands for convenience, something the company discovered in abundance when it opened its newest distribution center in July 2007 in Florence County. The 1.4 millionsquare-foot facility could employ as many as 1,200 people within two years. The TV Road location near the junction of Interstates 20 and 95 – two of America’s most significant east-west and north-south highways – might have made the South Carolina selection a no-brainer. But Florence County offered even more, with a pledge to build nearly $400 million worth of additional highway projects over the next decade – including the widening of TV Road for four miles leading to I-95. “We’re excited,” state Sen. Hugh Leatherman Sr. says of QVC’s decision to locate in the county. “On the final day when we talked to them to convince them to come here, this (road plan) was part of the final negotiations. It absolutely made a difference.” Now, Leatherman adds, “we’re looking for other distribution centers to come here in the future.” Florence County’s transportation infrastructure – already impressive and destined to become even better – is proving to be a magnet for other corporations, too. In February 2007, Johnson Controls opened a 330,000-square-foot assembly and distribution center that will make and ship 8 million automotive and marine batteries annually when it reaches peak production in 2008. “Certainly, transportation is key because of the proximity to I-95 going north and south and I-20 going west,” says Sarah Caggiano, plant manager. Johnson Controls bought a speculative building completed by a private developer in Pee Dee Touchstone Energy Commerce City, a 705-acre commercial park just north of the QVC site. Also at Commerce City, FedEx opened an 87,000-square-foot distribution center in 2007, IFH Foodservice Distribution unveiled a $39 million facility spanning more than 300,000 square feet in 2006 and Crenlo manufactures truck cabs in a 236,000-square-foot building. Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, with 30,000 customers in the Florence area, opened the park in 2000 with a vision that seamless utility services
David E. Foster oversees QVC’s new 1.4-million-square-foot facility as general manager of distribution and administration.
Advances in technology make region’s hospitals among the best anywhere
Standing in Line for a Smile
ith McLeod Regional Medical Center and Carolinas Hospital System in Florence making use of the medical profession’s latest technological advances, health care in the Pee Dee region has never been better. The two hospitals now offer a combined total of 848 patient beds. And as the largest and third-largest employers in Florence County, respectively, McLeod Health and Carolinas Hospital System also contribute mightily to the local economy. McLeod celebrated its centennial in 2006 with the December opening of a surgical tower, the focal point of an $82 million expansion that added seven floors to what is now the 12-story McLeod Pavilion. The hospital began its second century of service with 16 state-of-theart surgical suites. In addition, the McLeod Heart and Vascular Institute recently installed the Bransist Safire cardiovascular imaging system, the first of its kind in North America. Cardiologists from around the country will be able to visit McLeod to observe the equipment, which provides high-quality images of coronary arteries with reduced radiation exposure to the patient. McLeod is also the only hospital in the Pee Dee region to offer the new MammoSite targeted radiation therapy, a five-day breast cancer treatment that is less invasive than other procedures. Because of these and other innovations, McLeod was one of five hospitals nationally recognized by the American Hospital Association in its 2007 Quest for Quality initiative. “The pursuit of medical excellence and quality health care has long been a cornerstone of McLeod Health,” says Robert L. Colones, president of McLeod Regional Medical Center. “We are extremely pleased with the outcomes we have achieved through our quality initiatives and the patient lives saved as a result.”
CAROLINAS ON THE CUTTING EDGE Excellence is a trait shared by Carolinas Hospital System as well. It was the only hospital on the Best Companies Group’s recent list of South Carolina’s 15 best places to work. “It’s extremely important that our employees feel good about the work environment,” says Jim O’Loughlin, chief executive officer, “because that directly impacts how our patients perceive their care.” To accomplish that goal, the hospital provides cash incentives for employees who improve their health, and it offers tuition assistance and scholarship programs for those interested in furthering their education. Carolinas Hospital System also remains on the cutting edge of patient care with state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical equipment. The da Vinci Surgical System allows cardiac and prostate procedures to be performed with minimally invasive robotic techniques, reducing risks and shortening recovery times. The new Discovery ST (see/treat) PET/CT scanner improves diagnostic and treatment methods for cancer patients and is the first of its kind in northeastern South Carolina. “The PET/CT is another example of Carolinas Hospital System’s commitment to innovation and technology for early disease detection, supporting physicians in improved diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Alan Sechtin, radiologist for Carolinas. He adds that better image quality and shorter scan times translate to more accurate treatment plans and greater patient comfort. Carolinas Hospital System currently is developing an endovascular suite, and its 2007 merger with Community Health Systems makes it part of the largest proprietary hospital chain in the United States, O’Loughlin says. – Carol Cowan
Carolinas Hospital System is a beacon in the Pee Dee region.
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PEOPLE FLOCK TO SEXTON CLINIC FOR DENTURES IN A DAY If you drive by Sexton Dental Clinic on West Palmetto Street in Florence, you may conclude there’s something free for the taking inside, considering all the people in line. Yet most of the folks in the crowd are there for one thing and ready to pay for it: same-day service for lowercost dentures. “I don’t know how or why he came up with the idea, but it was one amazing idea,” says Paula Haselden, the clinic’s controller. She’s talking about Dr. C.L. Sexton, who in 1923 opened in Florence what was probably the nation’s first oneday dental laboratory for dentures. Today, the clinic employs eight dentists, including one in a satellite office in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “We do have a big line in the morning,” Haselden says, “because we tell denture patients to be here between 6 and 6:30 to guarantee that they get it all done in one day.” After patients complete medical forms, see a dentist, pick out their dentures and have impressions made, they wait around for the finished product. Sexton Dental may see as many as 120 denture patients a day, a vast majority of them from out of state, and from 200 to 300 patients daily in total, Haselden says. The clinic also performs implants, bridgework, crowns, hospital dentistry and oral maxillofacial surgery, plus simpler procedures such as fillings, cleaning and bleaching. – Sharon H. Fitzgerald
GE Healthcare A Proud Member of the Florence Community GE is at the forefront of medical imaging. Since beginning production at the Florence, SC facility in 1984, GE Healthcare has become the worldâ€™s largest manufacturer of superconducting magnets for whole-body diagnostic imaging. Half of the worldâ€™s superconducting magnets for MRIs are manufactured there.
GE Healthcare 3001 W. Radio Dr. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 664-1613 www.ge.com
Roche Carolina Inc. is digging its roots even deeper into Florence County soil with the decision announced in April 2007 to expand its pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. The $60 million investment will result in 25 to 30 additional jobs and a new multipurpose production unit to help the giant drug maker keep pace with demand. The expansion should be completed by the end of 2008. “Certainly, we have found this location is ideal,” Peter J. Mazzaroni, Roche Carolina manager of public affairs, says about Florence County. “We need close access to the ports, the interstate system and local rail, and an available workforce. We have all that here.” Located about eight miles east of the city limits, Roche Carolina currently employs about 315 people, with another 40 or so resident contractors on site. Its two missions are: to research and develop improved manufacturing processes for pharmaceuticals, and to manufacture in bulk pharmaceutical ingredients for Roche products. Roche Carolina has helped bring several key drugs to market, including Xenical (for obesity), Xeloda (for metastatic breast and colorectal cancer) and PEGASYS (for hepatitis C). Based in Basel, Switzerland, Roche opened its developmental laboratories here in 1995. – Sharon H. Fitzgerald
A Prescription for More Medicine
Equipment in IRIX’s laboratories includes a liquid chromatography machine.
From 0 to 160 in 10 Years IRIX PHARMACEUTICALS CELEBRATES ITS FIRST DECADE OF ACHIEVEMENT What a difference a decade makes. IRIX Pharmaceuticals Inc. hired its first employees in 1997. By the time the company observed its 10th birthday in 2007, it had 160 employees at its headquarters in Florence and a manufacturing operation in Greenville, S.C. “We opened a corporate office here in Florence and, in the beginning, actually rented lab space from Francis Marion University. That was our incubator,” says Miriam Swiler, IRIX vice president of human resources and public relations. Two former Roche Carolina executives, J. Guy Steenrod and Peter Kalaritis, founded IRIX and serve as chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively. In 1998, the company bought its headquarters building at 101 Technology Place. “Since that time, you might say, we haven’t put the hammer down, because we’ve been expanding this facility since that time to accommodate
our growth,” Swiler says. The Florence operation includes corporate offices, laboratories and a pilot plant capable of manufacturing enough ingredients for a pharmaceutical clinical trial. The Greenville operation, which began in 2002, includes a pilot plant and facilities for largerbatch manufacturing. In 2006, IRIX worked on 44 active pharmaceutical ingredients for large and small pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology ventures and even “virtual” companies. “There may be an office in Southern California with six or seven people sitting around computers, but we’re doing the lab work here,” Swiler says. Between 30 and 35 percent of IRIX’s employees are scientists with doctoral degrees. “People ask, ‘How in the world do you get that many Ph.D.s to come to Florence?’ Well,” Swiler says, “it’s easy.” – Sharon H. Fitzgerald
Progress The flowering of Francis Marion University benefits all of Florence
stablished in 1970, Francis Marion University has earned a solid reputation for excellence – both inside the classroom and out in the community. As one of 12 state-supported universities, FMU provides a strong liberal arts education to nearly 4,000 students, with a broad selection of undergraduate degrees as well as respected graduate programs. In fact, U.S. News & World Report maga zine has ranked FMU among the South’s top 100 master’s level universities for each of the last five years. “We have the look and feel of a small, private college but all the benefits of a state university,” says Dr. Fred Carter, FMU president since 1999. “Class sizes are relatively small, and we provide a great deal of individual support to students. We try to blend the notion of choice with accessibility.” Students from near and far are taking notice, Carter says, pointing to a 25 percent increase in enrollment over the past eight years.
Francis Marion University has nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
FIRST NURSING SCHOOL GRADUATES “We’ve added a number of new facilities and programs – the foremost being our nursing program,” he says. The Medical University of South
ATHLETICS, ARTS AND MORE Along with providing a first-class education to its students, FMU offers a welcome boost to the region’s overall quality of life. “We’re heavily involved with community outreach,” says Libby Cooper, FMU’s vice president for public and community affairs. “Whether it’s through continuing education, athletic programs or special cultural events, we are committed to serving the needs of this community.” For example, the university is about to break ground on a new performing arts center in the heart of downtown Florence. FMU received a $10 million grant from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation as part of a multi-partnership plan to help transform the downtown area into a major cultural and economic hub. (See story, page 33.) Cooper says the $22 million facility, scheduled for completion in late 2008, will include space for theatrical and musical performances, exhibits, programs, and instruction. “This project is a wonderful example of public-private collaboration,” Cooper says. “We’re proud to partner with the city of Florence and Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation to expand the cultural opportunities for the entire region. This facility will play a huge role in the city’s plans to revitalize the downtown – not to mention enabling the university to expand its arts programs.” – Amy Stumpfl
Gaining Through Training REGIONAL TECH SCHOOLS HELP PREPARE THE WORKFORCE OF TOMORROW Maintaining a skilled labor force is a key concern for any employer. But fortunately for the Pee Dee region, Florence-Darlington Technical College is prepared to help meet that need now and in the future. With more than 4,000 students enrolled, FDTC offers a complete menu of educational and training programs. “Our focus is on technical education, although we also have college-transfer programs,” says Edward Bethea, director of public relations and marketing. “We also offer specialized training and continuing education for business and industry.” FDTC was established in 1963 to help attract new industry to the area and to assist companies operating here with training. Led by President Charles W. Gould since 1993, the school also works closely with local economic development entities. “Our programs are flexible, so we can provide training on our campus or at the business site. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve in terms of what industries need,” Bethea says. FDTC’s Advanced Welding and Cutting Center is a case in point. As South Carolina’s only American Welding Society-accredited test site for welder certification, this state-of-the-art facility offers everything from introductory courses to specialized certifications. The center also houses the ESAB School of Welding and Cutting Technology. “Our welding programs have been a great success,” he says. “We’ve brought a lot of companies to this area, training people from all over the Southeast.” Another regional success story was the opening in August 2007 of the Advanced Manufacturing Center of the new Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology. Located on a 146-acre tract adjacent to FDTC’s main campus, SiMT was established to meet the training and manufacturing needs of the future. “SiMT is more about economic development than education,” says Jack Roach, the institute’s director. “This initiative is designed to help manufacturers be proactive in problem-solving, offering sophisticated training options and developing advanced manufacturing processes. With these kinds of services, manufacturers can cut costs and improve productivity and profitability.” – Amy Stumpfl
Carolina had operated a satellite nursing program on the FMU campus since 1982. The baccalaureate program became part of FMU in 2004 when the university established a Department of Nursing. It is now housed in the Dr. Frank B. Lee Nursing Building, which opened in August 2006. The Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation of Florence donated $5.5 million toward construction of the $7.6 million, 30,000square-foot facility, which features two tiered classrooms, patient care labs and a 135-seat auditorium. The first FMU nursing diplomas were awarded in May. “It’s exciting to see these students go out into the world, ready to meet the tremendous need for qualified nurses,” Carter says. “We’re proud of where our students go and what they do.”
Dr. Charles W. Gould has led Florence-Darlington Technical College since 1993.
Making Dreams Come True Educational institutions implement innovative approaches to learning
hen it comes to education, Florence County families can choose from a wide range of options, including five public school districts and more than a dozen private schools. But the benefits of these schools reach far beyond sheer numbers. With new course offerings and specialized programs, educators throughout the county are working to prepare students for life outside the classroom. “We’re constantly raising the bar, adding more rigorous courses that are relevant to career opportunities,” says Larry L. Jackson, superintendent of Florence School District One. “We’ve listened to the business community in developing new curriculum for both the Florence Career Center and the middle and high schools.” In fact, The School Foundation, a privately endowed organization that supports the district, in May 2007 awarded a $109,000 grant to purchase specialized equipment geared toward new courses in manufacturing and health sciences. “We’re looking to provide real-world experiences – including soft skills, such as working on a team and getting to work on time,” Jackson says. “We’re defining the relationship between what you do in the classroom and what you do after graduation.” As headmaster at Trinity Collegiate School, Dr. Bob Veto also is keenly aware of this relationship. A college preparatory school serving grades seven through 12, Trinity provides advanced counseling. Since the school opened in 1995, 100 percent of its graduates have gone on to four-year colleges. “All of our courses are honors or
[advanced placement] level,” Veto says. “And our seniors take part in a thesis project, which is presented to the entire student body. It’s a huge undertaking because they are incorporating so many skills – research, organization, public speaking. But they take immense pride in the end result and carry those skills forward wherever they go.” Hands-on skills are the cornerstone of ScienceSouth, a unique enterprise that provides science and mathematics activities for students and teachers in the Pee Dee region. Through its summer Science Challenge Camps, live science shows and Science on Wheels programs, ScienceSouth has reached nearly 100,000 people, according to communication and development specialist Andreka Johnson. When it opens a new 5,000-square-
foot facility in 2008, ScienceSouth will incorporate more advanced technology into its programming. “The new facility will offer even greater opportunities for learning, with interactive laboratories and program spaces designed for intergenerational activities,” Johnson says. “Local education and business leaders have been incredibly supportive. They recognize the impor tance of science education and getting kids interested at an early age.” Jackson agrees, calling ScienceSouth “a great partnership for local schools.” “It’s important to get students hooked at an early age – get them excited about learning,” he says. “We ask kids, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ My job is to make available the resources and training to make those dreams possible.” – Amy Stumpfl
ScienceSouth’s Science on Wheels is a venue for students to conduct experiments.
BTC Properties spent about $100,000 to give the downtown area two landscaped pocket parks. P H OTO BY IAN CU RCI O
Sprucing Up a
Southern Belle New construction and renovations are revitalizing downtown Florence
lorence is already known as a vibrant, contemporary city that is a burgeoning center of commerce, medical, retail and professional services. But this southern belle is becoming even more sophisticated as its downtown undergoes a major revitalization. Among the exciting developments are the construction of a performing arts center and a city playhouse on separate sites within an emerging arts and cultural district – public-private, multipartnership collaborations that will further establish downtown Florence as the cultural and economic hub of the Pee Dee region. “There has already been a lot of invest ment and commitment by a number of people to make all of this happen,” says Phillip Lookadoo, director of urban planning and development for the city of Florence. “We are finally at the imple mentation phase, and it is very exciting.”
The Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation, a local philanthropic organization, donated $20 million in grant money to the efforts. Half of the grant money was awarded to Francis Marion University, which will partner with the city of Florence to build the FMU Center for the Performing Arts downtown – a 900seat auditorium, black-box theater, art galleries and classrooms, along with an outdoor amphitheater, reflecting pool and fountain. The second half of the grant is funding a new Florence Little Theatre, which will serve as a 400-seat home for the city’s 80-year-old community theatrical group. In 2008, construction on the Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to begin, and by May of that year completion is expected for the Florence Little Theatre. (See story, page 49.) Already a popular downtown destination is the 83,000-square-foot Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation Library. Adorned with classical columns and
arched windows, it was completed in 2004. The foundation covered more than half of the library’s $17.5 million cost, hence the name. “On any given day you can observe a full parking lot and lots of people making use of the facility,” Lookadoo says. FERTILE GROUND FOR DEVELOPMENT This increased activity has caught the attention of residential and commercial investors, and new and renovated buildings are popping up all over. Plans have been approved for a pair of new three-story apartment buildings – roughly 60 units total – at the corner of Coit and Darlington streets, and plans for a new Walgreens have been approved at Irby and Palmetto streets, Lookadoo says. A historic church, severely damaged by termites, is being reconstructed true to its original architecture on South Coit. Local leaders at Turner Padget Graham & Laney, the largest law firm in the Pee
Dee region, have expressed a desire to be an anchor tenant in a new mixed-use office building downtown that is still in the planning stages. “We believe it’s vital that any progres-
sive, growing city have a vibrant downtown area, and it seems particularly fitting that a law firm be at the forefront of that,” says Michael Roberts, an attorney and shareholder in the firm's Florence office. “Access to the courthouse is important to many of our attorneys, and we have made a conscious decision to be part of the downtown revitalization project.” POCKETS OF GREEN BTC Properties Inc. shares that sentiment. The company owns and leases space in office buildings, and it recently created a nearly half-acre park on previously barren ground at the corner of Evans and Coit, adjacent to When completed, the Florence Little Theatre will be a 400-seat venue.
the office building occupied by Bank of America. The park is landscaped with trees, shrubs and f lowers, and it includes picnic tables, brick walkways, flags and lights – a nice place to picnic or just take a break. The company also demolished a dilapidated building at the corner of Evans and Dargan streets and landscaped the spot with grass, trees and flowers. “We think it’s a good thing to do if you’re a good business citizen,” says Vipperman, who estimates the cost of the improvements at around $100,000. “We have great expectations for the future of Florence. We see a concerted effort to transform the city, and we’re very excited about that.” – Rebecca Denton
Main Street Momentum SMALLER CITIES IN FLORENCE COUNTY ARE DRESSING UP THEIR DOWNTOWNS WITH LANDSCAPING, LIGHTING AND CROSSWALKS
Commerce has ordered concrete planters to beautify Main Street. The chamber also plans to decorate windows in the downtown area for the South Carolina Tobacco Festival and Holiday Market events. While there is no formal Main Street program in Lake City at this time, chamber representatives have been meeting with the mayor and merchants to determine concerns and how to move forward, says Kimberly Sims, director of revitalization. “When people travel to Lake City, the majority will travel to Main Street,” she says. “It is important that Main Street is clean and attractive so these people shop, eat and stay in our area.” – Rebecca Denton
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
Some smaller communities in Florence County – including Johnsonville, Lake City, Timmonsville and Quinby – are actively engaged in Main Street revitalization programs. Johnsonville has secured two grants of $200,000 each from the South Carolina Department of Transportation, with 20 percent matched by the city, and work on some projects is slated to start in late 2007. “Basically we have $480,000 to go toward downtown revitalization,” says City Administrator Scott Tanner. “We’re going to do four to five blocks in Phase I, and we hope to move farther down Broadway Street in the future.” Projects include adding lighting, adding and redesigning curbs, installing brick crosswalks at intersections, and landscaping. Future improvements include burying overhead wiring, erecting decorative traffic-signal poles and landscaping where Broadway meets State Highways 41 and 51. “We’re looking to make the streets pedestrian friendly and enticing for people to come downtown and walk around,” says Johnsonville Mayor Steve Dukes. “We’re looking at more of a downtown business atmosphere.” Johnsonville participated in the South Carolina Mayors’ Institute of Community Design in 2006. Through this program, architects and others studied the area and helped prepare a master vision for the city, including revitalization ideas and a marketing plan. Elsewhere, the Greater Lake City Chamber of
Mayor Steve Dukes envisions a lively downtown Johnsonville.
Hey, Oprah, Gimme Shelter C
ity government in Florence has gone to the dogs. If you cross paths with Mayor Frank E. Willis on any given day, chances are he’ll have his two yellow Labrador retrievers in tow. “I’ve had them since they were born, and they’re brother and sister,” Willis says of his beloved pets, Major and Star. “I bring them to work with me every day. They have a fenced-in pen behind my office where they play and sleep.” Major and Star serve as guard dogs for the mayor’s Willis Construction Co., which employs between 50 and 60 people. The dogs have even played important roles in some civic causes.
“We’ve done a number of things with them, but the most public was when we had Star write Oprah Winfrey’s dog, Sophie, a letter asking if she’d help us get funding for a new animal shelter,” Willis says. “We didn’t hear from Oprah, but it was in the local media and brought funding for the animal shelter more publicity. It created a lot of interest – people would stop us on the street to ask if we had heard from Oprah yet.” Florence’s existing animal shelter, operated by the Florence Area Humane Society, is outdated and overcrowded. “It’s just a little block building with no amenities, and it’s way over capacity,” Willis says. “It doesn’t allow us to take
care of animals like we should.” The Humane Society has raised several thousand dollars toward the new shelter, and architectural drawings are in the works. Willis says the city hopes to have the new facility built – with the community’s help – in 2008. “A lot of people in Florence have cats and dogs and love animals, and we have a very active Humane Society,” he says. “Florence is an animal-friendly place.”
Mayor Frank E. Willis brings Star and Major to work, and the two Labrador retrievers help guard the premises. P H OTO B Y I A N C U R C I O
Group Keeps This Tradition in Stitches
he Swamp Fox Quilters Guild has given area quilters a place to practice their craft – and to socialize – since 1980. “People love to do quilting once they get involved,” says longtime member Courtney Stukes. “We meet the first Thursday of the month for a business meeting and the third Thursday of the month for quilt work” at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Florence. Now with about 50 members, the group was established to educate enthusiasts about collecting, making and preserving quilts. For example, “Putting a quilt in a plastic bag is very bad for it,” Stukes says. “It’s best to store heirloom quilts using acid-free paper and boxes, and it’s important to take them out and refold them from time to time to prevent wear and tear.” Each year the guild chooses a theme, and members are challenged to create a quilt reflecting that theme. The themed quilts are assembled for a traveling exhibit displayed at area museums during the summer. The 2007 theme was landscapes; past themes have included flowers and patriotism. Community service is incorporated into many of the guild’s projects. “We make lap quilts and donate them to local nursing homes and hospitals for people in wheelchairs,” Stukes says. Members also have made quilts for physically challenged children to draw and color on and then to sell as fundraisers. Martha Herbert, one of the guild’s founding members, says quilting is an art form that is well worth preserving. “A lot of people are very interested in quilting. It’s a pouring out of your soul through cloth,” Herbert says. “You can wrap up in it and feel the warmth of both the blanket and the heart of the person who made it.”
The Swamp Fox Quilters Guild produces themed exhibits and donates quilts to hospitals, nursing homes and others.
A Place of Civic Pride ith its 10,000-seat arena, the Florence Civic Center is the place to go for entertainment. And in fall 2007, it also became the place to have a ball – literally. “We renovated our 15,000-squarefoot expo hall and meeting room area into a ballroom with a centerpiece chandelier, acoustical treatment and 1,000 new banquet chairs,” says General Manager Kendall Wall. “It will give the community a really nice space for events.” Attracting show patrons and convention-goers from a 50-mile radius, the Florence Civic Center acts as an economic engine for the region. “Our first goal is to bring conventions, meetings and people from outside Florence to come stay in our hotels, shop, eat at our restaurants and fill the car with gas,” Wall says. “Our second goal is to provide entertainment for our citizens.” That entertainment includes every-
thing from sports events such as bull riding and wrestling to family shows such as Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, and Sesame Street Live. “We’ve diversified a lot of our events, and that’s helped us get more people in the door. We hosted the American Indoor Football Association championships in June 2007, and it was broadcast to 50 million homes,” Wall says. “We also added the ‘Redneck Nationals’ last year. It’s a big mudpit in the middle of the arena with people trying to drive through it.” Events attract spectators from Wilmington, N.C., Charleston and Myrtle Beach, S.C., and beyond. “When the Gaithers (Christian singers) were here a few years ago, we had people from five states,” he says. “It was sold out.” With several new businesses springing up nearby, the Florence Civic Center’s future looks bright. “We’ve seen some
big changes the last couple years,” Wall says. “There have been three new hotels built near us and four new restaurants, so that always helps.”
Locals and visitors are entertained here.
He’s an Artist for the Ages lorence native William H. Johnson has been called one of the foremost African-American artists of his generation. “He was a remarkable man,” says Peggy Brown, a member of the Florence County Historical Commission. “He was way ahead of his time with all the things he overcame.” Born to a poor family in 1901, Johnson’s love for art came early in life. “The arts weren’t usually taught when he was a youth at an all-black school
here,” Brown says. “But he had a teacher who loved the arts and started teaching some simple drawing classes. That’s where his love for art began.” Johnson left Florence at age 17 and moved to New York City. He worked a variety of jobs and saved enough money to attend the prestigious National Academy of Design, where his painting skills won him numerous awards and earned him the respect of his peers and instructors.
After graduation, Johnson worked in France and Scandinavia and married a Danish artist named Holcha Krake. The two returned to the United States in 1938, and Johnson began concentrating on painting the traditions of Afro-America. “He’s best-known for his paintings of Scandinavian landscapes and folk art of African-American daily life,” Brown says. Johnson’s physical and emotional health declined dramatically after his wife died in 1944, and he spent the last 23 years of his life in a Long Island state hospital before he died in 1970. More than a thousand of his paintings are part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection in Washington, D.C. Florence honored Johnson’s legacy in March 2007 by placing a historical marker at the corner of Palmetto and Kemp streets. Reproductions of some of his best-known works were exhibited at McLeod Regional Medical Center during the year. “The hospital was involved because Johnson was born on the hospital property,” Brown says. “We had a huge event at the marker site and a beautiful hors d’oeuvres reception on the hospital plaza.”
WAITING ON NEW ART
William H. Johnson’s birthplace is commemorated in a new historical marker at Palmetto and Kemp streets.
P H OTO C O U R T E S Y O F R E B E C C A J . D U C K E R
Museum in the Park n New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art resides in Central Park. In the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, the Florence Museum of Art, Science and History graces Timrod Park. Housed in a 5,000-square-foot artmoderne structure, the Florence museum is a collection of objects from around the world – a collection that has been growing since the museum was founded in 1924. “We have an Asian collection with something from every Chinese dynasty, an incredible Pueblo pottery collection, and an African and oceanic collection,” says Andrew Stout, executive director. “We also have a Florence and South Carolina history hall and three rotating galleries that change every other month.” Children and adults can take classes at the museum in areas such as the American Civil War, pottery, watercolors, drawing, basket weaving and sculpting. In addition, the museum hosts a free educational family event the second Saturday of each month. In June 2007, South Carolina’s legislature appropriated $4 million for construction of a new building to house the museum’s growing collection. Before being able to access the funding, however, museum officials and patrons must raise an additional $7.8 million. “We’re in the preliminary stages of fundraising now,” Stout says. “Our current facility is a 1936 structure that was meant to be a home, not a museum. Because of that, we have space limitations, and we aren’t able to exhibit large portions of our collection.” Until the new facility can be built, the Florence Museum of Art, Science and History will continue to bring cultural awareness to area residents from its location at Timrod Park. “The museum celebrates the diverse cultures around the world,” Stout says. “You can come into the museum and travel the world. We have great authentic objects that you’d be hard-pressed to find at other institutions.” – Stories by Jessica Mozo
This Greek marble sculpture from the 4th century B.C. is among the objects on display at the Florence Museum of Art, Science and History in Timrod Park.
It’s all about the food.
Victor’s Bistro & Garden Room 1247 Irby St., Florence www.victorsbistro.com OPEN FOR DINNER MONDAY-SATURDAY 5-10 P.M.
Affordable housing is a strong lure for families and others seeking the good life
hen Tom Carringer relocated to Florence from Nashville, Tenn., in May 2007, he was ready for a change in scenery and a change of pace. “It’s such a great location. We’ve already been to the beach six times,” Carringer says. “As far as shopping and dining go, my wife and I hardly know the difference. Florence has everything we could possibly want in those departments.”
Surprised by the competitively priced local real estate market, Carringer found a home within two hours during his second visit to the area. “We sold our house in Nashville on a Sunday and turned right around and bought a house here on Tuesday. We had financing within just a few days. The local real estate and banking communities were great to deal with,” says Carringer, who moved to the area to oversee
client analytics for ACS Technologies. Two other recent newcomers, Alabama natives Ashley and Michelle Coleman, were impressed by the affordability of real estate in Florence and vicinity. “We got much more than we expected for the money,” says Michelle Coleman, a physical therapist assistant whose husband chose McLeod Regional Medical Center for his residency in family medicine.
The county has done a tremendous job in recruiting new business and industry to the area, and it is helping fuel the strong real estate market,” says Jonathan Burnett, vice president of operations at the Country Club of South Carolina. WIDE RANGE OF HOUSING CHOICES In addition to a good selection of golf course communities, which also includes The Traces and Florence Country Club, the local market abounds with a wide range of planned developments as well as choices in corporate apartments, condominiums and townhouses. According to Frances Segars Jones, broker in charge at Prudential Segars Realty, the market continues to increase as growing numbers of newcomers choose to call Florence home. “People are coming from metropolitan areas looking for a more family-oriented lifestyle,” Jones says. “It’s not just the older age bracket in search of a great place to retire, it’s also young families in search of a unique quality of life.” – Valerie Pascoe
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUELS GROWTH With its strong economy and strategic location, Florence County remains one of the fastest-growing areas in South Carolina for real estate sales. According to Marcia Lyles, president of the Realtor Association of the Greater Pee Dee, homes are moving quickly, thanks to the area’s desirable quality of life, commercial growth and relatively modest property taxes. “We didn’t experience the real estate bubble like some parts of the country, so our prices did not increase or decline drastically,” Lyles says. “We have had a healthy appreciation for the past 10 years, with a slight decrease in the last two years.” At the Country Club of South Carolina, more young families are joining professionals and retirees as residents of the 900-acre golf community just minutes from downtown Florence. “We’re seeing a growing number of young professional families move to the area, and what’s drawing them here are the great employment opportunities.
Above and facing page: Homes on the golf course at Florence Country Club
A Classy Act for the Arts NEW PERFORMANCE VENUES WOULD DO A LARGER CITY PROUD When the curtain rose in September 2007 to begin the 84th season of the Florence Little Theatre, actors and patrons had a bittersweet feeling of excitement tinged with nostalgia. The 2007-08 season is the last before the venerable group moves into its new 35,000-square-foot theater funded primarily by a $10 million grant from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation of Florence. Located on Dargan Street between Pine and Elm streets, the theater is expected to be completed by May 2008 and ready for rehearsals a month later. “This is a community that supports the arts, and it gives us great faith to know that everyone is behind us,” says Sue Schatz, executive director of the Florence Little Theatre, recognized as one of the top amateur theatrical groups in South Carolina. Just a few blocks away, on a 3.93-acre site near the corner of Cheves and Dargon streets, construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 on the $22 million Francis Marion University Center for the Performing Arts, financed in part by another $10 million grant from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation.
According to Frank Crow, director of the Florence Regional Arts Alliance, these projects plus strong symphonic, choral and dance groups are helping Florence flourish as the region’s cultural center. “The theater and the performing arts center will become anchors for an arts and cultural district that is part of downtown revitalization,” Crow says. “We have a tremendous arts presence for a community this size, thanks to broad support not only within the community itself but also across the area.” The Florence Symphony Orchestra, which began its 59th season in October 2007, is one of the few all-volunteer symphonies in the United States. “The fact that there are so many talented musicians in this area who are willing to donate their time to practice and perform with the symphony says a lot about the community’s dedication to the arts,” says Wesley Wakeman, general manager. The Florence Masterworks Choir performs widely, and the South Carolina Dance Theatre offers The Nutcracker and other performances each year. – Valerie Pascoe
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The Sporting Life Whether you want to participate or watch, Florence offers multiple opportunities to enjoy sports
s a growing number of new residents and businesses choose to call Florence County home, the local sports community continues to shine as a positive economic force that enhances the quality of life. With nearly 30 courses in the area, golf is one of the most popular local participatory sports. “This area is truly one of South Carolina’s best golf vacation spots,” says Lisa Haynes, golf director of Swamp Fox Country Golf, a vacation booking company based in Florence. “Last year we had over 2,700 people travel to Florence from across North America to play golf. The average stay was six nights.” Tennis also has many enthusiasts here, as evidenced by the activity on the 14 lighted courts in Florence’s Timrod Park. A new $4.3 million tennis complex is planned near North Cashua Drive close to Lucas Street. If approved by the city, the 30-court complex will host tour nament and league play as well as informal matches. “The new complex would allow us to grow tennis events and bid on state-
level adult and junior tournaments. The current economic impact of tennis, $2.6 million annually, would increase significantly,” says Ed Sprenger, president of the Florence Tennis Association. At Lynches River County Park – a 676-acre reserve offering trails, water recreation and a 1,200-foot-long river walk – new features are drawing residents and visitors. A $400,000 splash pad opened in July 2007 to an overwhelmingly positive response. Another new attraction, the $1.1 million, 2,700-square-foot Environmental Discovery Center, offers hands-on exhibits, while a canopy walk outside provides a treetop-level vantage point. “Between all of these new projects for the county and city, Florence is staying on the forefront with quality resources and facilities,” says Joe Eason, director of parks and recreation for Florence County. “We’re striking a balance by finding something to offer for everyone.” Workout enthusiasts have various opportunities from which to choose. They include the 100,000-square-foot McLeod Health & Fitness Center, part of
Nearly 30 courses, including Florence Country Club, lure golfers.
McLeod Health, as well as the YMCA and the Fitness Forum. Florence also offers a growing network of pathways for walking, jogging and biking. The city’s Department of Parks & Leisure Services maintains 13 parks covering more than 500 acres. The center piece is the Freedom Florence Recreation Complex, which has nine championship-quality softball/baseball fields and numerous other facilities. In July and August 2007, the Dixie Youth Baseball State Tournament and the Dixie Majors World Series were staged there, pumping an estimated $3 million into the local economy. Spectators also are drawn to the 10,000-seat Florence Civic Center to watch the Florence Phantoms of the professional American Indoor Football League. In addition, the Florence Red Wolves compete in the Coastal Plain League for college baseball players. – Valerie Pascoe SEE VIDEO ONLINE Tour the McLeod Health & Fitness Center by visiting imagesflorence.com.
P H OTO B Y I A N C U R C I O
retail & restaurants
Shop â€™til You
Florence is regional destination for retail stores and dining establishments
A Buoyant Mood at Indigo Joe’s OWNERS OF VICTOR’S BISTRO & GARDEN ROOM OPEN A NEW PLACE BLENDING GOOD FOOD WITH ENTERTAINMENT FOR FAMILIES Good food, family fun and a generous helping of TV sports are drawing hungry crowds to Indigo Joe’s, a new restaurant and pub in Florence. Opened in July 2007, Indigo Joe’s was an immediate hit, says co-owner Tim Norwood, who also co-owns the popular Victor’s Bistro & Garden Room here. “[Indigo Joe’s] has a varied menu of everything from swordfish to ribs to California Cobb salad,” Norwood says. “Wings are a specialty.” He adds, “A lot of families come in with children. The kids play some of the games we have in the game room for them, and their parents enjoy watching [sports] on TV. We’re heavy on the electronics – we have lots of televisions and video games.” Indigo Joe’s, on Radio Drive, is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. It is the 19th restaurant in the California-based franchise, Norwood says, and includes an outdoor patio with a fireplace and televisions. Victor’s, in its 10th year, is the “premier upscale, casual fine dining restaurant in the Florence area,” Norwood says. Located on South Irby Street, Victor’s offers a tapas menu in its bistro, including sesame-encrusted tuna, and entrees, including filets, in the Garden Room. Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday, Victor’s also has Friday night jazz. – Anne Gillem
MANY NEW STORES, RESTAURANTS Magnolia Mall, Florence’s only enclosed mall, located at the junction of I-95 and I-20, has more than 70 retailers and seven food vendors in its 625,685 square feet of space. Major additions in 2007 included Dick’s Sporting Goods and Barnes & Noble, says Mackenzie Webb, the mall’s marketing director. “We are almost 100 percent leased,” As the area’s only enclosed mall, Magnolia Mall draws shoppers from afar.
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
ong before the days of interstates, when railroads first crossed northeastern South Carolina, Florence became a hub for transportation. Today, at the crossroads of key east-west and north-south roadways, the city is a regional center for shopping and dining. “As a result of its location at the midway point between New York and Miami at the intersection of two major highways, Interstates 95 and 20, Florence has been the favored stopover for interstate travelers,” says Holly Young, director of the Florence Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The city holds a central position between Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Charlotte.” In addition, residents from neighboring counties come to Florence to patronize stores and local restaurants, allowing the city’s retail base to maintain a rapid growth rate, Young says. In 2006, Florence’s 29501 ZIP code ranked third in gross retail sales in South Carolina.
Among the entrees at Victor’s Bistro & Garden Room is surf squared – 4 ounces of herb-marinated, grilled sea bass topped with 4.5 ounces of grilled lobster tail.
retail & restaurants
P H OTO S B Y I A N C U R C I O
she says, adding that the variety of stores and the mall’s location draw a steady stream of shoppers. “We definitely get a lot of tourists passing through,” Webb says. “We’re also located right across the street from the Florence Civic Center, so that’s a good marriage between the two of us.” Belk, JC Penney, Sears and Best Buy anchor Magnolia Mall, which opened in 1979. The addition of Best Buy in 2002
marked the start of a revitalization program, she says. Magnolia Mall is owned by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which also owns The Commons at Magnolia, adjacent to the mall. The Commons features stores such as Goody’s, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and – as of July 2007 – David’s Bridal. PREIT also developed The Plaza at Magnolia, with tenants including Home Depot, Kohl’s, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Chili’s. Florence Mall, including TJ Maxx, Stein Mart, Books-A-Million and Starbucks, also has been revitalized, according to Jessica Griggs, communications and membership relations manager for the Florence County Economic Development Partnership.
COUPONS AND TOUCH SCREENS It’s a win-win situation for the community, says the Florence Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Young. The numerous stores, dining options and hotels (see story, page 55) encourage conference planners to schedule events at the civic center. Convention attendees in turn are provided with discount coupons and information about what the area has to offer. In addition, the CVB is launching an interactive marketing venture, Young says. Several restaurants will offer intranet touch screens to provide customers with information about the Florence area’s attractions, activities, real estate, shopping and accommodations. – Anne Gillem
In addition to more than 70 stores, Magnolia Mall has seven vendors in the Verandah Café food court. Below: The bar at Victor’s Bistro & Garden Room
As the midway point between Miami and New York City on Interstate 95, Florence offers several thousand hotel rooms.
Concentration Vacationers and business travelers find this to be a convenient place to rest
ith more than 4,100 hotel rooms at four exits along Interstate 95 and its strategic location about halfway between Miami and New York City, Florence provides countless travelers with a place to rest their weary heads. Welcoming visitors has long been the goal of the area’s hospitality industry. In addition to giving vacationers and businesspeople a respite on their journeys, Florence itself has much to offer. “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to work with all these hotels for the common good of the community,” says Anestine Etienne, president of the Florence Hotel Association and
general manager of the Wingate by Wyndham in Florence at the U.S. 52 exit off I-95. “It’s competitive when you are in the hotel industry, but when you come together for a common cause that’s going to benefit Florence County as a whole and unite to bring the revenue in,” it is gratifying, she says. The association’s focus is to “remain united so we’re attracting industries, business and tourism into Florence,” Etienne says. “We’re not viewed as a destination point, but we can become one.” Raldex Hospitality Group has a strong presence here with four properties including the Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday
Inn Express Hotel & Suites, and the Hampton Inn & Suites, all at I-95 and I-20. Raldex is building a new Hampton Inn & Suites at I-95 and U.S. 52, scheduled for completion in October 2008. When the new Hampton Inn opens, it will take the brand from Raldex’ fourth area hotel, an older Hampton Inn. “That was one of the original prototype Hampton Inns when the brand first came out,” says Gregg Parsons, Raldex vice president. “The franchise is about up on that one; it’s 19 years old. “The new Hampton will have 136 rooms and suites, plus 2,100 square feet of meeting space.” – Anne Gillem
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Banking on the
Financial institutions expand to meet needs – and give back to the community
Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia, has five locations in Florence County, including a recently rebuilt branch on the site of a former Florence mall. Moreover, Wachovia plans to renovate its downtown office, according to John Bankson, president for the Pee Dee region. “I’ve been here in Florence County for 10 and a half years, and we have not had a year where we went backwards,” he says. “I’m very optimistic about the outlook for our region’s economy and the prospects for its banking community.” Bankson adds, “It’s not a cutthroat banking community at all. There are many very intelligent, involved bankers in this region, and that helps make it an even better place to live.” Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T employs 55 people at three Florence County locations. According to Frank James, senior vice president and city executive of BB&T in Florence, a key goal for the bank is to help strengthen the area’s overall economic health. HELPING THE COMMUNITY The large number of financial institutions here is a boon not only to local businesses and investors, but also to the community at large. For example, Brand says AG Edwards actively supports services and nonprofit groups such as the Florence County Library System, Florence Symphony Orchestra, Florence Little Theatre and United Way of Florence County. Similarly, Wachovia’s banks work
collaboratively to support various organizations that boost the quality of life here, Bankson says. At BB&T, where charitable giving locally has exceeded $550,000, James says the guiding philosophy is that community outreach goes hand-in-hand with business activities. “Our involvement in the economic growth of our community has benefited low and moderate-income families, both small- and medium-sized businesses, nonprofit groups, and single and multifamily construction projects.” – Valerie Pascoe
ore businesses and consumers are arriving in Florence County to find a thriving economy backed by a growing number of financial institutions. “We have 28 different banks and four securities firms, which makes Florence the financial hub of the Pee Dee region,” says Buddy Brand, senior vice president of the AG Edwards brokerage firm. Since opening its doors in Florence in 1988, AG Edwards has experienced consistent growth while establishing a solid presence in the community. “Our local economy is very steady,” Brand says. “AG Edwards has averaged 20 percent growth per year over the past 20 years, which is excellent for a market this size.” With a new branch in the Celebration Center on Cashua Drive, family-owned and -operated Anderson Brothers Bank is expanding to meet the growing county’s needs. The $300 million community bank, founded in Mullins, S.C., in 1933, opened its first branch in Florence in 2003. “We don’t try to compete with big banks for big commercial loans,” says Vice President Randall A. Altman “However, we do offer everything the big banks offer. We’re finding a niche as a real consumer-oriented bank with outstanding customer service.” Altman says Anderson Brothers Bank anticipates looking for property to open a third Florence office. One of the nation’s largest banks,
Randall A. Altman says Anderson Brothers Bank’s niche is providing consumer-oriented service.
ECONOMIC PROFILE REGIONAL HUB Florence County is the hub of the dynamic northeastern region of South Carolina.
BUSINESS CLIMATE Florence County is a great place to grow a business. The diverse economic base, location, infrastructure, skilled workforce and strong business climate position it firmly among the most competitive counties in the country.
The estimated population within a 60-mile radius is 1.02 million. The prime working-age component of the regionâ€™s population is in excess of 278,000 people and is projected to grow to nearly 283,000 people by 2009. The cost of living is 93.5% of the national average.
FLORENCE COUNTY POPULATION 1980, 110,163 1990, 114,344 2000, 125,761 2005 (estimate), 132,356 2008 (projected), 133,870 2010 (projected), 135,550 Source: U.S. Census Bureau
COST OF LIVING INDEX 2nd Quarter 2006 National average: 100 Florence MSA Composite, 93.5 Groceries, 104.4 Health care, 95.5 Housing, 79.9 Misc. goods & services, 97.0 Transportation, 99.9 Utilities, 97.5 Source: ACCRA Cost of Living Index
LARGEST INDUSTRIAL/MANUFACTURING EMPLOYERS Product/Service
No. of Employees
All-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft
Polyester staple fiber & filament
Welding equipment, cutting machines
Nucor Corp. Vulcraft Division
Steel joists, girders, & decking
GE Medical Systems
Company Honda of South Carolina Mfg, Inc. Nan Ya Plastics Corp. America ESAB Welding & Cutting Products Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.
Roche Carolina Inc.
LARGEST NON-MANUFACTURING EMPLOYERS Company McLeod Regional Medical Center Florence School District 1 Carolinas Hospital System Palmetto Government Benefits Administrators /TRICARE (BlueCross BlueShield) Washington Mutual Inc.
No. of Employees
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Florence was on Expansion Management magazine’s 2006 list for having the best available workforce and on Expansion Journal’s 2005 list for having the lowest construction cost. ANNUAL AVERAGE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES AND WAGES: 2005 County Avg. # of Employees
County Yearly Avg. Wage
S.C. Avg. Wage
Accommodation & food services
Administrative & support and waste management and remediation services
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting
Arts, entertainment, & recreation
Finance & insurance
Management of companies & enterprises
Other services (not including public administration)
Health care & social assistance
Professional, scientific & tech services
Real estate & rental/leasing Retail trade Transportation & warehousing Utilities Wholesale trade
*Source: South Carolina Employment Security Commission Workforce Indicators, 2005
EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT: 2006
High School Graduate
Some College or Associate’s Degree
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher
Ages 25 and over
*Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau
UNION INFORMATION FLORENCE COUNTY LABOR UNION DATA (AS OF 1ST QUARTER 2005) Florence County total union membership, 620 Florence County union membership as a percentage of total county employment 0.09%** **Represents only manufacturing union employees
LABOR FORCE Males in labor force, 47% Females in labor force, 53% Population working outside the county, 12.3% Average commute time to work, 18.9 minutes Average labor force 2005-07: 63,800 Average unemployed workers 2005-07: 4,843 Average unemployment rate 2005-07: 7.56% Based on Florence County’s labor force and number of unemployed workers from June 2005 to June 2007, the labor force grew by 360 workers, while the number of unemployed workers decreased by 870 workers, showing an increase of 1,230 employed workers. Sources: South Carolina Employment Security Commission, South Carolina Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau
o t y a w r o o Your D
s s e n i Bus
June 2006 June 2007 Labor force 64,260 64,620 Number of unemployed 4,840 3,970 Unemployment rate 7.5% 6.1%
MILEAGE TO OTHER CITIES Atlanta, 267 Charleston, 98 Charlotte, N.C., 93 Columbia, 74 Jacksonville, Fla., 287 Knoxville, Tenn., 266 Raleigh, N.C., 149
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FLORENCE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL “Distinctly Christian Academic Excellence” Affordable Education from 3K to 12th Grade
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME 1990, $21,491 2000, $31,571 2006, $48,000
Florence Christian Offers: • • • •
Education that is Bible Based Excellent Academic Programs Superb Facilities State-of-the-Art Science Lab, Computer Lab and Library • Fine Arts Programs • Outstanding JV and Varsity Athletic Programs
Florence Christian School
Pee Dee region
Pee Dee region: Northeastern South Carolina, made up of six counties – Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion and Marlboro Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
A Ministry of the Florence Baptist Temple 2308 S. Irby St. • Florence, SC 29504 (843) 662-0454 • www.fcseagles.org
Visit Our Advertisers BB&T www.bbandt.com
Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. www.hsblawﬁrm.com
Burt Jordan Realtors www.burtjordan.com Carolinas Hospital System www.carolinashospital.com Century 21, King Agency, Inc. www.annking.org
Honda of South Carolina www.honda.com
ERA Leatherman Realty, Inc. www.eraleatherman.com Florence Area Sports Council www.playﬂorence.com Florence Christian School www.fcseagles.org Florence Civic Center www.ﬂorenceciviccenter.com Florence County Economic Development www.fcedp.com Florence CVB Florence Regional Airport www.ﬂorenceairport.com Florence-Darlington Technical College www.fdtc.edu Francis Marion University www.fmarion.edu GE Healthcare www.ge.com Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce www.ﬂochamber.com
Magnolia Mall www.shopmagnoliamall.com McLeod Health www.mcleodhealth.org Palmetto Uniform, Inc. www.palmettouniform.com Pee Dee Electric Cooperative www.peedeeelectric.com
EMPLOYMENT BY GROUP OCCUPATION 30-Mile Radius Executive, managerial, professional, 23,235 Farming, fishing, forestry, 4,835 Machine operators, assemblers and transportation, 30,579 Private household and service occupations, 16,014 Production, craft, repair occupations, 16,241 Technical, sales, administrative support, 32,808
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS
Progress Energy www.progress-energy.com Prudential Segars Realty www.prudentialsegarsrealty.com Santee Cooper www.santeecooper.com Spring Hill Suites by Marriott www.marriott.com/ﬂosh The King’s Academy www.tkaﬂorence.com Turner, Padget Graham & Laney www.tpgl.com Victor’s Bistro & Garden Room www.victorsbistro.com Webster Rogers, LLP www.websterrogers.com Young Plantations www.youngpecanplantations.com
Florence County florenceco.org Florence County Economic Development Partnership fcedp.com Florence County Progress Inc. fcprogress.com Florence Downtown Development Corp. fddconline.com Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce flochamber.com
Lake City Chamber of Commerce lakecitysc.org North Eastern Strategic Alliance scbusinesscorner.com Palmetto Economic Development Corp. scpowerteam.com Pee Dee Tourism/CVB peedeetourism.com
PALMETTO U N I FOR M
South Carolina Department of Commerce sccommerce.com
TRANSPORTATION Airport Florence Regional Airport florencescairport.com Waterway Port of Charleston Port of Georgetown Rail Freight, CSX Passenger, Amtrak
2015-J W. Evans St. • Florence, SC 29501 • (843) 665-2526 Locally Owned & Operated • www.palmettouniform.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION FOR MORE INFORMATION Florence County Economic Development Partnership Florence County Economic P.O. Box 100549 Development Partnership 1951 Pisgah Road 29502 Florence, SC 29501 Phone: (843) 676-8796, (843) 676-8796, (800) 984-0682 984-0682 Fax: (843) 676-8799 (843) 676-8799 www.fcedp.com
SOUTHEASTERN INSTITUTE OF MANUFACTURING AND TECHNOLOGY
A New Era in Manufacturing Imagining the Future SPECIALADVERTISINGSECTION
A New Era in
Manufacturing SOUTHEASTERNINSTITUTESUPPORTS HIGH -TECHBUSINESSESANDENTREPRENEURS
lorence-Darlington Technical College just took a giant step forward in its mission. With the August 2007 opening of its separate new venture, the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, the college will help usher in a new, 21st-century manufacturing era – not just for South Carolina, but for the entire South. It will do that, according to Florence-Darlington Technical College President Charles Gould, through a series of new business services, advanced manufacturing resources and management assistance ventures, all directed at the most cutting-edge frontiers of the American manufacturing economy. The Southeastern Institute is not so much an educational endeavor as it is a support base for high-tech businesses and entrepreneurs who need help – or speed – moving from
concept to market. “We’re going to do more here than assist with workforce training, which is our traditional role,” Gould explains. “We’re also going to provide businesses with services they urgently need to move forward.” The newly opened institute will have different departments that can: • Provide firms with rapid prototyping services, capable of reducing the lead time to get product designs into the hands of potential buyers for evaluation. • Develop manufacturing plans for firms that are just moving beyond the research and development stage of their product. • Give businesses access to advanced product planning and marketing resources that use digital virtual-reality
Jack Roach, director of the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology in Florence, stands in front of a high-tech EMCO Computer Numerical Control machine, which is used to shape precision industrial parts.
Special Advertising Section
S o u th e a s te r n In s titu te o f Ma nuf a c tu rin g a nd Te chn o lo g y
S o u th e a s te r n In s titu te o f Ma nu f a c tu rin g a nd Te chn o lo g y
visioning and training tools. • Assist firms in creating automated production lines. • Help firms hire and train workers to bring their new production operations on line. If there is any question about whether such advanced business services are necessary in the Southeast, consider this: To finance it all, the college turned to the public bond market in hopes of raising $25 million. The entire bond issue was snapped up by investors in just 40 minutes. “Everyone knows the plight of American manufacturing,” Gould says. “There is a feeling in this country that we have not been supporting manufacturing the way we should or used to. We’re going to do something about it, and people are responding to that.” Gould and his colleagues have studied the direction of manufacturing in general and concluded that a number of clear trends are under way. “The research we did indicated that we are not losing manufacturing, as many people believe – we are reinventing it. And that transition is what the institute will serve,” Gould adds. In the newly emerging manufacturing model, he says, there will be fewer employees in the typical production operation. But they will be more highly skilled than in the past. That will require more advanced training and also more factory automation. Because of the increased automation, the cost of future start-ups will be higher, the group concluded. And bigger capital investment requirements will, in turn, create higher
expectations for investors. Schedules will be more sensitive as investors wait for products to reach the market. For that reason, there will be less margin for error or setbacks, as often occur when product redesigns send engineers back for prototype changes. The factories themselves will be smaller in the future, Gould adds. They will operate leaner, with more efficient production lines and logistics systems. “In the end,” Gould notes, “the outcome will be economic development. As we help people around us launch manufacturing, manufacturers will f lourish, which generates economic growth across our region.” This special section was created for the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology by Journal Communications Inc.
FOR MORE INFORMATION Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology 1951 Pisgah Road • P.O. Box 100549 • Florence, S.C. 29502 Phone: (866) 304-7468 or (843) 673-7468 Fax: (843) 661-8011 www.simt.com ©Copyright 2007 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this special advertising section may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. ON THE COVER Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Photograph by Ian Curcio
The Advanced Manufacturing Arena has sophisticated Computer Numerical Control technology for the machining of complex, precision parts in a variety of materials.
( 8 4 3 ) 6 7 3 -74 6 8 w w w. s i m t . c o m
S o u th e a s te r n In s titu te o f Ma nuf a c tu rin g a nd Te chn o lo g y
Center of It All
ADVANCEDMANUFACTURINGCENTERISHEARTOFNEWFACILITY Roach points out. Subsequent project phases will include a center to help entrepreneurs develop leadership skills; a manufacturing incubator that can support five tenants at a time; an industrial R&D center to help companies around the South delve into new products and processes; and a center for environmental manufacturing issues.
PHOTOS BY IAN CURCIO
he massive new building that now stands next to the Florence-Darlington Technical College heralds a new era of manufacturing that is dawning in America. And for the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, it is just the beginning. “A whole new paradigm of manufacturing is taking shape today,” explains Jack Roach, director of the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology. “New ways of producing products are emerging. There are new approaches to marketing, new ways to do research and development, and new ways to manage and train workers. We intend to assist businesses with all of these issues – not just companies here in South Carolina, but from all across the South. Very few places in the world will be able to do all the things we will be doing.” It all begins with the new $34 million Advanced Manufacturing Center, a 177,000-square-foot building that will be the heart of the institute. It is one part high-tech training center and one part “technology mall” for business ventures poised to launch into commercial production. Inside are key new resources to support a business – large or small – as it goes from product design to mass production. A complex with many pieces of state-of-the-art equipment is available for both skilled-worker training and actual product development. CNC machines, a high-speed milling center, multiple-axis machines, grinders and CAD/CAM systems will be available for businesses that do not want to devote the time or capital to creating their own production systems. A rapid prototyping center will offer three separate fabrication systems to ventures that are ready to convert designs into commercial prototypes. A virtual reality center will help businesses create 3D models of products and production processes and also stage vivid marketing presentations. Within the same building, staff associates will help businesses design factory layouts, create management systems, develop workforce plans and train technical workers in concepts such as lean manufacturing and robotics. “We can take computer data and simulate an entire factory layout,” Roach says. The list of new services goes on – and so do the institute’s plans. The Advanced Manufacturing Center is only Phase I,
The Advanced Manufacturing Center has state-of-the-art facilities, such as this three-way-view ceiling projector.
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- D/ VIRTUALREALITYCENTER BOASTSSTATE- OF -THE-ARTSYSTEMS
Assistant Director Mike Mazen heads up the 3-D/Virtual Reality Center at the new facility in Florence.
nside the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, the 3-D/Virtual Reality Center is what science-fiction writers had in mind years ago when they imagined the future. The center is an audio-visual marvel, one of just six such centers in the world created through a partnership with California-based EON Reality Inc. It marries the most advanced computer-aided design systems with the best available imaging and audio tools to give companies and customers a peek into “what will be” with their products. The center was created to help designers and manufacturers see products and projects before they are complete – or, in some cases, before they have even begun. “Some things are simply hard to visualize,” says Mike Mazen, assistant director of the Southeastern Institute
of Manufacturing and Technology. “People learn faster in this environment than in more ordinary business surroundings. When they can reach out and touch something, visualize it, see it as it will exist in its intended setting, they can evaluate it and make decisions faster. They can anticipate problems and correct them before going into production.” In the center’s “3-D visualization cave,” a showroom that is large enough to simulate an Army tank, engineers will conjure up stereographic images of things that don’t yet exist – a new product, a factory production line or maybe even an event. Placing moving robots on a factory production floor is something that can be done on a computer design system, for example. But by bringing it to life in 3-D, engineers might discover that the proposed robots’ motions will interfere with other activities on the shop floor.
In the center’s 800-seat theater, an audience of manufacturing designers might watch on a 27-foot screen as a tour takes them through the factory that they have not built yet. In a smaller theater, urban planners might hover over their city as it will look after 25 years of changes. A doctor might create a three-dimensional model of a heart that is scheduled for surgery, allowing him to examine it three-dimensionally and determine the best way to operate on it. A boat manufacturer might walk potential customers through a full-sized image of a boat to show them interior features that have not been added yet. Customers will reach out and manipulate various options in the boat’s interior. “The manufacturing world has shifted mostly to digital designs these days,” Mazen notes. “Our center is the place where you can bring in a design and bring it to life.”
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Making New Products a Reality NATIONALROBOTIC SCENTERWILLSERVER&DENTREPRENEURS
challenge faces the high-tech corridor of the U.S. economy. For years, new investment in research and development has been spurring entrepreneurs and scientists to create new products for military and aerospace applications. Many of those products will soon be ready for manufacturing. Trouble is, the entrepreneurs who created them don’t always know how to mass-produce them. Enter the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology in Florence. The institute’s National Robotics Training Center of Excellence will serve R&D entrepreneurs
Bill Bennett, director of the National Robotics Training Center of Excellence at SiMT in Florence, shows off a model of the Mesa Robotics MARV robot.
by essentially creating process designs that show them how to put their products onto an assembly line. If that’s not enough, the training center will help them create the assembly lines. Furthermore, the training center will hire the necessary workers, train them to do the work and ensure that the venture has the management skills necessary to keep the factory line flowing smoothly. “Some start-up companies recognize they have a hole in their capabilities,” explains Bill Bennett, director of the National Robotics Training Center of Excellence. “Our role will be to analyze their manufacturing needs and determine how to get them into production – whatever that may take.” That mission is a little larger than the name of the center might indicate, Bennett acknowledges. A “robotics training center” sounds comfortably like what the Florence-Darlington Technical College was doing before it launched the Southeastern Institute – training employees to perform technical work. But the mission for Bennett and his colleagues is dramatically new. “We will also be training workforces to operate and manage automated production lines, or robotics,” Bennett says. “But there is a larger need.” The most immediate demand is among newly emerging military technology suppliers. The U.S. Department of Defense has been seeking new innovations in space-age weaponry in recent years, and those innovations are now coming from far-flung corners of the economy, including disabled veterans. Inventors have created products for unmanned warfare, such as automated explosive disposal devices and battlefield surveillance drones. According to Bennett, the Defense Department now wants those creations moved quickly into production. In addition to designing factory-production plans and advising inventors on what tools are necessary to manufacture their products, the training center will also teach management skills. “New manufacturing practices are required today,” Bennett says. “Basic manufacturing skills will have to include concepts like ‘lean manufacturing,’ quality-assurance programs and advanced safety practices. It isn’t just factory workers who need to be trained in these concepts – new plant managers need to know them well enough to communicate the knowledge to their employees.”
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Above: Dave Griffin operates a 3-D System Rapid Prototyping machine. Left: Max Welch works in one of Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology’s manufacturing laboratories.
A Digital Delivery World STATE- OF -THE-ARTTRAININGALLOWSFOR FASTERCONCEPT-TO - MARKETPRODUCTS
n the new world of manufacturing, the path from the drawing board to the customer’s hand is shorter than ever. Rapid prototyping is one reason why. Rapid prototyping is the digital art of making precise plastic or metal examples of a product seemingly out of thin air. In most cases, there can be no business until a customer can see and touch a prototype. At the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, technicians will not only train businesses to execute rapid prototyping. They will also serve as an independent new rapid prototyping center for companies across the South. According to Dave Griffin, one of the institute’s associate directors, the commercial service is intended to help companies move their new product designs to market faster than in traditional product schedules. “There is a real need in this region for someone who can do this,” Griffin says. “Large companies usually already
have in-house rapid-prototyping resources. But smaller companies need someone to do it for them. It doesn’t make sense for a small company to invest in these very expensive prototyping systems just for a single product or two. “Even some larger manufacturers would rather have a third party like us take on the cost of the most advanced prototyping technology,” he adds. “That’s one cost they can eliminate from their R&D.” The process of rapid prototyping often leaves the nonmanufacturing layman astounded. The procedure uses a liquid or powder material. Automated tools translate a digital design from a computer document into a three-dimensional object by building up layer on layer of the powder, essentially “growing” the object into exact shapes. The hardened material takes on the feel of the final product. Equally astounding is the short time required to make the prototype. Traditionally, prototypes have been
of steel or injection-molded plastic. That required the prototyping shop to physically create the metal dies that would yield the necessary shapes. The die-making process alone takes eight to 12 weeks. And any change in the product’s design requires another die to be created – meaning another eight to 12 weeks. In rapid prototyping, even a complicated plastic part will only take 24 hours to produce. A metal part takes two days. “The benefit is being able to put your prototype into customers’ hands almost overnight,” Griffin says. “That becomes a huge advantage for a young company. It could be the difference between participating in a project and not participating.” Besides rapid prototyping, the menu of manufacturing training services at the new institute ranges from complex Six Sigma practices to guidance on regulatory compliance and international quality standards. Training in manufacturing programs has long been offered through the technical college, but the institute will broaden its resources and reach out over a larger geography, says Max Welch, another one of the institute’s associate directors. “We have been exporting jobs from this country,” Welch says. “Our mission is to help businesses here become more globally competitive so that we can keep jobs here.”
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Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology OPEN - ENROLLMENTTRAINING CONSULTINGSERVICES The SiMT is a one-stop shop for all your training needs. We offer training in a variety of manufacturing areas (including quality, machining, rapid prototyping, fluid power, robotics, electronics, maintenance and programmable logic controls), health, safety, computing, networking, environment, business, management, supervision and more.
Our expert personnel offer consulting services in many areas to assist you in improving the quality, productivity and profitability of your company. All of our personnel have realworld manufacturing experience working for Fortune 500 (ISO certified) companies at plant and corporate locations. We can design turnkey systems and processes for virtually every functional area of your business.
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Our SiMT personnel will deliver many of our training courses to your facility or to a location of your choice.
CUSTOMIZEDTRAINING Our personnel continuously partner with businesses and industries to meet training schedules and to customize training materials. We are excited to work with you to ensure that our training meets your individual needs.
MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGYSERVICES We offer a variety of manufacturing technology services. We have options to assist your company in developing advanced manufacturing processes, automated manufacturing technology, manufacturing simulations, rapid prototyping and in linking engineering design with manufacturing technology.
MANUFACTURING STARTUPASSISTANCE Through the SiMTâ€™s Manufacturing Incubator Center (MIC), qualified startup manufacturers receive assistance in commercializing their ideas.
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Florence County is a great place to grow a business. The diverse economic base, location, infrastructure, skilled workforce and strong busin...
Published on Oct 31, 2007
Florence County is a great place to grow a business. The diverse economic base, location, infrastructure, skilled workforce and strong busin...