SCBIZ Magazine - November/December 2022

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SCBIZNEWS.COM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 A supplement to Charleston Regional Business Journal, Columbia Regional Business Report and GSA Business Report FUTURE FARMS How technology is reshaping agribusiness in SC Teenagers learn about agriculture careers ACRE program gives ag entrepreneurs a leg up
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South Carolina’s Media Engine for Economic Growth ACCOUNTING
Clemson University harnessing tech to benefit farms worldwide Page 15 UP
AIR Drones play starring role in Clemson professor’s research Page 20 FROM THE GROUND UP Entrepreneurs turn passion into profit through ACRE program Page 27 SHOOTING FOR THE MOON S.C. on mission to land permanent NASA presence Page 30 PRODUCTION PIPELINE Greenville startup helps boost farmers’ bottom lines Page 23 TAKING
Agricultural school connecting youth to industy careers Page 24 TABLE OF CONTENTS FOCUS INTRODUCTION .........................................................Page 14 SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION SCBIZ reaches thousands of South Carolina’s top decision-makers. Add your name to the list by ordering a print subscription to SCBIZ. Your subscription also includes SCBIZ Daily. Delivered to your e-mail inbox each weekday morning, SCBIZ Daily is your link to statewide business news. One year for $67 or two years for $97. Subscribe or change your address online at or call 877.615.9536. COUNTY SPOTLIGHT McCormick County a haven for nature lovers and a hotbed of business opportunity Page 36 INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE Summers: AgriBusiness drives S.C. economy Page 11 PEOPLE TO KNOW Founders of Sweet Grass Vodka Page 9 SC’s top home builders Page 44 Page 48 SC UNDER CONSTRUCTION Catch up on statewide projects Page 42 ECONOMIC OUTLOOK InnoVision leader: Agriculture fuels advancement Page 12 SC DELIVERS Master plan reimagines prime Union Pier property Page 32 STAFFING AGENCIES LIST Ranked by number of employees Page 36


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Planting the seeds of SC’s future success

Inthe summer, it was strawberries. In the fall, apples.

The fruit found my face much more frequently than it landed in the quart containers or bushel baskets.

As a kid visiting the farm outside Louisville in my youth, I never imagined looking up toward the sky and seeing a drone.

My how times have changed.

Technology, including drones, is having a big impact on South Carolina’s agribusiness industry. And the Palmetto State is leading the way in implementing change across the country and globe.

So it’s fitting that technology’s role in reshaping agribusiness is the theme of this issue of SCBIZ Magazine.

Inside you’ll read about Clemson’s new Center for Agricul tural Technology, which focuses on education, outreach and re search with the goal of positively impacting global food supply, farmers’ productivity and agricultural sustainability — locally, regionally and globally, Krys Merryman reports.

Merryman also talked to Clemson professor Joe Mari J. Maja — here’s where the drones come in — who oversees the Depart ment of Agricultural Sciences Sensor and Automation Laborato ry. His work with the unmanned aerial vehicles has given farm ers the tools necessary to address environmental needs based on


Technology is reshaping the agricultural industry.

And South Carolina is at the forefront of the change regionally, nationally and globally.

Leading the charge is Clemson’s new Center for Agricultural Technology, which focuses on education, outreach and research with the goal of positively impacting global food supply, farmers’ productivity and agricultural sustainability.

Also playing a big role is to Clemson professor Joe Mari J. Maja, who oversees the school’s Department of Agricultural Sciences Sensor and Automation Laboratory. Maja’s work with drones has given farmers the tools necessary to address environmental needs based on real-time data.

Hence our cover image.

Drones’ use in agriculture is booming, according to an article from, which reports that the agricultural drone market is expected to grow from a $1.2 billion industry in 2019 to $4.8 billion in 2024. The information gathered by drones on farms is often used to better inform agronomic decisions and is part of a system generally referred to as ‘precision agriculture,’ croptracker. com writes.

It’s big business, and important work. Maja’s research, for ex ample, has given farmers the tools necessary to address environ mental needs based on real-time data. So, the next time you visit a farm, you may want to look up. Not all the important work is being done on the ground.


real-time data.

Melinda Waldrop has a feature on Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the S.C. Depart ment of Agriculture that has funded 66 entrepreneurs since its 2018 inception.

South Carolina is also busy planting the seeds of future agribusiness influencers, namely with the S.C. Governor’s School for Agricul ture at John de La Howe, a residential high school focusing on agriculture that is the only one of its kind in the country, which you can learn more about with Christina Knauss’ feature story.

So, lots of information to sow with this issue of SCBIZ Maga zine.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have an apple orchard to visit.

Jason Thomas is executive editor of SC Biz News. Reach him via email at


Spirits industry natural fit for aficionado with thirst for entrepreneurship

Fora vodka lover with an entrepre neurial spirit, the spirits industry seems almost inevitible for Jarrod Swanger.

His background as an entrepreneur is diverse. He founded Lucky’s Leash in 2014 and sold more than 5 million dog collars and harnesses to a worldwide customer base. The commercials for the products featured celebrities such as Paula Abdul but the strong appeal to consumers was a retractable collar built into the collars and, for small dogs, harnesses.

After selling Luck’s Leash, he co-founded a health and wellness company and built it to reach $22 million in annual sales. Sell ing through retailers such as GNC and Walmart, Swanger secured grew the busi ness until he secured another multimilliondollar exit, he said.

It was a taste for fine cocktails that led him to ponder his next move. He shared his taste for high-end drinks with his wife Alicia, who was in possession of her fam ily’s potato vodka recipe. The company he started in 2020 with Brian M. Friedopfer would not use that same recipe but it was inspired by its simplicity and purity.

Swanger, now the CEO of Sweet Grass Vodka, teamed up with local South Caro lina potato farmers with a mission to distill the finest craft vodka on the market. The company recenlty announed a $1.7 mil lion investment that will create 47 new jobs and establish a more visible presence in Charleston.

For Swanger, the location will boost the local visibility of a hometown company that has enjoyed some time in the national and international spotlight.

“At the beginning of last year we entered the Global Vodka Masters and won three masters for vodka and we were in Forbes magazine so we knew sometime this year we would need some kind of location that would show what we are all about, show

a little bit of the distilling process, show a little bit of the bottling process, but also get our name out there and let people come and visit us and see what we do,” Swanger said.

“We got with local moonshiners, lo cal farmers (to) see what mineral content pairs well with what spirits and we’ve put out what we thought was the best potato vodka,” Swanger said. “Our goal was to stop drinking the commercial stuff — Bel vedere, Ketel One. We liked high-end vod kas but we wanted to make something our own, something special, something high end, but at a Tito’s price point so that’s what we set out to do. And that was further af firmed last year when we beat Belvedere, Ketel One, everybody in the Global Vodka

Masters so it’s really a double dream come true for us.”

Located at 1640 Meeting St. in Charles ton, Sweet Grass Vodka’s new facility will be its first operation in Charleston County and its second location in South Carolina, the other being a distillery and warehouse near Spartanburg. The Charleston facility will be a bottling plant, offering a tasting room for spirits and small bites.

“We are enthusiastic about launching our second location in South Carolina in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Charles ton,” Swanger said in a news release. “We are proud of our quality, locally sourced vodka — and this new facility will show case Sweet Grass Vodka on a larger scale.”

Jason and Alicia Swanger are the founders of Sweet Grass Vodka. (Photo/Provided)

Peanut production

4,200 2021 record yield in pounds 217 million 2021 production in pounds 8th among SC agricultural commodities at $83.5 million 71,000 acres of peanuts grown in SC in 2022 Source:, U.S. Department of Agriculture BY THE NUMBERS VANTAGE POINT 10


Everyone should recognize the value of SC AgriBusi ness, the combination of ag riculture and forestry within the state, but the COVID pandemic really raised awareness in this regard. After all, who does not value access to quality food and fiber in their daily life?

With the pandemic, agribusiness both within our state and country was one of the first industries to be desig nated essential, and rightfully so. Of course, virtually all South Carolinians were well aware of the necessity for a productive agribusiness industry even before the pandemic.

Our country and fine state are espe cially fortunate to have fantastic farm ers and timberland owners producing some of the highest-quality food and fiber products in the world. South Carolina is well known for excellent fruits and vegetables, cotton, peanuts, poultry products, and many other ag ricultural commodities.

How about the forestry industry? Our state’s forestry sector is second to none, with some of the best lumber and paper products produced glob ally.

A unique characteristic of SC Agri Business is the fact that a large percent age of both agriculture and forestry production is generated from work ing family farms and family-owned timberland. There are almost 25,000 farms (92% of which are small farms) in S.C. farming over 4.7 million acres, while S.C. timberland consists of over 12.8 million acres. with 53% owned by private individuals and 34% owned by corporate entities. When processing and servicing agribusiness products

is considered, again these operations are owned to a great extent by private entities consisting of families or mul tiple family farm operations coming together to handle S.C.=produced ag and forestry products.

This is the case in many S.C. entities such as sawmills; chip and pole mills; logging businesses; cotton gins; can neries; peanut buying and processing; poultry integration; fertilizer, seed and ag chemical operations; and many more diversified agribusinesses.

Just how large is SC AgriBusiness?

The combination of S.C. agricul ture and forestry generates approxi mately $50 billion dollars in annual economic impact and employs around 250,000 individuals within the state. Something to be especially proud of is the fact that SC AgriBusiness has grown from an annual economic im pact of $34 billion dollars and em ployment of 200,000 in 2008 to the current levels, which represents sig nificant growth in a somewhat short time frame.

Despite the strength of our SC agri businesses, there are challenges. Our state is attractive for many reasons, including for example our beaches, mountains, moderate climate, cost of living, and pro-business environment, and these factors have led to substan tial population growth. Some pro jections indicate the 21 million total acres and present population of over 5 million people could grow to in excess of 10 million over the next 50 years.

With this growth, retaining both cropland and timberland acres for agribusiness production is a signifi

cant concern. Additionally, our ag and forestry producers’ operational practices will no doubt be questioned and potentially lead to some level of change as the state’s demographics vary through growth, which in and of itself will likely represent a challenge.

In conclusion, SC AgriBusiness is indeed strong and continuously evolving, and it remains evident that growth opportunities exist in fruits and vegetables, poultry, controlled environment agriculture, timber pro cessing, and other agribusiness enter prises. Through collaborative efforts within the industry and with the sup port of our state-wide communities and their respective leaders working with our farmers and forestry opera tions, SC AgriBusiness is confident the state’s largest industry will contin ue to grow, adapt, and even thrive as the sector continues to provide qual ity food and fiber to our state and well beyond our SC borders.

SC AgriBusiness is definitely an in dustry South Carolinians should val ue and identify as a statewide success story!

Ronnie Summers is CEO of the Palmetto Agribusiness Council.
AgriBusiness - agriculture and forestry - driving many sectors of SC’s economy

South Carolina has deep roots with agricultural innovation

Agriculture has always been impor tant to South Carolina. Whether farm to table, land to loom, or forest to carpenter, the state con tinues to integrate science and technology to deliver significant agribusiness innovations.


Academic research is a vital part of our rich history and continues to equip innova tors with the job skills and creative thinking that produces new value. In addition to 46 Clemson Extension agents and six Research and Education Centers, South Carolina initia tives include the Governor’s School for Agri culture, and our Community Colleges. With dwindling government funding, academic re searchers have increasingly turned to industry partnerships to provide important solutions to industry problems. These partnerships help focus students on real world needs, thereby better preparing them for future careers.

The Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Spartanburg Community College has been recognized for its research with the use of exotic and heirloom vegetables and fruits to meet today’s hotter and drier climate. The program prepares students for jobs in the agri business and food systems industry by hands on experience with the ecological, biological, and economic impact of growing fruits and vegetables sustainably.

Sonoco Products Company continues its 5-year FRESH innovation hub. This research partnership with Clemson University contin ues to identify ways to improve food protec tion, reduce food waste, and enhance food safety. Its Sonoco Institute propels efforts to utilize Smart Packaging data to extend shelf life while maintaining food safety.

Sustainable business

Many small businesses have dedicated their innovative efforts toward bio-sourced prod ucts. Noteworthy examples include Heron Farms, Performance Enhanced Delivery, and Atlas Organics. Heron Farms, concerned with how the rising oceans of climate change have reduced coastal farmlands, developed a pro

cess to hydroponically grow sea bean using ocean water. Resulting sprouts are being sold to upscale restaurants, who use this coastal delicacy in an ever-widening array of foods.

Atlas Organics developed an accelerated composting process that mixes shredded wood and waste produce and distributes this over an array of perforated pipes that pump air upward. Their aeration system produces high quality compost that is sold nation-wide.

Performance Enhanced Delivery (PED) has invented biodegradable, plant-based, ex tended-release fertilizer coatings that may be used for true organic farmers. The company is developing plant-based liquid nutrients that may be used for house plants without the un pleasant odor often associated with previous organic fertilizers.

tForm has invented a paper-based packag ing cushion, branded as BubblePaper™. This recyclable pulp product is displacing non-re cyclable paper/plastic bubble constructions in applications such as mail pouches. While dual material products do not lend themselves to material sortation, the all-paper system from tForm is transforming the fulfillment sector with fully recyclable paper constructions, re ducing the amount of packaging being land filled.

Artificial intelligence

South Carolina embodies innovation. As a direct result, world-class companies move to this state to utilize its networks of engineers, scientists, industry experts and university as sets to reach their business objectives. One noteworthy example is BID Group, who moved its North American operation to St. George in 2013.

This company is transforming the forestry industry by designing turnkey integrated wood processing systems that utilize vision systems and artificial intelligence to direct and grade logs from delivery to quality sorted lumber in one continuous operation. Every step of the operation, from sawing to drying is computer monitored and system integrated to deliver the highest value lumber with almost no human interaction. Even the bark is used

to fuel the in-line kiln.

Agulus incorporates blockchain and AI to connect small farmers with buyers to improve logistics and receive higher crop value. This digital co-op allows small farms to operate in the same market as large players.

Innovation hubs

South Carolina continues to connect busi nesses with solution providers. This unique ability is part of our culture. Some examples of organizations who help advance innovation networks include regional public/private eco nomic development organizations, college/in dustry partnerships, South Carolina Research Authority, and InnoVision Awards. Each enti ty maintains strong ties to entrepreneurs, large scale manufacturers and academic labs to ac celerate innovation throughout its eco-system.

Innovation thrives in an environment that enables connections and collaboration. South Carolina is well equipped with the innovative culture and strong talent base for continued agribusiness advancement. This foundation will ensure that agriculture continues to drive our S.C. economy.

Blaine Childress is a member of the InnoVi sion board of directors and a past board chair. InnoVision Awards is dedicated to celebrating South Carolina’s most significant innovations and honoring the state’s most influential vision aries. Find more online at InnoVisionAwards. org.


Next Challenge. Next Level.

Nexsen Pruet’s roots in agricultural operations run deep. Our agribusiness team harvests industry-wide experience in financing, immigration, litigation, real estate, environmental and tax and estate issues for lenders, multinationals and agricultural producers.

Nurture growth with the attorneys of Nexsen Pruet.

Charleston Charlotte Columbia Greensboro Greenville Hilton Head Myrtle Beach Raleigh Austin Leighton Lord Chairman


When you think of farming, technology probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind. But tech is having a big impact on the Palmetto State’s agribusiness industry. Drones are providing a bird’s-eye view of crop yields and other variables. Numbers can be crunched instanta neously and on site via a laptop to help farmers maximize their returns. South Carolina is playing a big role on elevating technology in farm fields re gionally, nationally and even around the world.

You can read about that impact on the following pages. And the next time you visit a farm, you may want to look up.

Tilling with Tech: Clemson University harnessing new technology

Page 16

Up in the Air: Drones helping to elevate professor’s research

Page 20

Taking Root: S.C. Governor’s School for Agriculture fostering industy interest in youth

Page 24

From the ground up: Program helps ag entrepreneurs turn passion into profit

Page 27

Shooting for the Moon: S.C. on mission to land permanent NASA presence

Page 30


Fueling the Tech-Enabled Broker

Fifteen of the nation’s top super-regional brokerage firms and 14 premiere insurance carriers and wholesalers are collaborating with BTV’s cohort of technology innovators from across the globe. Working in collaboration with the sheer drive to elevate the industry to help our clients identify risks sooner and drive down costs, faster. Learn how the industry’s first broker-led convening platform is lighting the way to maximize technology solutions and amplify innovation within the insurance industry as we know it:

KendallKirk, precision agricul ture engineer and director of Clemson University Center for Agricultural Technology, didn’t grow up around agriculture — but now it’s his passion.

“Planting food plots for deer hunting was the closest I got, before I came to Clemson,” said Kirk.

Kirk said he didn’t really know much about the industry, until he stumbled upon the agriculture program at Clem son as an undergraduate student in 1998. From there, he started studying aquaculture engineering research for


his master’s degree and Ph.D. and began teaching in 2005 in the agriculture and business program.

“Since I didn’t grow up around it [agriculture], I felt it was crucial to surround myself with people who did,” Kirk said.

In 2014, he started research at the Clemson University Edisto Research and Education Center as a precision agriculture engineer, focusing on research and extension.

“I love the people,” he said. “A lot of my passion for the industry comes from learning about the things I don’t know, and I love learning from other people. What they see in a problem and/or solution I didn’t see. It’s a fun commu

nity to work with, farmers, agriculture industry, etc. People in the industry are passionate about what they do and aware of their strengths and the people around them, making it easy to work in and build a collaborative environment.”

Technology has begun reshaping South Carolina’s agribusiness industry in recent years, allowing for an efficient productivity, which benefits people on a global scale. And Clemson is on the front lines, launching in August its Center for Agricultural Technology, which focuses on education, outreach and research with the goal of positively impacting global food supply, farmers’ productivity and agricultural sustain ability — locally, regionally and globally.

Clemson University is playing a key role in harnessing technology to benefit farm fields around the globe
Kendall Kirk uses cutting-edge technolgy in his work as agriculture engineer and director at Clemson’s University’s Center for Agicultural Technology. (Photo/Clemson University)



What’s new on SCBIZtv?

What’s new on SCBIZtv?

With nearly 150 videos (and counting), our YouTube channel features a wide variety of businessrelated content. From recognition events to one-on-one interviews with high-level business executives to in-depth discussions with industry leaders, our playlists have something for everyone.

With nearly 150 videos (and counting), our YouTube channel features a wide variety of businessrelated content. From recognition events to one-on-one interviews with high-level business executives to in-depth discussions with industry leaders, our playlists have something for everyone.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find on SCBIZtv.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find on SCBIZtv.

What’s New and What’s Hot!

Check out our new content as well as our trending videos on this ever-changing playlist.

Coping with COVID

Explore the impact the coronavirus is having on our daily lives, both at home and at the office.

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Recognition Events

With events like Women of Influence in the Upstate, Icons and Phenoms in the Midlands and Health Care Heroes in the Lowcountry, SC Biz News honors the movers and shakers across the state.

Coffee With

This ongoing video series features business executives sharing insight about their business, the industry in which they work and the community in which they live.

Subscribe to SCBIZtv and stay in tune with what’s happening across South Carolina.

Subscribe to SCBIZtv and stay in tune with what’s happening across South Carolina.

Staff, faculty, and students at the center, headquartered at Edisto REC in Blackville, S.C., collaborate with private and public partners to create, develop, and enhance solutions for the agriculture industry through testing and evaluating precision agriculture technologies and other digital solutions for the industry while enhancing acces sibility to these solutions.

“I recognize everyone at the center comes to the table with different gifts, and within that, the work we are doing and trying to support is intended to be multidisciplinary, reaching across college boundaries to bring people together who can contribute to the solution,” said Kirk. “At the heart of that ecosystem, the things that the industry and academia do well come together to develop agricultural tech nologies even quicker.”

The South Carolina General Assem bly finalized in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget $750,000 to integrate agricul tural technology development, said Kirk, which has helped their program a great deal.

“Their investment represents recognition of South Carolina farm

ers and its citizens, and is a testament and confidence in Clemson’s ability to deliver on that return-on-investment, providing additional support for ongo ing work that’s already being done,” he added.

Technology’s impact on agriculture Technology has changed the agri cultural landscape in South Carolina — and globally — by increasing the production per unit input, said Kirk. For example, things like money, labor, water, fertilizer, real estate and more. Though the addition of technology in the industry requires more specializa tion and training in agriculture sup port workforce, the results in reduced environmental impact per unity is vital.

Technology has also allowed for a deeper understanding of effects of in-field variability such as yield and soil mapping, with improved manage ment of in-field variability such as zone and grid sampling and remote sensing, according to Kirk.

“Recently, technology in the agri cultural space, when we think about it, we aren’t thinking about tech in terms of tools and machines necessarily but

the electronics behind them,” said Kirk. “There is more to it than screens. I am always emphasizing keeping boots on the ground and not becoming too reli ant on tech, because there still needs to be a human aspect to it. Technology is only as good as what we program into it.”

Electronic traceability has also been improving for years. For example, the ability to rapidly know not only where a shipment of watermelon came from but also what field on that specific farm, when it was harvested, what harvest crew harvested it, and in a mat ter of seconds versus weeks or more of tracing down a paper trail, according to Kirk. Food safety and disease outbreaks such as listeria has also improved through traceability, so those issues are better addressed and the known causes, leading to faster recalls if necessary.

Tech-driven solutions often allow agriculture producers to maximize out puts relative to input, allowing for more efficiency. This directly translates to reduced environmental impacts from agriculture and improved long-term sustainability of food, fiber, and fuel production, said Kirk.

Kendall Kirk has been teaching in Clemson’s agriculture and business program since 2005. (Photo/Clemson University)

U.S. residents generally spend a smaller fraction of their income on food than most of the rest of the world, according to Kirk.

“This means, we have more resources available to advance our education, contribute to good causes, and generally increase our quality of life in the way of an improved environment,” he added. “A large part of this stems from successes in agricultural productiv ity. Tech-driven improvements will be required to stay on the leading edge of agricultural productivity and security.”

As for the economic impact of improving technology in the agri culture industry, maximizing exist ing resources use efficiency is key, said Kirk. For example, it’s as simple as conserving and cutting down on energy and water use, so there will be more resources available to South

These technological developments also serve to create new opportuni ties in the industry, because South Carolina is positioning itself to be a leader in agricultural technology development, and industry col laboration in that space will bring industry leaders to the state to do their work and begin new ventures, Kirk said.

South Carolinians,” he added. “We are looking at the big picture, the global impact. As we become more efficient in production, the cost of everything we produce will go down, making each thing more competitive in the spaces they work in. We spend less of our income on our food than anywhere else in the world. When our agriculture productivity can


future with the

college savings! Future Scholar makes gift contributions easy for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. Administered by State Treasurer Curtis Loftis. To learn more about Future Scholar and its investment objectives, risks and costs, read the official statement available at before investing. Check with your or the beneficiary’s home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits for investing in its own 529. Not paid for with state funds. Learn more at
Kendall Kirk uses the latest technology to aid his classes. (Photo/Clemson University)

JoeMari J. Maja’s future is up in the air. Quite literally.

The research engineer and assis tant professor at Clemson University’s Edisto Research and Education Center and Department of Agricultural Sci ences, has been concentrating as of late on small, unmanned aircraft systems and robotics.

As an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot for Clemson University, his research — Maja also oversees the department’s Sensor and Automation Laboratory — has given farmers the tools necessary to address environmental needs based on real-time data.

Over the past few years, Maja has contributed significantly to the research enterprise at Clemson. He has worked to address current and future problems

for farmers and seeks to provide solu tions through his research on count ing plants and tracking animals in open-field environments, crop health monitoring, and automation.

Maja has also collaborated in research projects in the areas of specialty crops, animal science, crop science and precision agriculture. Through his research effort, Maja hopes to allevi ate the challenges of farming by having agri-tronic devices work for the farmers.

Two agricultural technology projects Maja is working on are drone and radio frequency identification and a defolia tion sprayer.

Plant inventory data collection is time-consuming, costly, and inac curate. Accurate inventory allows for better forecasting, profit projections, and precise delivery to customers. Increasing labor costs and shortages are

just one of the pressing problems in the nursery industry, said Maja.

“There is an increased need for auto mated technologies to address these problems, especially in the unstruc tured environment of nurseries,” he said.

Drones have been used to read radio frequency identification tags for the inventory of vehicles and boxes in warehouses, but to date, they have lim ited use in nurseries. One advantage of drones is their ability to execute com plex low-altitude flights and carry vari ous sensing payloads, Maja said. These tags offer a significant advantage over barcodes for inventory since they do not rely on the line of sight to capture data. Merging these tags with a drone is suggested as a plausible method to automate the inventory process in nurseries, he said.

Drones are the star in Joe Mari J. Maja’s research at Clemson University
Joe Mari J. Maja is a research engineer and assistant professor at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center and Department of Agricultural Sciences. (Photo/Clemson University)

A collaborative team consisting of Clemson University, University of Arkan sas, Michigan State University, Virginia Tech, and the USDA, along with industry collaborators such as Avery Denison and Dudley Nurseries, have been working on developing solutions using drones and radio frequency identification tags to auto mate inventory in nurseries since last year, according to Maja. The team installed more than 9,000 tags at Dudley Nurseries and has been field-testing the technology since February.

“Adopting this technology by the nursery industry will result in significant economic, environmental and social ben efits,” said Maja. “Asset tracking is essential for the nursery industry, and this project address this area to the next level. Although the project was intended for the nursery industry, the project has much potential for use in other areas in agriculture or other industries.”

The U.S. cotton industry provided more than 190,000 jobs and more than $28 bil lion in total economic contributions to the United States in 2012, and the U.S. is the third largest cotton-producing country, fol lowing India and China, according to data provided by Maja. The U.S. cotton produc ers have been able to stay competitive with countries like India and China by adopting the latest technologies, he added.

Cotton defoliation is a natural physi ological process, but untimely and inade quate leaf defoliation can affect the harvest ing primarily when a mechanical harvester is being used. The current practice of cotton defoliation uses a tractor-mounted boom sprayer, which only sprays the top canopy of the cotton plants, Maja said.

“Our work at Clemson University focuses on two objectives: controlling the defoliants and adding a spray unit on the side of the cotton plants,” he said. “Due to the side spray, we hypothesize that our spray unit has better penetration and does not need the same amount of defoliants used by the current practice. One of the uniqueness of this project is that the spray system is attached to an unmanned ground vehicle or mobile robot.”

The project is funded in part by Cot ton Inc., Maja said, and it will benefit cotton farmers and result in significant economic and environmental benefits. Less spray means less operating cost and using unmanned ground vehicles address two concerns: net-zero emissions and no fuel consumption.

“When we say we are creating technology, it should work, otherwise, it doesn’t have any meaning,” said Maja. “We have a lot more problems we see now post-pandemic, and farmers are the most vulnerable sector, especially when it comes to labor.”

He said labor is expensive, and, in the agricultural industry, repetitive and man ual. “It’s too much for our farmers,” he said. “If my work can just help even 10% or 5% to ease labor issues of farmers and how they can increase their yield, that’s a big thing. Farmers are unsung heroes and don’t normally get credit for all they do in producing food for everyone to survive. It is our mission to help them.”

Joe Mari J. Maja is an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot for Clemson and also oversees the university’s Sensor and Automation Laboratory. (Photo/Clemson University)
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How Greenville startup Agulus looks to provide farmers with access to technology to increase their bottom line

MatthewSanford grew up wondering how the food system worked. No one in his family is in the industry, so he explored his curiosity.

“I had recognized the agriculture industry has its challenges and many inefficiencies,” he said.

It was a time when farmers’ markets were starting to boom and become a major trend in the U.S.

He decided to grow a small hydroponic tomato farm and had to sell and market his tomatoes.

“I realized quickly how hard it was to be a small farmer, to deal with a farmers’ market, to deal with little sales here and there, and have to deal with a business that had a lot of overhead,” said Sanford, CEO of Agulus. “So, you’re looking at these really low margins, high overhead, and looking at all the other farmers and wondering how they’re doing it.”

He said he then realized there are subsidies and tax breaks, programs and other things that prop up agriculture.

“But no one talks much about how little farmers make and if they continue making so little, they will all start to go out of business,” said Sanford. “And since, that has been the trend.”

Enter Agulus, a Greenville-based technol ogy company focused on providing innovative software solutions by offering real-time risk exposure, market positioning, hedging, forward contracting and business operating technolo gies for large agribusinesses to empower the American agriculture industry with supply chain automation technology.

The company connects farmers, brokers, advisors and more in one platform. Agulus makes it easy for agribusinesses to work together by providing software that doesn’t have to be overly complicated and frustrating to consumers. “We enjoy being able to provide these tools to farmers,” said Sanford.

“We spend a lot of time trying to find a path to provide our technology to those who have trouble with access to it.”

Sanford said he originally classified the technology company as a startup three years ago, which wasn’t a good fit, so it changed up its model last year and went back to the basics in building the business by reaching out to agribusi nesses directly, offering their services.

Since the agriculture industry has been somewhat resistant to change over the years, get ting into the agribusiness technology space has been difficult.

“But we are very excited to get through some projects and get our hands on additional

products, such as within the dairy industry,” said Sanford. “We plan on bringing more farms directly to the program. That’s really what we are passionate about and how we want to make a big impact. How we feel we can make a big impact is by providing all farms with the same tools and resources.”

Technological advances within the industry will allow for more transparency, better food safety, higher food quality, with more sustainabil ity as the end game, said Sanford.

“We want to make America itself more pro ductive,” he added. “When we look forward to the future, we still have an overpopulation crisis on the entire planet to deal with. The United States is poised to provide solutions to this issue through agriculture, which is why it’s crucial to pay more attention to it.” FOCUS
Matt Sanford

Cattle farming is in 17-yearold J.C. Chandler’s blood. He grew up on his family’s farm near Belton in South Carolina’s Upstate and has raised and shown beef cattle for many years, so many that he jokingly calls them “some of his best friends.”

Ask the high school senior what he wants to do after graduation, and he gives an outline of the path he wants to pursue toward becoming a repro ductive physiologist specializing in the breeding of beef cattle. Chandler has mapped out what he needs to study and where he wants to pursue those degrees.

It’s the kind of specific career focus

you don’t see in many teenagers, but Chandler was able to plan this type of future because he is one of the 78 students currently enrolled at the S.C. Governor’s School for Agriculture at John de La Howe, a residential high school focusing on agriculture that is the only one of its kind in the country.

Established in 2020, the Governor’s School for Agriculture is located in McCormick County on 1,300 acres of picturesque, sprawling grounds of the John de La Howe School, the oldest educational institution in South Caro lina below the college level, according to a published history on the school’s website.

Once a boarding school for stu dents with behavioral problems that forced them out of traditional public

school, John de La Howe’s enroll ment was falling, and facilities were crumbling in 2018. The school was in danger of closing, but state officials instead decided to change its mission to educating students to form the future of agriculture in South Caro lina.

Agriculture is the state’s biggest industry, pumping $46 billion into the economy and generating 250,000 jobs, according

But the sector faces significant challenges in coming years as fewer young people choose farming as a career.

The average age of a South Caro lina farmer right now is 59, accord ing to Timothy Keown, the school’s president.

S.C. Governor’s School for Agriculture fuels agribusiness workforce pipeline
Students at the S.C. Governor’s School for Agriculture learn how to take care of horses, board their own horses on campus and regularly take part in competitions. (Photo/Provided)

“One of the ways to combat the aver age rising age of the farmer is to get the younger generation more interested in agriculture,” Keown said. “By getting the students here through hands-on learning, the end goal is for them to become productive citizens who enter either into agriculture or careers involv ing natural resources.”

Students at the Governor’s School can pursue four different pathways of study: animal science, horticulture, agricultural mechanics and environ mental/natural resources.

What makes their experience much different is the amount of hands-on work they do in their chosen fields. Part of each academic day is spent in the classroom, and the rest in various spaces around campus – greenhouses, fields, workshops, stables, barns and forests – where they learn how to do work related to their fields of interest.

On any given day, students in the

horticulture track might work with flowers, animal science students could be found caring for some of the school’s cows or chickens, and those in the mechanics track might be in the weld ing shop. Forestry and natural resources students have learned how to conduct controlled burns in woodlands around the property.

“We look at this whole campus as a laboratory farm,” said Gregory Thompson, the school’s principal. “The students here get more hands-on experience with their trade of choice than most students at other second ary schools. That’s important because we’re hopefully preparing students who can leave here and go right into further education in their field or right to a job. The pandemic brought light to the importance of agriculture and how shortages in that work force affected everyone.”

Skills taught at the Governor’s

School for Agriculture might seem pretty unorthodox to people who don’t know anything about agriculture or farming. Students in animal science, for instance, learn how to artificially inseminate cows and become certified in the task.

The idea might make some teenagers cringe, but not these students. Chan dler, for instance, talks about how that skill alone could lead to an immediate well-paying career after high school.

Thompson said that is part of the school’s goal – to offer an agriculturalbased education that leads to student success whether they choose college or to immediately go into the workforce after graduation.

The Governor’s School started out with about 20 students and has been growing steadily, despite some bumps in the road as the properties were reno vated and the challenges of running a new institution were ironed out.

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Currently 78 students from throughout South Carolina are enrolled. According to regulations, the school can only have 10% outof-state enrollment, and currently students from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama are in resi dence. Word about the school is get ting around, however, and officials say they have heard from prospective students who live as far away as Mis souri and expect that interest to grow as school representatives continue to attend agriculture and education conferences nationwide.

Keown said in some ways it has been an uphill battle to get word about the school out to people in other parts of the state, particularly in the Pee Dee and coastal regions

like Horry County that a four-hour drive from rural McCormick County. Staff members and recruiters from the school regularly travel from one end of the state to the other, speaking at 4H and Future Farmers of America events, running displays at career fairs and other events. “We had to rebrand the entire school from what it was known for back in 2018, so we’re doing everything we can,” he said. “We have a heavy social media pres ence, and we host open houses and campus preview days.”

The eventual goal is to have a total enrollment of 100 students once three more residence halls on campus are renovated. Students currently at the school said they were drawn to it because of deep interests in agri

culture and natural resources. Many of them, like Chandler, come from farming backgrounds.

Fort Mill resident Emily Redman, 18, heard about the school from her original high school’s agricultural edu cation teacher and applied because of her interest in forestry.

“I really like the experience of liv ing here on campus because it’s taught me to be a lot more responsible,” she said. “I feel like I’m ahead of the game because I’ve already been living on my own.”

She eventually wants to apply to study forestry at Clemson or the Uni versity of Georgia.

Some students want to pursue careers that will make farming more accessible to everyone.

Timothy Fulmer of Newberry, 16, grew up in a family that runs a road side produce stand, so agriculture was a natural fit for him when he chose the Governor’s School. He originally thought of studying plant and animal science, but instead his lifelong interest in tractors steered him toward the agmechanics track.

“I’d like to go on from here and study general engineering and eventu ally be able to design and build tractors and other farm machinery that could be used by people with disabilities,” Fulmer said. “There are a lot of acci dents on farms, and this would be a way for people to keep on farming even after they’ve had a serious injury.”

Thompson said the school’s goal is to both give its students the best education possible and to produce graduates who can make an impact in a world where growing populations and supply chain problems are creating challenges for the agriculture sector. “We’re working extremely hard to make the S.C. taxpayers proud of this school and also to raise awareness of just how important agriculture is to every facet of life,” he said. “There are going to be greater needs for schools like this in the future.”

Hunter Morton, environmental and natural resources teacher at the Governor’s School for Agriculture, shows a visiting group of homeschool students the new aquaculture lab where his classes will raise a school of 120 channel catfish. (Photo/Provided)

Corrine Wright never expected to find herself here – on a Low country farm, practicing regen erative agriculture, with a whirlwind of ideas swirling in her head.

Wright, who is active-duty Coast Guard in Charleston and a mechanical engineer by trade, always imagined a career in that field when she eventual ly left military service. But the Boston native’s path has taken a turn through 142 acres of land in Walterboro.

Wright and her husband, Trey, have operated Lightning Rock Land LLC for two years. The couple raises beef cattle using regenerative prac tices including cover cropping and rotational and multispecies grazing, as well as a silvopasture approach that integrates trees, forages and livestock in order to boost soil health while

reducing the need for chemicals.

“We’re definitely still in the begin ning stages,” Corrine Wright said. “We’ve only had this property for two years this month, and we’ve only had cattle for one year, so we’re still grow ing.”

That growth has been aided by the Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the S.C. Department of Agriculture. The ACRE program has funded 66 entre preneurs since its 2018 inception, according to executive director Kyle Player.

“ACRE’s purpose is to further agribusinesses in South Carolina by assisting agribusiness entrepreneurs through workshops, grant competi tions, teaching new and beginning farmers business skills through our curriculum, grant application assis tance, and funding research,” Player

said. “Of the 66 entrepreneurs we have funded, only two are no longer in business.”

Trey Wright is a fourth-generation cattleman, Corrine said, whose family operated traditional commercial cattle farms out West. The two met in the military, and Trey expressed his desire to have his own cattle ranch when he retired from active service.

“I’m from just outside Boston, Massachusetts, so I was like, ‘Oh, a ranch. That would be so lovely,’ just envisioning huge, gorgeous farms,” Corrine said. “It’s not quite the same as his parents’ large, commercial cattle ranch. … We’ve just absolutely fallen in love with our property and this new way of raising cattle that my husband and I have discovered with the whole regenerative agriculture, which is much different than how his parents raised cattle.”
ACRE program helps turn passion into profit FROM THE GROUND UP
Trey and Corrine Wright own Lightning Rock Land LLC outside Charleston, where they practice regenerative farming and raise cattle. (Photo/Provided)

The new approach was a matter of necessity. After one year of trying to farm a small section of the property, as well as installing water, power and other infrastructure, reality hit at tax time.

“I was like, ‘My goodness. We’ve spent $15,000 on fertilizers and chemi cals. We spent everything we have and we don’t even have any cattle.’ That’s when we really started looking at other options and other avenues to make ends meet,” she said.

Corrine, a planner by nature prone to creating spreadsheets, set to work researching those options through audio books, documentaries and You Tube videos.

“That opened the door into a com pletely different world,” she said. “I had no background in this. I went back to school and got a second degree in agribusiness.”

She also discovered the ACRE program, where she dove into its fall curriculum and was awarded an initial grant of $5,000 the Wrights used for a cattle holding pen. She continued taking classes and doing research into regenerative farming practices, and a second, $20,000 grant went toward planting cover crops and soil and live stock impact testing.

“Now we’re on a better trajectory,” Corrine said. “It’s very scalable, what we’re doing now, so as we grow and as get more of our property fenced in, we can afford to plant in the fall and plant in the spring and just let those forages kind of feed each other and feed the soil and feed the microbiology so that the cattle are healthier and they’re get ting more complete nutrition.”

Lightning Rock Land, which also features a small apiary, sells its cattle directly to consumers. Corrine envi sions eventual agritourism uses for the property as well as a program to help veterans transitioning into civilian life learn or brush up on farming skills.

“We just want to be in a local, in-the-backyard-of-Charleston oppor tunity for city folks to come out and learn about where their food comes from and the alternatives to storebought, feedlot-raised, grain-finished or corn-finished, with antibiotics and

all that,” she said. “We just want to be an alternative to that and kind of pass the legacy onto our kids, while scaling, while incorporating different enter prises. We have so many ideas, tons of ideas. We’re just trying to stay focused.”

It’s a position the one-time city girl never imagined being in, but one she has embraced.

“This has been a very welcome sur prise to the life that I thought that I was going to have, growing up in the city,” she said. “I was like a brown cow equals chocolate milk kind of person. I bring that to the table as well in our business. I kind of know what city people think or what they don’t know about agri culture, and so I just want to be able to provide that education piece as well.

“My passion has completely switched. All I want to do is farm fulltime.”

Connecting communities

Agriculture has also been a family tradition for Iris Branham for four gen erations. The daughter of L.D. Peeler Jr., she is continuing a dairy operation

with deep roots in the state of South Carolina.

L.D.’s son, Davis Peeler, is also part of the team at Milky Way Farm in Starr, where 120 registered Jersey cows pro vide raw and low-temperature pasteur ized whole and chocolate milk directly to customers. The farm used an ACRE grant awarded last July to invest in a state-of-the-art creamery and to offset some of the cost of a $500,000 robotic milking system.

The milking robot has had a trans formative effect on the farm, Branham said. “You still have to hire somebody to work with the cows, but you’re able to hire a different type of employee, because they don’t have to get up at 4:30 in the morning and milk and work a split schedule and come back at 4:30 in the afternoon and milk,” she said. “You’re able to hire a different employ ee and provide a better work environ ment from a scheduling standpoint for them. The people that have worked for us on that side thoroughly enjoy it, and we won’t ever milk cows a different way.”

Sustainable farming practices at Lightning Rock Land include multspeicies grazing. (Photo/Provided)

Such improvements have been especially valuable as Milky Way Farm continues to deal with ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before, Bra nham said she was able to keep a sixweek supply on hand of supplies such as jugs, caps, labels and ingredients.

“I now have to keep a minimum of six months’ supply,” she said. “I just placed an order for chocolate for our chocolate milk and there is none in stock, and it’s a 20-day lead time. You have to stay ahead of it, and when I place an order, I’m going to go ahead and order 35 weeks of (supplies).”

The pandemic also affected the farm’s consumers.

“I think COVID opened people’s eyes a little bit to understanding the infrastructure to food and that it can be broken very easily. Does that teach them where their food came from? No. It just made them scared when the gro cery store shelves were bare,” she said.

Branham sees remnants of that anxiety in the company social media accounts she manages.

“I see comments all the time about why are eggs so expensive? Why are they so limited? Why can’t I find this brand of milk?” she said. “Still today, there’s shortages.”

To help address market needs, the

farm is starting to sell beef.

“Two years ago, we started more aggressively breeding our dairy cows to beef and keeping those calves and rais ing them out. This fall, I have started harvesting those animals and selling them,” Branham said. “In two emails to our customers – not advertising to the general public – in a matter of months, I have all of 2023’s beef that will be harvested sold.”

That local connection is one reason Branham has never considered a dif ferent career and gives her title as “the dairy farmer’s daughter.”

“We know the consumer, and they’re appreciative to us. We’re a very dif ferent dairy farm in that we sell our products, so we know the end user and what they’re looking for,” she said. “In general dairies, the milk’s picked up and they have no idea who’s consuming it. But I talk every day to people who are drinking our product.

“You’re feeding your community and your region. We can’t say we feed the world because our milk is staying in South Carolina, because we bottle and sell every drop with our farm name on it. So there is some self-satisfaction with being involved from grass to glass, we like to say. We’re involved with the milk getting to the table. But it’s a great

lifestyle. It’s not for everybody, but we’re also in it for the lifestyle that it provides for us, and the environment it allows us to raise our children in.”

Helping such agribusinesses thrive also gives Player satisfaction.

“For me, it’s rewarding to see people with a passion for agriculture be able to take their ideas and businesses to the next level,” she said. “Many of our entrepreneurs are owners of small operations that oftentimes don’t qualify for other grant and loan programs that have stringent requirements. It has been rewarding to see an idea or a business plan grow into something that even the participant never imagined.”

Player cited Lowcountry blanket and towel maker Covered in Cotton, which used ACRE funding to expand its product line and was named the overall winner of the 2019 Made in the South awards by Garden and Gun magazine.

Other past grant recipients have included the Gullah Farmers Coop erative Association, honey company Queen & Comb and Pomaria farm Carolina Pride Pastures, which raises alpacas and llamas and sells products made from their wool.

“I think it just goes to show that a good idea can go a long way,” Player said. FOCUS
The Wrights hope to add agritourism to edcuate consumers on where food comes from. (Photo/Provided)

partners statewide are shooting for the moon to try and create a permanent NASA facility in South Carolina.


While the space agency currently has no permanent footprint in South Carolina, a consortium was created in 2020 specifically to expand the relationship with NASA and bring a NASA Center of Excellence to the state.

A Center of Excellence is an ancillary NASA operation focused on research to help find solutions to the world’s problems. CORE SC — which stands for The Center of Resilience Excellence South Carolina — was founded by Charleston County Gov ernment, the South Carolina Aquarium, the College of Charleston, SC Space Grant and SC NASA EPSCoR to make the center a reality.

Board members include chairman Jona than Zucker, president of The InterTech

Group, and Dr. Cassandra Runyon, director of the SC NASA Space Grant Consortium and NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EpSCR). CORE SC employees hosted NASA for a three-day statewide tour Sept. 12-14 show casing the state’s many resources that could support a new space economy.

The tangible goal is to establish a NASA Center for Excellence at an executive air port — the Johns Island Executive Airport in Charleston County along the Stono River, Aiken Regional Airport or Spartan burg Downtown Memorial Airport. Ideally, there would be NASA labs at each of those locations.

“We want to have lab space (at an airport) to do things with drones, high-alti tude balloons, communication equipment and infrastructure for electric vehicle tools, and to create a satellite program for the state,” said Kevin Limehouse, Innovation Officer for Public Services with Charleston County who also heads CORE SC. “The ask from NASA is for us to do South Carolina’s

first CubeSat program, so the lab space and infrastructure at these locations would be for that and all of the tech that comes with it. There’s a real possibility it could be located at one of our airports.”

Yet locations aren’t the only incentives for NASA consideration.

During the multi-day tour, CORE SC highlighted innovative companies operat ing in the state that could support a new space economy. Parameters for establishing a Center of Excellence include focusing on research and innovation in a specific niche.

CORE SC identified five niche areas: Water, Energy, Connectivity, Agriculture and Natural hazards—the acronym “WE CAN.”

“All five (areas) are relevant to South Carolina, and we would work on solutions to these issues here that we can share with the nation and the world,” Limehouse said. “All five are also all tied to NASA’s mission directorate, and we hope to work on solu tions together.”

In that spirit, stops on NASA’s threeday tour included agriculture innovators

South Carolina is on a mission to bring a NASA facility to the state
NASA tours the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (Photo/Provided)

BrightMa Farms in Cordesville, which uses hemp to create industry-grade manufactur ing products, and Heron Farms in Charles ton, which grows edible sea beans that desalinate water during the grow process — a product that could be grown in space and nourish astronauts.

Other stops included FabLab in Charles ton, which 3-D prints building materials sturdy enough to house a lab, Trident Tech’s Aerospace program facilities and The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).

“The crux message is, ‘Here’s why South Carolina can be leaders in the new space economy with all that we have going on,’” Limehouse said. “There are opportuni ties for these businesses to connect (with NASA) and get federal contracts.”

NASA’s criteria for creating an official Cen ter of Excellence is that an organization like CORE SC would set up the center first and, once NASA observes its success, the space agency would take over.

“We have to establish the center on our own, start working with NASA on projects with some formalized agreements, and, if everything goes well, it would get absorbed and become a part of NASA,” Limehouse said.

NASA and beyond

A Center of Excellence first landed on the state’s radar five years ago, when the space agency asked to hold a business expo related to the building of its space launch system rocket, said Limehouse.

“We started working with the Marshall Space Flight Center to host a huge business expo and also STEM expo with astronaut visits to our schools, and we just really hit it off,” Limehouse said. NASA came back in force with more than Marshall when the state hosted a NASA regional Conference in 2021.

Through that relationship, stakehold ers iscovered that NASA was interested in opening additional Centers of Excellence. That’s when CORE SC was created along with its unique Center of Excellence model.

The work CORE SC is doing to highlight advancements in its five identi fied niches is already spurring innovation opportunities beyond NASA — most nota bly, the Rolls Royce manufacturing facility in Aiken, which is pioneering microgrids for renewable solar energy to power its

headquarters and operations.

Limehouse told NASA employees dur ing the recent tour that CORE SC’s interest in that technology led to discussions with Rolls Royce leadership about future projects and partnerships in the new space economy.

“Rolls Royce in Germany asked for a call and said, ‘Would CORE SC be inter ested in partnering on EVTOLs?’, which are electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles — flying cars — and of course, we said yes,” Limehouse said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Where can we do that?’ The ask of NASA by CORE SC is to develop NASA’s first South Carolina satellite program in the state and when Rolls Royce asked about EVTOLs, we thought we could tie those two together at the Johns Island airport.”

Barzan Aeronautical, which develops aerial intelligence, surveillance and recon naissance systems, is currently building a drone facility at the Johns Island airport; all those endeavors could work together and collaborate on innovation, Limehouse said.

“Satellite programs, 3-D printing, indus trial agriculture products that can be grown on the moon or Mars — all of this happens if we do it together,” Limehouse said. “My idea is everything together: a Rolls Royce microgrid to power everything with renew ables, a 3-D printed structure that houses a lab for communications equipment and lab space and a 3-D printed buildout infra structure for EVTOLs and drones.”

CORE SC is awarding $400,000 in statefunded subgrants for projects that move the five niche industries forward in South Carolina. “It could be focused on solutions in electric vehicle charging for a small rural community, flood map work or anything related to technology transfers that trans form inventions and scientific outcomes,”

Limehouse said. “The end goal is that we want solutions in the hands of our citizens to improve their quality of life.”

CORE SC holds weekly project team meetings, biweekly meetings with NASA and monthly meetings with stakeholders.

Showcasing STEM

CORE SC previously hosted NASA employees at week-long STEM fair to show how students are learning skills for future space economy careers, and a previous CORE SC project included securing grant funding for students to learn at the Ken nedy Space Center in Florida.

“We are talking with NASA about hold ing another business and STEM expo in 2023 with smaller events leading up to it, like small and minority businesses having an opportunity to connect about their role in NASA (projects),” Limehouse said.

That includes bringing higher education institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to the table. “The CORE SC model is to show NASA all the part ners that we work with on a regular basis,” Limehouse said. “We want to show NASA and other federal partners why bringing in all sectors to work together creates a more sustainable model.”

While Limehouse notes that a NASA Center of Excellence is several years down the line, he said it’s important for South Carolina to get a leg up and create innova tion in this burgeoning industry. “This is going to be a slow burn,” Limehouse said. “Federal agreements take a long time, but all of our efforts go towards creat ing solutions for our citizens, economic development for our state and a chance to do more with NASA. Hopefully one day, they will have a permanent presence.”
BrightMa Farm representatives to talk to a NASA contingent. (Photo/Provided)


Master plan to be attached to Ports Authority’s 70-acre property sale in downtown Charleston

The South Carolina Ports Authority plans to put its 70-acre prime water front property in downtown Charles ton up for sale — but not without a master plan attached to it that will guide development and offer unparal leled waterfront access to Charleston residents and visitors.

Situated between Market Street and Joe Riley Waterfront Park with its famed Pineapple Fountain, the Union Pier property consists of 40 acres of high ground and 30 acres of piers and marshland with expansive views of the Mount Pleasant shoreline and the Ravenel Bridge across the Charleston Harbor.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine our water front and take full advantage of this iconic asset,” the port states.

The Ports Authority is holding a series of public meetings to get feed back and community input on the master plan.

Potential uses for the Union Pier include creating a continuous water front promenade from the existing Waterfront Park with public parks and walkways, waterfront access, shopping, restaurants, parking areas, hotels, affordable housing and event space at the cruise line terminal on the property.

While the Union Pier was a bustling port in the late 1800s, it hasn’t seen much action since the 1950s. It is cur rently being used for breakbulk cargo and as a home port and terminal for the Carnival Cruise Line.

Starting in 2024, Charleston will no longer be a home port for the Carni val Cruise Line and will only be a port

of call, meaning a stop for tourists to disembark for the day. The large park ing lot used by cruise passengers at the Union Pier will no longer be needed.

Creating a master plan before listing the property for sale has several ben efits: first, it allows the Ports Author ity to be good stewards of prime real estate on the Charleston peninsula; second, it allows the Ports Authority to list it at a higher sale price, according to developers.

With a master plan, all the due diligence and entitlements are already done, including zoning and surveys of existing structures and piers, said Jacob Lindsey, with Lowe, a private real estate company contracted by the Ports Authority to do property entitle ments for the master plan.

Lowe recently embarked on the high-profile development of The Coo per Hotel near the Union Pier, which is also set to have a public waterfront promenade.

“The total property value (of the Union Pier)? The answer is nobody knows,” Lindsey said at a recent public meeting to collect community feed

back. “You’d have to demolish piers, you have to build a giant park, every one will value it differently and if the markets are in a good position, it can be worth a lot. It’s a big unknown now but the market will dictate it.”

A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue agreement will almost certain ly be attached to the property, Lindsey said, which would allow developers to use taxes paid on the property to pay for infrastructure improvements, making the sale even more valuable.

Lindsey said Lowe has been offered first right of refusal from the Ports Authority as a buyer and developer of the Union Pier.

“There will be a bid process and we can look at the bids and have the first right of refusal. We hope to be owners, but with a trophy property like this, it’s highly likely that we will be outbid,” Lindsey said.

Combined with extensive commu nity feedback from public meetings and approval of the master plan by the city of Charleston, the ports’ timeline to put the property up for sale is late 2023 or early 2024.

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“We will sell it for the highest and best use,” the Ports Authority states. “The revenue from the sale will help fund critical port infrastruc ture projects for SC Ports — such as phases two and three of Leatherman Terminal — ensuring a fluid supply chain for port-dependent business es throughout South Carolina and beyond.”

In addition to public waterfront access, there are other lofty goals and transformational opportunities

for the Union Pier property, includ ing improving flooding and protect ing the area from storm surge. Tide gates, a living shoreline and other flooding protections were proposed at public meetings.

Aesthetically, master plan options include creating alleyways to mimic Charleston’s street style and extend ing current streets leading to the property — Society, Laurens, Hasell and Pinckney streets — to the water’s edge of the development in order to

“blend seamlessly with the fabric of Charleston.”

“As an urban designer, there are things that I feel are very fundamen tal, including extending the historic street grid onto the site and mak ing connections with walkability,” said Cassie Branum, a principal in urban design with Perkins & Will, an architecture, planning, and land scape design firm contracted to help with the master plan. “It takes a team a long time to come up with a mas ter plan; we’ve been learning about the area’s history, meeting with the city of Charleston and stakeholder groups.”

While the master plan will dic tate what type of development is allowed and where development will go, the city of Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review will maintain authority over the design of the

A master plan is being developed for Union Pier. (Photo/Provided)


buildings and amenities, Lindsey said.

Development on the property is at least five to seven years out with a full buildout between 10-30 years, Lindsey said.

“The Ports Authority could have just sold the property with the base zoning on it and there would be no master plan with green spaces or anything else,” Lindsey said. “With this route, the community sees the plan, the planning commission and city council vote on it, and every thing in the plan is attached to it — affordable housing requirements, off-site improvements, roadway improvements — all of that will be wrapped into the master plan and adopted by city council.”

To learn more, visit www.union

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An idyllic rural county on the western edge of South Carolina along the Savannah River about an hour from Augusta, Ga., McCormick County capitalizes on its greatest assets with a rich agri culture economy and recreational opportunities at three state parks. Public lands account for more than 100,000 acres in McCormick

County with almost 50% owned by the federal or state government, cre ating a paradise for hikers, cyclists, fishermen and campers.

The county’s most popular recre ational attraction is the 71,000-acre Strom Thurmond Lake, with more than 4 million visitors annually. The Army Corps of Engineers owns the lake and operates its hydroelectric

dam. The surrounding shore is dot ted with trails, docks and public boat ramps, operated and maintained by the National Parks Service.

Additionally, The Savannah Val ley Railroad Trails in the county connect nine miles of hiking and biking paths that draw residents and visitors.

Embracing the Great Outdoors
Strom Thurmond Lake draws more than 4 million visitors each year to McCormick County. (Photo/Provided)

Industry opportunities

Within this rural landscape is an industry rich in agriculture. While McCormick County is a rural coun ty with just under 9,500 residents, it has all the services to support large companies. Approximately 98% of the county has access to high-speed broadband.

One of the largest employers in McCormick County is Stella Jones, a timber company and major sup plier of utility and telephone poles, railway ties, residential lumber and industrial products. An additional dozen family-owned businesses operate on large timber-producing tracts of land in the county.

Mark Warner, director of Eco nomic and Community Develop ment with McCormick County, said opportunities are ripe for manu facturing industries related to rec reation, including boat and bicycle manufacturers.

“We think we’re the right fit for somebody that wants to manufac ture something outdoor-recreation related, whether it be water sports or cycling,” Warner said. “If you need a 71,000-acre test track for a boat maker, we have one two miles from our spec building.”

McCormick County’s spec build ing is 23,200 square feet with 28-foot wall height, full parking lot with water, sewer service and broadband fiber already running to the build ing. The county’s ECO Industrial Park is more than 37 acres and adja cent to the spec building.

Both the spec building and indus trial park are within a 30-minute drive of both Club Car and Amazon facilities in Appling, Ga., and near the I-20 corridor.

“Within a 45-mile commute radi us around the building, you capture most of the Augusta labor market,” Warner said.

Additional office space oppor tunities include the McCormick County historic administration building in the downtown area, which is undergoing a historic ren ovation that will add office space, Warner said.

Supporting the agriculture indus try is the SC Governor’s School for Agriculture at John De La Howe, a residential high school for budding young farmers and growers to pre pare them for careers in agriculture.

The 225-year-old property, which previously operated as a school for struggling students and then a facil ity for orphans, is a sprawling 1,300acre campus with livestock, green houses and hands-on learning. It opened as an agriculture school in 2020 and currently enrolls around 75 students who live and learn on the property, said Tim Keown, presi dent of the SC Governor’s School for Agriculture.

“This is the only school like it that I know of in the country,” said Keown. “Agriculture includes the business of growing edible crops and livestock ranging beef, poul try, swine and feed. Agriculture in South Carolina is the state’s largest economic driver with about a $46 billion impact. The average age of the South Carolina farmer is almost 59 years old — we have to get more youth interested in agriculture and horticulture. Our students come out well-prepared because this is handson education.”

The school also offers continu ing education classes, community events and agricultural camps.

Eyeing the future, McCormick County Economic Development has undertaken a project to bring the county airport from its current state to a full-service general aviation airport and bring in more hotels and overnight accommodations to capitalize on Augusta’s overflow and more tourists vising the area, War ner said.

Quality of Life

A jewel of McCormick County living is the Savannah Lakes Vil lage, a 5,000-acre residential lake front community first created in the 1980s. The development now has two 18-hole golf courses, restau rants, and a full-service recreation facility.

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Homes in the community are in demand, Warner said.

“There are over 4,000 platted par cels, and almost all are owned,” he said. “There’ve been over 500 new houses built in Savannah Lakes Village since 2016, and we’re approaching 100 new permits for this year already.”

With a median age of 57, there are both retirees and workers putting down roots in the area.

“You can still buy and build a very nice 2,220-square-foot home for under, $600,000,” Warner said.

In arts and culture, The McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah — also known as the MACK — in Historic

Downtown McCormick is a heritage site that serves as the county’s cultural center. The center offers a rich commu nity calendar with art classes and spe cial guest dinners and serves as an art gallery and gift shop with handmade items from local artisans.

“The MACK has provided service to thousands of our community members, partners, and visitors,” Warner said.

Several visitors centers inside parks and recreational sites have a cultural component, including the study of Native Americans’ impact on the land

McCormick County offers a mix of recreational and cultural opportunities for visitors. (Photos/Provided)

and a highlighting of the area’s native plant species, said Charlie Fenwick, park operations manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The county also enjoys large-scale events and festivals throughout the year. Signature festivals include Bicycle Across South Carolina, McCormick Gold Rush Festival, Holiday on Main, and the Independence Day Celebration, Fireworks & Boat Parade.

Recreational opportunities

Knob State Resort Park, Hamilton Branch State Park and Baker Creek State Park are all within McCormick County and offer camping, public lakeside BBQ pits and other amenities.

“The Strom Thurmond Lake, at 150,000 acres, is the largest Army Corps of Engineers lake east of the Mississippi River,” said Fenwick.

The area sees a number of hikers, campers and day-trippers as well as fishermen. Since it’s federally owned and protected, development along the shore is extremely limited.

Other nearby public water destina tions include Lake Russell, and Lake Hartwell.

“The Army Corps shoreline manage ment plan restricts how many docks there are, so we’ve got miles of shore line, with woods and no houses, no boat docks,” Warner said. “It’s really gor geous, and one of our long-term visions is how to connect the trails we have together, so that you can go from one end of the county to the other for even more recreational opportunities.”

Strom Thurmond Lake, Hickory McCormick County celebrates the arts with a cultural center, an arts council and several murals. (Photo/Provided)

Staffing Agencies - Statewide

Ranked by No. of In-House Emplo yees Sta tewide


TM Floyd & Co. 1301 Ger vais St., Suite 1700 Columbia, SC 29201

Systemtec Inc. 200 Center Point Circle, Suite 301 Columbia, SC 29210

HTI 105 N. Spring St., Suite 200 Greenville, SC 29601

Find Great People LLC 15 Brendan Way, Suite 140 Greenville, SC 29615

Globalpundits Technology Consultancy Inc. 4715 Sunset Blvd., Suite D Lexington, SC 29072

Hire Dynamics 101 Verdae Blvd., Suite 550 Greenville, SC 29607

Recruiting Solutions 1441 Main St., Suite 890 Columbia, SC 29201

Condustrial Inc. 3125 Ashley Phosphate Road, Suite 128 North Charleston, SC 29418

Alternative Staffing Inc. 110 Rodriguez Road Orangeburg, SC 29115

Spherion Staffing & Recruiting 1200 Woodruff Road, Suite C15 Greenville, SC 29607

Allied Medical Staffing 200 W. 5th North St. Summer ville, SC 29483

OpSource Staffing Inc. 1600 John B. White Sr. Blvd. Spartanburg, SC 29301

Kudzu Staffing / Kudzu Medical 120 Brookside Parkway, Suite A Lexington, SC 29072

TEKsystems 10 Patewood Drive, Suite 400 Greenville, SC 29615

AppleOne Employment Ser vices 1021 Pinnacle Point Drive, Suite 050 Columbia, SC 29223

Roper Staffing 201 Sigma Drive, Suite 300 Summer ville, SC 29483

Phone / Website / Email

















Top Local Official(s) / Year Founded

In-House Employees Statewide Specialization

John Starmack, Henr y Barnett, Tracey Worthey 1976 160

Paul Elias, Laura L. Hoge, Steve R. Br yant 1998 150

IT in healthcare, financial ser vices, state government, insurance and manufacturing

Information technology staff augmentation and contingency direct hire ser vices; finance and accounting direct hire contingency ser vices

John Knight, David Sewell, Herb W Dew 1999 115 Recruiting for engineering, automotive, supply chain management, accounting, administrative, maintenance and human resources; on-site management

Vicki Peek, John Uprichard, Betsy Anthony 1982 99

Accounting and finance, government, healthcare, HR, manufacturing and engineering, nonprofit, office support, sales and marketing, technology

Joe Doyle 2000 94 Information technology, engineering

Laura Moody, Kim Wallace 2001 90

An Employbridge company; manufacturing, e-commerce, logistics, administrative, call center, direct hire, temp, temp-to-hire

Cam Varner, Trey Smoak, Drew Williams 1992 75 Office professional, light industrial, info tech, executive search, direct hire, consulting

Art Welling 2002 60 Construction, marine ser vices, industrial

Ruby Wallace 1993 50 Light industrial, manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, distribution and clerical

Craig P Roberson, Diane H. Roberson 1988 50

Todd W Beson 1999 44

Automotive, food, manufacturing, production, construction, health care non-clinical, banking, assembly, distribution, call center, logistics

Hospitals, long-term care, assisted living, private-duty home care, industrial nursing, doctor offices, same-day surger y centers

Bruce Alexander 2009 43 Light and heavy industrial with focus on skilled trades

Chris Hall 2006 40 Construction, manufacturing, nursing, general labor, textiles

Amanda Box 1996 40 IT, networking, applications, communications, desktop and help desk, digital and creative, risk and security

Jan Speight, Erin Vassallo, Jessica Elkins 1964 33 Accounting, administrative, clerical, customer ser vice, remote positions of all types, medical, legal and technical

Barbara West, Billie Dekle, Kinya Curr y 1982 32

Because of space constraints, sometimes only the top-ranked companies are published in the print edition. Although ever y effort is made to ensure accuracy, errors sometimes occur. Email additions or corrections to

Administrative, accounting, management, medical, skilled trades, manufacturing, warehouse, distribution, general industrial and custom searches

Researched by Paige Wills

the full staffing




and to see other lists, scan the QR


spent much of my career in the search for great talent, both in boutique recruit ing firms and in-house with a large public accounting firm. I consider it a privilege to spend my working hours helping the right candidates and right companies connect and flourish together. The right person in the right role changes everything


But over the past two years, I have seen many of those perfect matches fizzle out under today’s extreme competition for talent. Find ing the right technical skillset and the right cultural fit at the right compensation level is hard enough. But once you’ve gotten that far, how do you successfully keep that candidate engaged and interested?

Through hard-won experience and some stumbles along the way, I’ve developed three broad principles that offer a higher chance of successfully closing a search process.

1. Human beings want to be valued: Court your candidates.

I have found this to be perhaps the most challenging adjustment for executives and hir ing managers. Historically, the employer has held most of the power in the hiring relation ship. The candidate was expected to convince the hiring managers that he or she was the right fit for the job. But this world as we knew it has flipped upside down. As an employer, you now must persuade the candidate that the organization is the right fit for them as well. . . while still vetting out the fit at the same time.

To do this, I have found it helpful to think about the hiring process as a courtship. Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate and ask what you would want to know if you were considering taking a job. How can you show off your company culture? Your corporate strengths? An invitation to a candidate to sim ply come sit within the department and watch

the team work together is a great way for a prospect to learn more in a natural, authentic work setting.

With a high-value candidate, I often rec ommend the CEO or other top leadership get involved in the process. A phone conversation with company leadership sharing about a can didate’s future at the company can go a long way towards a prospect’s feeling valued.

2. Human beings need time: Respect the process.

True story: my now-husband told me he could see us getting married on our first date, which happened to be in a McDonalds drivethrough. (Although we were broke college students, I do not recommend this approach!).

Committing to taking the time to learn about a candidate and to allow him to learn about you requires patience. It means that you don’t move directly to the “sell” until you’ve offered enough to attract some interest and engagement.

It is crucial to note that respecting the pro cess does not mean to move slowly. As an old mentor of mine used to say, “Time kills all deals.” Juggling a commitment to the process and to moving with intentionality creates ten sion at times.

The best solution I have found for this ten sion is to prioritize communication. Set expec tations for the process and be clear about time lines and steps. Let the candidate know how many rounds of interviews and with whom, and when a candidate can expect to know next steps or decisions. Without communication, we all create our own stories, and sometimes those stories are false or at least incomplete.

And finally, be clear about a “no” or “yes.” Most people in the job market are OK with almost any news, except for no news at all.

3. Human beings want to believe in something: Know your sizzle.

Quite simply, why should someone want to work at your company? What position is your company in the present market, and how will that change for the better? Is your culture “different” from others in the same industry?

Work through an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats from an employee perspective and be prepared to articulate to a prospect what a career might look like at your firm and how it could develop. Often we will create a slide deck for clients that walks candidates through the opportunity. It gives candidates something tangible they can show a spouse or another family member.

While these principles will help you develop a hiring process that attracts the best talent, the most important thing you can do is remember the human in each situation.

Rhiannon Poore is the CEO & Founder of Forge Search, a professional recruiting firm that primarily recruits within the fields of account ing and finance, marketing and sales, and HR and operations. Connect with her at www. STAFFING AGENCIES
Rhiannon Poore DepositPhotos


Construction, engineering and architectural firms are working hard around the state. Below are but a handful of the projects in progress.

Project Manager: M. B. Kahn Construction Company

Engineers(s): Stevens & Wilkinson, (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, civil); Johnson & King Engineers (structural)

Estimated completion date: October 2022

Estimated total cost: $13 million

This addition to Gilbert High School consists of a new 800seat performing arts center, black box theater, athletic weight room, new wrestling facility, and associated support spaces for these programs.


600 Canalside St, Suite 109, Columbia

Developer/owner: Bierkeller Brewing Co. LLC, Columbia Architect(s): Sherer & Associates, Columbia General contractor: Mashburn Construction Co. Inc., Columbia

Estimated completion date: February 2023

Estimated cost: $1.13 million

This project is the upfit of a shell space which will be transformed into a 6,389-square-foot, German-inspired brewery. Once completed, the space will house a kitchen, dining area, outdoor seating space with roll-up windows for exterior service and new restrooms.

Pages Okra Grill—Nexton

142 Brighton Park Blvd., Summerville

Developer/owner: Pages Okra Grill, Mount Pleasant

Architect(s): The Middleton Group, North Charleston

General contractor: Choate Construction, Mount Pleasant Engineers(s): Cline Engineering, Inc., Charleston (Civil); Hensley & Goerling, Charleston (Consulting Engineer); 29E6, Beaufort (Structural); DesignWorks, Charleston (Landscape Architect); Next Step Design, Annapolis, MD (Kitchen Design)

Estimated completion date: September 2023

Gilbert High School Performing Arts Center

804 Main St., Gilbert

Developer/owner: Lexington School District One, Lexington Architect(s): Jumper Carter Sease Architects, West Columbia

Construction is underway for Page’s Okra Grill’s second physical location in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The family owned and operated 10,000-square-foot restaurant will boast a rustic aesthetic while bringing its southern-style cuisines to Nexton. The facility will include a kitchen, lunch counter, indoor and outdoor dining, outdoor bar, event space, and private dining onsite, in addition to a loading area and smokehouse.



Everyone knows South Carolina is in need of more homes.

A lack of inventory has driven up prices and set the market on fire for sellers.

In August 2022, there were 24,866 homes for sale in South-Carolina, down 3.7% year over year, according to Redfin. The number of newly listed homes was 7,327 and down 12.0% year over year. The average months of supply is 3 months

According to Redfin, in August 2022, home prices in South-Carolina were up 13.% compared to last year, sell ing for a median price of $356,100, according to Redfin.

The home builders featured in the Power List on the following pages are doing their part in making the hous ing inventory more equitable.

They can only do so much and work so fast as supply chain issues continue to plague the pace of construction. You can read their thoughts on the current housing market in the following pages. And a quick note: Power List honorees are chosen in a purely subjective process by researching our home builders list and the internet, and is by no means scientific.

Also, due to space constraints, some of the profiles on the following pages had to be trimmed. To view the full profiles, find this feature online at

As always, thanks for reading.

Jason Thomas is executive editor at SC Biz News. Reach him via email at
OUR TABLE OF CONTENTS Ivie J. Kirk Jr. ........................................................................................... 45 Tony Thompson 45 Don Chapman ....................................................................................... 45 Lindsay Nevin ....................................................................................... 45 Will Herring 46 Stan O’Brien 46 Susan L. Ford ........................................................................................ 46 Michael Raby......................................................................................... 46 McClain Manning 47 Edward Terry .......................................................................................... 47


Title: VP, General Manager Charleston Company: Saussy Burbank Years in the home building industry: 41

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic?

More buyers seem to be interested in home-based offices, so we find ourselves turning the smaller bedrooms into potential “work from home” spaces. Not difficult to adapt to, but the house is cer tainly fulfilling more purposes than in years past.

What will the new home sales market will look like in five years?

Coastal markets such as ours will always have a place and tend to be one of the first areas to heat up and the last areas to cool down. Hard to imagine there being too much difference in the Charleston area, as it is such a preferred area to live and work.

What is the hottest trend in home building right now?

We are having great success with our larger porches, and our double porch product. Likely part of the newer “live/work from home” change we are seeing along with a return to old-time “get to know the neighbors”, and community involvement.


Title: President/Member Company: Chapman Design Group Inc./ Icon Construction of SC LLC

Years in the home building industry: 29 Years/18 Years

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

By preordering or using alternate products as well as keeping clients aware of delay notices.

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Increased request from clients to incorporate additional luxury amenities and features into the project. (ie: spa-like bathrooms, touchless fixtures, , theaters, wine rooms, outdoor kitchens...)

What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why?

It would be our covered rooftop deck and outdoor kitchen, comfortable lounge chairs, fire table and TV it makes the perfect year round space for watching a game, eating or gathering with friends all while enjoying fantastic views of Lake Hartwell.


Title: President Company: RSU/ACC3D Builders Years in business: 42

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

Proper planning and dealing with suppliers can deliver within an acceptable time. Keeping up with the orders from the manu facturers allowing for orders to not be delayed and try to find the product that will fulfill our needs. Communication and followthrough with suppliers are paramount to getting a product in a time frame that is promised. Aligning ourselves with the most consistent suppliers and manufacturers that are making every effort to keep their promises get our product to us. And always keeping us in the communication loop...

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Utilization of existing space. We are seeing larger kitchens, multi-functional rooms such as spare bedrooms being used as offices and guest bedrooms. Increase in outdoor living spaces and more play areas for the children.


Title: CEO/ Owner Company: Crescent Homes Years in the home building industry: 22

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

We have adapted to supply chain shortages by limiting SKU’s in certain product categories. We want our customers to still have choices but also want to ensure that doesn’t get in the way of supply chain and build times. We have also had to diversify our supply base to have multiple points of sourcing.

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic?

The need for flex spaces to better serve those who need space to work or school from home.

What will the new home sales market will look like in five years?

We hope in five years the housing market has fully recovered to a pre-pandemic normal which would include stabilized home prices, normalized demand, less annual price appreciation and a more reliable supply chain.



Title: President and CEO Company: Paradime Construction Inc.

Years in the home building industry: 24.5

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic?

Most common answer would be home office and duel home offices. This shift to being forced and able to work from home has changed many peoples lives. Spaces in the home that can be quite away from the noise is a must. Also, multigenerational homes are becoming even more prevalent.

What do you think the new home sales market will look like in five years?

I would say a little less tame than what we have seen in the last 2 years but still brisk. With the southeast being a magnet for the rest of the country, we should remain in a good housing market for a while.

What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why?

My garage. I am not one to sit and read a book or play on a de vice. In my down time, I like to turn some wrenches or tinker with building something (small, not a home).


Title: Principal since 2009

Company: Bennett Hofford ConstructionCharleston LLC

Years in the home building industry: 46

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

We order earlier than in previous years based on market sup ply, generally starting with window/door packages, trusses, steel beams, appliances, cabinetry as soon as we initiate contracts.

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic?

The challenge of creating beautiful multi-function spaces to meet needs for working from home with families. Additionally, adjusting plans to manage supply chain shortages with revisions or alternative products.

What is the hottest trend in home building in South Carolina right now?

Outdoor living spaces with connection to interior kitchen/liv ing; dining on a more elevated scale.


Title: CEO

Company: The Flyway Companies

Years in the home building industry: 14

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

Better planning and coordination with owners, architects, sub contractors and suppliers. The sooner we can insert ourselves in the process the better. Many owners wait until design is finished to bring in a contractor. We discourage this in order to better assist the project team for a successful build. The earlier we can be brought in the more value we can add.

What will new home sales market will look like in five years?

New homes sale will be rebounding from the downturn we are entering. The lag in market timing from the current interest rate bumps will be felt over the next 12-24 months.

What is the hottest trend in home building right now?

Homeowners are leaning into their own specific tastes for finishes. They are gravitating towards a bolder approach rather than “playing it safe” with a more timeless look.


Title: President Company: Raby Construction Co.

Years in the home building industry: 25

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

By focusing on long range planning and adapting to and imple menting quick schedule changes around the available materials, deliveries, and long lead items

What will the new home sales market will look like in five years?

The housing market will continue to look different in the regional market. Specifically in our region, the demand for lots is thriving. The regional disparities may become more significant.

What is the hottest trend in home building right now?

Multi-family seems to be a major upward trend in the Caroli nas. The number of units has increased dramatically.

What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why?

The open kitchen, dining, family room layout that is centrally located. It is a great gathering place for family and guests.



Title: Principal Company: Longfield Residential Years in the home building industry: 25

What has been the biggest change in home design due to the pandemic?

We continue to see a sustained interest in homeowners making the most of the footprint they have through extensive investments in transitional outdoor living areas, accessory dwelling units and home office space. The inward-looking impulse of the pandemic has motivated homeowners to envision spaces that can delight and sustain their families through the years and life events...

What room/space is your favorite in your own home, and why?

During the pandemic we renovated the kitchen, which was an old turn of the century farmer’s wife kitchen ...We were on a bud get with this project and craved simplicity and function as well as deterrents to collecting things, so we opted for open acia floating shelving on the walls with white cabinets below and acia butcher block wood for the counters. We replaced the hardwood floors and opened the entry way into the family room. Our favorite feature is the framed in 5’ x 7’ pantry with shelving enclosed by a barn door made from left over pecky cypress scraps.


Title: President & CEO Company: Hunter Quinn Homes LLC Years in the home building industry: 20

How have you adapted to the supply chain shortage affecting your industry?

It’s important for any business to have the ability to respond and adjust as needed, but it became even more critical during the pandemic’s chaos.

The supply chain’s ever-changing environment of short ages, delays and price increases required us to be nimbler. Our procurement team relied on the strength of their relationships with our suppliers, tradespeople and partners to work through the issues. Throughout Hunter Quinn Homes, the past efforts to strengthen relationships paid off. In turn, they communicated well with the rest of the Hunter Quinn Homes team so we could focus on maintaining a positive customer experience. That’s a real challenge when so many conditions shift in a very short time. We adjusted our sales and marketing strategy so that our homebuyers would not be burdened with the worries of delays and price increases. We worked hard to make this process as ef fortless and enjoyable as possible.



Nearly200 people gathered at the Doubletree by Hilton Columbia earlier this month to celebrate SC Biz News’ Roaring Twenties honorees.

Group Publisher Rick Jenkins and Jason Thomas, executive editor of SC Biz News, emceed the event, which honored the Palmetto State’s high-growth companies.

Companies are listed here in order of ranking.

Honorees underwent an analysis of financial state ments, which determined dollar and percentage increase in revenues. To qualify for The Roaring Twenties, companies must have a physical location in South Carolina.

Company size is based on yearly revenue. Small com panies are $10 million and under in annual revenue. Large companies are more than $10 million in annual revenue.

The large category winner was Floyd Lee Locums, which helps place physicians of all specialties and advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners, physician as sistants, and nurse anesthetists in hospitals and health care facilities nationwide — as well as support the multiple staff ing needs of those facilities.

The winner in the small company category was Green Energy Biofuel, an innovative alternative fuels company that refines and recycles used cooking oil and other food products from kitchens and food manufacturers.

“Congratulations to all our Roaring Twenties honorees,” Jenkins said. “Their stories of success embody the hardworking spirit that fuels South Carolina’s growing economy. We’re honored to recognize all of them.”

47 47
Roaring Twenties honorees, including Beth and Joe Renwick owners of Green Energy Biofuel, celebrated during an event Oct. 6 in Columbia. (Photos/Ariel Perez)

1 Floyd Lee Locums

Top local executive: Matt Floyd and Natasha Lee

Product or service: Health care staffing

Year founded locally: 2017

Brief company bio: Designed to be a boutique concierge experi ence, Floyd Lee Locums helps place physicians of all specialties and advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners, physi cian assistants, and nurse anesthetists in hospitals and health care facilities nationwide—as well as support the multiple staffing needs of those facilities.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The most prominent change occurring in the health care staff ing industry is adjusting to the “new normal” of a perpetual pandemic. While COVID is still present, we see our partners and healthcare at-large trying to return to business-as-usual. This requires getting care and treatment back to the patients and communities that need it most. For us, that means now helping health care facilities staff up disciplines and specialties that may have not been the focus these past couple years.

20 Large Companies with Highest Revenue Growth

2 Center Park Homes

Brief company bio: Built with superior materials and advanced building techniques, houses constructed by Center Park Homes far exceed state code requirements, giving customers a better built home that will last for generations. The company has forged relationships with trade partners and together deliver a home that is simply built better. The people at Center Park never stop looking for ways to improve the homes they deliver, and with better materials and better systems than they used yesterday.

3 National Land Realty

Number of local employees: 16

Top local executive: Jason Walter

Product or service: Real Estate

Year founded locally: 2007

Brief company bio: National Land Realty offers the finest farm, ranch, plantation, timber and recreational land for sale across the United States.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

Technology and data and the key to our industry and we are extending our lead in this category every single day.

How do you build your team?

Very selectively and very aggressively. We are constantly looking to add team members, but we have to meet with a lot of people to find the ones that are a cultural fit.


Your workforce is your greatest asset

Business Health Solutions provides occupational medicine and episodic care services on-site.

Our team members are available to come to your worksite and provide services to your employees for a few hours at a time, part-time or full-time.

Our team includes:


• Nurse practitioners.

• Registered nurses.

• Certified health educators.

•Medical assistants.

• Certified occupational health nurse practitioners.

•Occupational medicine physicians.

• Athletic trainers.

To learn more, call 833-890-2109.

Some benefits of working with Business Health Solutions include:

•Continuity of care for injury treatment.

• Board-certified occupational health physician oversight and support.

•Primary care services on-site

•Experienced backup medical coverage.

•Competitive pricing and easy scheduling.


4 Crescent Homes

Number of local employees: 115

Top local executive: Ted Terry

Product or service: Residential Home Builder

Year founded locally: 2009

Brief company bio: Crescent Homes was brought to life in 2009 by Ted Terry, a fifth generation homebuilder with a vision and passion for designing homes and communities that evoke the charm of the Lowcountry.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

To be able to grow, I had to relinquish some control to key management roles to assemble a team that shared my passion but also challenged me to evolve and be better. By growing and developing a strong team we can focus on our respective disciplines but still come together to focus on big picture initiatives.

5 Robbins Construction Group

Number of local employees: 20

Top local executive: Derek K. Robbins

Product or service: Commercial Construction

Year founded locally: 2019

Brief company bio: Robbins Construction Group, through its design-build process, provides a single source responsibility. There’s no need to limit solutions to traditional ideas,as ideas come to the table, teams work as one unit to analyze them, in full transparency, so owners are assured of getting the best materials, siting, schedule, design and more.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

We attribute a lot of our success to the Floor & Décor stores we have constructed. Since 2020, we have completed six stores with another three under contract. Our success is directly attributable to our team’s strength of executing these projects under strict timeframes.

6 Sunland Logistics Solutions

Number of local employees: 500

Top local executive: Arch Thomason

Product or service: Third-Party Logistics

Year founded locally: 1982

Brief company bio: Sunland Logistics Solutions is a 3PL partner leveraging leading technologies and Lean principles to help shippers and manufacturers improve performance and drive value in their supply chains. Sunland specializes in supporting companies in the retail, automotive, industrial, and chemical industries.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

Sunland can attribute its organic revenue growth (with both existing and new customers) to the implementation of its strategic growth plan at the same time as a significant increase in demand for thirdparty logistics support and warehouse capacity has occurred as a result of market trends and global supply chains disruptions.

7 Total Beverage Solution

Number of local employees: 15

Top local executive: Dave Pardus - CEO/President

Product or service: National Beverage Alcohol Suppliers

Year founded locally: 2001

Brief company bio: Total Beverage Solution represents some of the most iconic and accomplished breweries, wineries and distilleries from around the globe. TBS discovers the stories behind these historic and original brands and the people who make them.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

Recognize you can’t do everything - so find talented people and be confident to delegate as much as possible.

If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would it be?

I wish I would have had the courage and foresight to have started the business when I was 29 and not 39.


8 Clear Touch Interactive

Number of local employees: 41

Top local executive: Keone Trask

Product or service: Engaging and Interactive Technology

Year founded locally: 2012

Brief company bio: Clear Touch designs interactive technology that helps overcome challenges in education and business around the globe.

How do you build your team?

It is important to create a team of individuals who are passionate about the vision and the positive change our product can make.

What are the top attributes you seek when hiring employees?

The top attributes we look for when hiring employees are individuals who have a positive attitude, those that execute on the tasks they have been given, and people who can adapt to any challenge thrown their way.

9 The Brokerage LLC - Real Estate and Business Brokerage

Number of local employees: 13

Top local executive: David Seay & L. John Teffeau

Product or service: Real Estate & Business Brokerage Year founded locally: 2019

Brief company bio: Principals of The Brokerage have experience as tenant, landlord and business owner. The company has represented tenants, buyers and sellers in a variety of commercial and residential real estate transactions as well as business sales. The company specializes in exceeding client expectations in marketing properties and businesses for sale and lease

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

Large websites are not providing the correct information to consumers. We train our people on how to protect the public as our calling as Realtors.

ROARING TWENTIES WINNERS: LARGE COMPANIES 51 2022 Find out what everyone is talking about! Are you looking for an expert residential or commercial real estate agent? How about a business broker that can help you buy or sell a company? Let David Seay or John Teffeau help you with your next transaction 843-364-6720 WE ARE HIRING!
IT’S TIME TO BINGE BUSINESS With nearly 150 videos (and counting), our YouTube channel features a wide variety of business-related content. Our playlists have something for everyone. Subscribe to SCBIZtv and stay in tune with what’s happening across South Carolina. What’s New and What’s Hot! Coffee With Coping with COVIDRecognition Events

10 Four Corners Building Supply

Number of local employees: 62

Top local executive: Bowen Chapman & JP Byrne

Product or service: Building Supplies

Year founded locally: 2019

Brief company bio: Four Corners Building Supply is a full-service lumber yard with an expansive product inventory.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

We see more and more expertise and knowledge needed for our end to help our customers with their unique building challenges. We are providing as much training and peer mentorship opportunities as possible.

What are the top attributes you seek when hiring employees? Trustworthy, knowledgeable, and dependable are the attributes and requirements we look for when building a team. We strive to be honest and hold ourselves accountable when mistakes are made.

11 Keller Williams Realty

Number of local employees: 5

Top local executive: Joseph Klosik

Product or service: Real estate

Brief company bio: Keller Williams Realty is a technology and international real estate franchise headquartered in Austin, Tx. Holding the top spot in nationally in agent count, units sold and sales volume, Keller Williams is home to the Tech-Enabled Agent, with a business model that equips agents with a technological edge and the ability to offer customers whatever they wish. The company was named one of America’s Best Places to Work by Forbes in 2019 and America’s #1 Most Innovative Real Estate Company by Fast Company.

If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would it be?

Hire talent faster.

12 Cantey Foundation Specialists

Number of local employees: 200

Top local executive: William Cantey

Product or service: Foundation Repair/Crawl Space Remediation

Year founded locally: 2011

Brief company bio: Cantey Foundation Specialists is a foundation repair company in Camden.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown? As we have grown, I am able to move into more of a visionary role and allow our team to handle the day to day running of the business. If you were giving advice to business owners or managers, what would be the three most important tips you would include?

Get out of your own way! Read books and listen to podcasts on leadership Have fun!

13 Custom Recycling LLC

Number of local employees: 27

Top local executive: Tim Weaver

Product or service: Scrap Metal

Year founded locally: 2010

Brief company bio: From its humble beginnings in a small warehouse to operating on over 16 acres and 35,000 square feet of building space, Custom Recycling has grown to be a premier source for scrap metal recycling in the Southeast.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

I see an increased need for recycled metals since more emphasis is being put on going green. That means manufacturers will be using more recycled materials in their production process. Also, the evolution to electric vehicles is going to increase the demand for copper, lithium and aluminum. Some people in the metal industry think we will have a shortage in copper at some point.


Blue Haven Pools & Spas

Number of local employees: 32

Product or service: Design/New Construction/Renovations

Year founded locally: 2005

Brief company bio: Blue Haven Pools builds pools and provides supplies and maintenance services.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue

The pandemic created an unprecedented spur in the pool business. We adapted and pounced on the opportunity to expand our business in every direction.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

We realized that as owners of the business, we couldn’t be everywhere all the time. We hired skilled and amazing team members to allow us to grow. You can’t work on the business when you’re working in the business.

15 Job Impulse Inc.

Number of local employees: 500

Top local executive: Kyle Bevel

Product or service: Recruitment and Consulting Services

Year founded locally: 2013

Brief company bio: Job Impulse is an experienced international personnel services provider with over 50 sites in 12 countries and more than 9,000 employees nationwide.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

The approach hasn’t changed, however, the delivery sure has. As we continue to grow we are faced with the challenge of scaling the company while still providing the same level of service, dedication, and results as we always have. Through growth we have learned that we must continue to enable our leaders to have open and honest communication with our team no matter the situation at hand.

ROARING TWENTIES WINNERS: LARGE COMPANIES 53 Carolina’s Scrap Metal Solutions Proud to be named one of South Carolina’s top High-Growth Companies! 803-818-5311 14
Helping South Carolina Manufacturing Companies achieve operational excellence with SAP Software. To set up your FREE in-house consultation, visit us at or email us at We make Software work for you!

16 Atlantic Intermodal Services

Number of local employees: 20

Top local executive: Jeff Banton

Product or service: Drayage

Year founded locally: 2006

Brief company bio: Since 1991, Atlantic Intermodal Services has provided superior drayage for clients in key markets across the East Coast. While we pride ourselves on being the premier intermodal transportation resource in our region, we also enjoy seeing the businesses and communities we support thrive.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

A less robust economy is setting the stage for companies like AIS who genuinely care about the clients and the service rendered to move ahead of the competition.

17 Carolina One Real Estate

Number of local employees: 120

Top local executive: Michael Scarafile  Product or service: Real Estate Services

Year founded locally: 1967

Brief company bio: Locally owned and operated, Carolina One Real Estate participates in one out of every three homes sold through the Greater Charleston MLS, making it the local market leader.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

People of every generation continue to appreciate, more than ever, the long-term value of real estate in many different areas. Ultimately, real estate is a place to live an and raise your family, a place to work, which became even more relevant during the pandemic, an investment and wealth creation tool, and a hedge against inflation.

Insights at

Quantitative Scale Congratulations to Exaqueo on being recognized as one of the Roaring Twenties, High-Growth companies located in South Carolina for 2022! We are honored to be your partner and delighted to witness your successes continue to flourish. What do you think of our current mission statement? I think our current mission statement re ects our values and a people- rst culture.

18 The Cassina Group

Number of local employees: 45

Top local executive: Owen Tyler, Robertson Allen & Jimmy Dye

Product or service: Real estate

Year founded locally: 2006

Brief company bio: Whether you’re looking to sell your beachfront cottage or purchase a home near great schools, The Cassina Group offers the perfect mix of leading-edge technology and hands-on personal service.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

The Cassina Group continues to set the tone for attainable luxury, focusing on their clients wants and needs and the unique properties that complement their lifestyles. In a market where inventory is at historic lows and demand is high, The Cassina Group has continued to achieve strong sales figures by leveraging their impressive network. Nearly 20% of their transactions this year have been handled in-house, with no other brokerages involved.

19 AFF | Group

Number of local employees: 55

Top local executive: Ben Leinster

Product or service: Textile Manufacturing

Brief company bio: For three decades, AFF Group has pushed the envelope of where and how laminated textiles, coated fabrics, foam and other advanced materials are experienced underfoot, overhead, and overall.

What are the top attributes you seek when hiring employees?

Three characteristics come to mind when I think about building a team: trustworthiness/character, fit, and ability. I start with trust, which implies good character, because if this is a question, then they’re probably not a good fit. I then look at how someone will fit into our culture and existing team. Sometimes great candidates on paper just aren’t the right fit for our team, and that’s OK. Finally, we evaluate their ability to perform and what characteristics do they bring to the team.

20 Langston Construction of Piedmont LLC

Number of local employees: 88

Top local executive: Evan Sowell

Product or service: Construction Year founded locally: 1969

Brief company bio: A leading contractor throughout the Southeast, Langston Construction serves clients in the industrial, commercial, environmental, and critical infrastructure protection markets. What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The greatest threat to the construction industry today and in the future is the lack of qualified, skilled trades men and women in the workforce pool. At Langston, we feel it is our responsibility as industry leaders to not only engage and train individuals new to the construction industry, but also to educate our next generation of skilled workforce about the sustainable career paths within the skilled trades.


1 Green Energy Biofuel

Number of local employees: 48

Top local executive: “BioJoe” Renwick

Product or service: Food Waste Recycling Year founded locally: 2008

Brief company bio: Green Energy Biofuel is an innovative alternative fuels company that refines and recycles used cooking oil and other food products from kitchens and food manufacturers.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

EVERYONE has a problem with waste streams. There is certainly a push to change with landfill rates climbing and growing concerns of global warming from methane gas expelled during food waste breaking down in landfills. With the acquisition of ReSoil Compost two years ago we are truly zero waste. We have saved over $500 by divert ing our waste there and are just helping others do the same.

20 Small Companies with Highest Revenue Growth

2 Cardinal Transport Inc.

Number of local employees: 30

Top local executive: Alison Randolph

Product or service: Transportation Year founded locally: 1999

Brief company bio: Cardinal Transport, Inc. is a licensed and bonded freight shipping and trucking company running freight hauling business from Simpsonville, South Carolina.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

Booming growth within the construction industry has led to major growth in the transportation field as well.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The labor shortage in the transportation industry is continuing to grow, so we are doing our best to keep the drivers we currently have and hire good quality drivers who are looking for a company to call home.

3 Thorne Ambulance Service

Number of local employees: 161

Top local executive: Ryan Thorne

Product or service: Ambulance Service

Year founded locally: 2010

Brief company bio: Thorne Ambulance Service is an integral part of the health care systems in which it serves. Acting on the belief that all patients should be provided with the best clinical and emotional care available offers Thorne the opportunity to begin each day with the sole responsibility of improving the lives of those they serve.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

Rising costs and stagnant reimbursement rates continue to be of challenge. We can’t raise our rates when prices increase, as we are heavily regulated by the government. The ability to leverage our scale, and to seek strategic partnerships are going to become a crucial part of our future success and ability to grow.

4 JPAR Magnolia Group

Number of local employees: 210

Top local executive: Andy Brumbaugh

Product or service: Residential Real Estate Brokerage Year founded locally: 2019

Brief company bio: JPAR is a diverse brokerage for business owners who want to elevate their business through cutting-edge technology, training, marketing, and support. A place with the right tools and training, the right pay structure, and most importantly, the right environment to grow and thrive in this industry.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

How you lead a small team is different from a large one. The problems that develop as you grow are different and if you don’t change your approach then it will stunt your growth. A mentor once told me that in order to grow, you have to let go. Putting the right people in the right position of leadership has made a big difference.

5 exaqueo LLC

Number of local employees: 16

Top local executive: Susan LaMotte, CEO + Founder

Product or service: Employer Brand Consulting

Year founded locally: 2011

Brief company bio: exaqueo is an employer brand consulting firm helping organizations tell the true story of their employment experience to attract and retain talent to perform, engage, and thrive.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

Over the past two years, the world of work has changed as we know it. COVID and the social justice movement both had a tremendous impact on the employment relationship. Organizations can no longer count on winning over talent through compensation and benefits alone. To sustain the employment relationship, the story needs to be more compelling.

6 Global Location Strategies

Number of local employees: 15 Top local executive: Didi Caldwell

Product or service: Site Selection Consulting and Technology Year founded locally: 2009

Brief company bio: Global Location Strategies (GLS) is a leader in site selection and incentive negotiations, serving manufacturing and industrial customers worldwide.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

I am an accidental entrepreneur. As my business grew and I began to add staff, I wasn’t thinking about many of the things that would ultimately make GLS successful. It was more hand-to-mouth in those days. We experienced growth not based on vision and planning as much as on hard work and more than a little luck. I was fortunate not just that the opportunities grew, but that I, through no skill of my own, made some exceptional hires.


7 Southeastern College

Number of local employees: 37

Top local executive: Timothy Van Horn & Melissa Jackson

Product or service: Education Year founded locally: 2007

Brief company bio: Southeastern College focuses on providing students with the specialized career skills and knowledge needed for today’s marketplace.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The United States has been experiencing a nursing shortage for several years and the pandemic exacerbated that shortage.

Southeastern responded to that shortage by seeking approval to offer the Associates in Applied Science in Nursing. We are excited to share the program has received full approval from the South Carolina Board of Nursing and Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and enrollment has begun for both locations.

8 Havens Furniture and Home Decor

Number of local employees: 26

Top local executive: Angie Balderson

Product or service: Furniture and Home Decor

Year founded locally: 2016

Brief company bio: Haven’s Furniture carries new and custom furniture, overstocks, retail showroom floor samples, outdoor furniture, lighting and home decor.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

Fighting to be the best furniture store in Charleston day in and day out! We carry up to date products people want at a price that customers can afford! We focus entirely on customer service, building relationships and referrals. Quality, style, affordability is the recipe for Haven’s Furniture.

9 ROK Technologies LLC

Number of local employees: 27

Top local executive: Alexandra Coleman

Product or service: GIS Managed Cloud Services

Year founded locally: 1987

Brief company bio: ROK Technologies designs, deploys and manages the ArcGIS® Enterprise suite and desktop applications in cloud and hybrid environments.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

The increased use of GIS software coupled with the openness and desire to migrate complex workflows to the cloud have both played a major role in driving our 49% top and bottom-line growth yearover-year.

Fun Fact:

No one actually knows what ROK stand for. As it is all caps, we assume someone had a witty acronym in mind.

10 Miller, Dawson, Sigal & Ward LLC

Number of local employees: 20

Top local executive: Ryan Miller, Brandon Dawson, Ryan Sigal & Jeffrey Ward

Product or service: Personal Injury Legal Services

Year founded locally: 2018

Brief company bio: All the legal team’s founding members went to law school in South Carolina. The quartet has spent their entire careers helping clients obtain millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The legal industry has been slow to adopt technology and the firms who are not adapting won’t make it. From day one, we’ve been utilizing the most cutting edge of technology and are constantly evolving.


11 Docugraphics LLC

Number of local employees: 60

Top local executive: Tom Fimian

Product or service: Workplace Technology Solutions

Year founded locally: 2002

Brief company bio: With managed IT & cybersecurity services, Docugraphics covers a full spectrum of technology solutions, including remote monitoring and management of networks, 24/7 help-desk support for users, and business continuity solutions to ensure companies are prepared for any possible disruption.

What are the top attributes you seek when hiring employees? Are you planning to increase head count in the coming year?

Alignment with our core values (teamwork - integrity - innovation - optimism - dependable - leadership) are the most critical factors we look for when adding new team members. We are planning on growing our team by about 10 additional team members in 2022.

12 Stokes & Co. CPAs P.C.

Number of local employees: 45

Top local executive: Stephen Stokes

Product or service: Accounting

Year founded locally: 1999

Brief company bio: Stokes & Co. offers a variety of accounting, payroll and tax services to individuals and companies of all sizes and industries.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

In 2020, we acquired a couple of other accounting firms, and we added services to help our existing and clients navigate the pandemic.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

When we were smaller the decision making revolved around the owner and his goals but as we have grown most decisions are made by the leadership team with input from team members.

13 Upstate Granite Solutions

Total number of local employees: 40

Top local executive: Paul Nichols

Product or service: Countertops

Year founded locally: 2015

Brief company bio: A countertop solution offering rock solid service and superior products that make luxury affordable.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

As the industry has created new custom features such as materials, finishes, edges, corners, etc... we have adjusted our pricing and options that are made available for each guest. We are continuously trying to reinvent ourselves in terms of efficiency. We have just purchased new machinery for our soon-to-be new fabrication shop and with state-of-the-art laser saws and CNC machines that will allow us to pump out more products and at a quicker and more precise manner.

14 6AM City

Number of local employees: 40

Top local executive: Ryan Johnston, CoFounder + CEO, Ryan Heafy, CoFounder + COO

Product or service: Local Media

Year founded locally: 2016

Brief company bio: 6AM City was built to engage local communities by creating new ways to consume, participate, and share local content.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

6AM City tripled the size of the business in Q4 2021 - Q1 2022, growing from 8 to 24 cities, from 40 to 115 employees, and from 350K subscribers to over 1M. That growth has allowed 6AM City to see more than 100% YOY revenue growth in 2022.

How has your personal approach to leadership changed as your company has grown?

We have been people first since day 1, that will not change.


15 Software Projects Consulting

Number of local employees: 7

Top local executive: Frank Muehlenkamp

Product or service: SAP Consulting and Development

Year founded locally: 200

Brief company bio: Software Projects Consulting offers fast, local solutions to automotive manufacturers.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

We continue to see an increase in the manufacturing depth triggered by increasing cost of off-shore supply chains. We provide specific expertise in vertical integration of production processes with SAP.

Fun Fact:

Born and raised in Germany, I came to the US in my mid-thirties. Living and working in the US was such a wonder full experience. It made me realize that I would like to call this my home.

16 Accountfully

Number of local employees: 30

Top local executive: Brad and Meredith Ebenhoeh

Product or service: Outsourced Accounting Services

Year founded locally: 2012

Brief company bio: Accountfully is the fully outsourced accounting team for emerging brands offering bookkeepers, accountants, CFOs, controllers, and CPAs and serving as a long-term strategic partner to help navigate complex financial challenges and opportunities.

What are the top attributes you seek when hiring employees?

Are you planning to increase head count in the coming year? Yes, we are continually increasing headcount inline with our growth. We seek self starters, adaptable professionals that can support our clients as they need more services and guidance. Individuals with both the technical knowledge and the client service abilities are top candidates. Hiring remotely and having a dedicated Acquisition specialist has helped us achieve hiring goals this year.

17 Matt O’Neill Real Estate

Number of local employees: 74

Top local executive: Matt O’Neill

Product or service: Real Estate

Year founded locally: 2006

Brief company bio: Named by the Wall Street Journal as the #1 high-end real estate team in the state of South Carolina, Matt O’Neill

Real Estate has helped over 2,500 Charleston families sell their homes for over $1 billion.

What changes do you see ahead in your industry and how are you reacting to them?

The rise in interest rates have caused some slowdown in home buying activity. And yet, in Charleston, we still have a shortage of homes for sale. The challenge will be keeping housing supply up with the demand of people who want to live in our beautiful town.

18 Avtec Dental

Number of local employees: 6

Top local executive: Frank Avinger

Product or service: Dental Equipment, Sales and Repair

Year founded locally: 2001

Brief company bio: Avtec Dental offers the highest quality Dental handpieces and 24-hour in-office handpiece repairs on all makes and models with 20 years of dental handpiece experience.

If you were giving advice to business owners or managers, what would be the three most important tips you would include?

If you are a startup, do everything in your power to bootstrap it with your own financing. Otherwise, you are just going to work for someone else with your name on it. Also, as soon as possible surround yourself with the best talent that you can afford. This talent doesn’t always have to be under your roof.


19 LaPorte Products Inc.

Number of local employees: 45

Top local executive: Darren LaPorte - President

Product or service: Custom Boat Covers & Shades, Umbrellas

Year founded locally: 1999

Brief company bio: Since its founding in 1976, LaPorte Products has pioneered the creation of the highest-quality protective covers for the boating industry.

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

We have seen large growth over the last 8 years. Over the last year, one of the biggest growth drivers in the marine industry is COVID. We have done a lot of website upgrades to help with exposure as well as set up distribution, which helps facilitate the large demand.

How do you build your team?

We build our team with a culture-first mentality. Training has been a key focus over the last two years.

20 The Hayes Approach

Number of local employees: 9

Top local executive: Leslie Hayes

Product or service: Fractional HR/HR Consulting

Year founded locally: 2007

What is the main driver of this year’s revenue growth?

We have seen an increase in the willingness of small businesses to invest in HR — we believe as a result of the unprecedented changes to the business landscape resulting from the combination of the pandemic, new legislation, staffing shortages, and changes to the generational makeup of the workplace.

How do you build your team?

We are a small team, so fit is even more important to us because each person is a huge percentage of the group. As a result, we grow slowly, and we do our best to get the buy in of each current team member before bringing someone in — and then rely on the entire team to help the new individual succeed.

SC Under Construction - Top Projects

In January, SCBIZ Magazine will examine the economic impact of the construction industry, the business that support them, and growth trends for the future in South Carolina. Lancaster County will be in the Spotlight, along with a Power List of Non-Profit Executives. Don’t miss this opportunity to promote your brand to 80,000+ high-level business executives and site selectors. • Upfront • SC Delivers - Port Impact • The South Carolina You Don’t Know • County Spotlight: Lancaster • SC Manufacturing Conference • Power List: Non-Profit Executives DEPARTMENTS SPECIAL SECTIONS SCBIZNEWS.COM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022 supplementtoCharlestonRegionalBusinessJournal,ColumbiaRegionalBusinessReportandGSABusiness Report FUTURE FARMSHow technology is reshaping agribusiness in SC SCHOOL OF SOIL Teenagers learn aboutagriculture careers INTO PROFITACREprogramgivesagentrepreneursalegup TURNING PASSION For more information, contact Rick Jenkins at 864-720-1224 or COMING IN JANUARY!


Hugh Weathers

S.C. Department of Agriculture Commissioner

Agribusiness is an almost $50 billion business in South Carolina, creating nearly 250,000 jobs. What steps is the Department of Agriculture taking to ensure this critical industry remains at the forefront of the state’s economy?

To keep agribusiness strong in South Carolina, we support existing farmers and businesses and help new ones.

To help the 24,600 farms in South Carolina, we offer a va riety of grant programs and fund important research to keep South Carolina crops competitive. In addition, we stay in touch with federal and state legislators about what our farmers need.

We help administer two state tax credits – one that rewards businesses that increase their purchasing of South Carolinagrown agricultural products, and a second that offers reim bursement for infrastructure pending for agribusiness projects.

One important way we support entrepreneurship is through our Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE), now in its fifth year. ACRE has so far awarded over $845,000 to 66 agricultural entrepreneurs, funded several industry-driven research projects and led dozens of business workshops throughout the state.

In addition, our regulatory division helps South Carolina businesses and consumers alike through fair administration of food safety, feed safety and agricultural regulations.

“Agribusiness” sounds like a very niche term, but what everyday parts of our state’s overall economy can be classified as such, even if the general public may not realize it?

It might surprise you to learn that there’s no perfect agreedupon definition of agribusiness, but it is the full supply chain from production to consumption of agricultural or forestry products. Everyone agrees that it starts with farms, though, and South Carolina is home to some of the top-producing farms in the country, such as peach producer Titan Farms and leafy greens grower WP Rawl. Beyond farms, agribusiness can mean everything from poultry to paper. It includes food processing, food packaging, and cold storage. It even includes industries like turfgrass, which keeps our award-winning golf industry in business.

Technology, such as hydroponic farming, is changing how traditional agriculture looks in many aspects. What new farming techniques are poised to help revolutionize South Carolina’s agribusiness economy in the most dramatic fashion?

With its hot, humid summers and abundant sunshine, South Carolina is a natural fit for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Controlled Environment Agriculture is an innovative way to grow crops in greenhouses, hoop houses or other in door environments with the assistance of technology. Com

mon features include special lighting, environmental controls, monitoring systems, and sophisticated delivery systems for water and nutrients.

We’re seeing more and more CEA projects getting off the ground. To take one example, City Roots, a family-owned ur ban farm in Richland County, is in the midst of a $4.4 million expansion to build a state-of-the-art microgreen production greenhouse and solar farm. This expansion will create 60 new jobs over the next five years.

In addition, technologies like drones, GPS, self-driving trac tors, and soil moisture sensors are now common on farms. Even our peach farmers use special devices to measure the ripeness of an individual peach. South Carolina farmers are al ways trying to figure out how to produce more with less, while keeping the cost to consumers low.

What is the Department doing to promote, publicize and recruit workers to the state’s agribusiness industry? What aspects need an immediate infusion of talent?

The average age of a farmer in South Carolina is 57.5. With an aging farmer population, we need more young people in volved in agriculture. We need more students not only study ing agriculture and related fields, but we need to help lower some of the barriers for new and beginning farmers get into the business.

We try to get young people started early: Our SC Farm to School program, a partnership with the Department of Edu cation, helps teachers with agriculture learning resources and school farms, and helps nutrition program get more local food into cafeterias. We’re also big supporters of the Governor’s School for Agriculture at John De La Howe and we manage the annual SC Commissioner’s School for Agriculture program at Clemson University.

SCDA works with the S.C. Department of Commerce to bring more business to the state and create more jobs, espe cially in rural areas. We have strong relationships with our land grant universities and technical colleges to create career path ways and technical training programs.

Our Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship is also essential to nurturing new entrepreneurs.

There are many challenges facing state farmers, from worker shortages to severe weather. What one thing is most critical to change or improve to keep the state’s agribusinesses thriving?

The most pressing need we have is an expanded agribusi ness workforce and a stronger pipeline of agriculture talent. I hope that by inspiring more young people to farm and helping out the ones who are starting or taking over farms, we can en sure a strong future for the state’s largest industry.

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Photo by: Lisa G.
Pickens County, SC
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