Asphalt maker coming to Lee County

BISHOPVILLE – Palmetto Paving Co., an asphalt manufacturer with headquarters in Conway and a plant in Florence, announced Thursday it will open a new Bishopville division on U.S. 15 South near the Interstate 20 interchange in Lee County.

Palmetto Paving Vice President Russell Faulk said the operation should be up and running no later than June 1.

Faulk said the Bishopville division will initially employ 30 workers, 50 by the fall and as many as 120 next year. He said the company will make a $3 million investment that includes acquiring property and a truck fleet and building construction.

Faulk said the building is being constructed off-site and is scheduled to arrive at the Lee County site April 12.

“It’ll take about a month to get everything ready after that,” Faulk said.

Faulk said the company currently has 300 workers, with 180 at its Conway headquarters. He said he expects the Bishopville division to be as successful as the Florence plant, which opened five years ago.

“We’re not here to run anybody out of business,” Faulk said. “But now when companies need asphalt, they have to go to Columbia or Sumter.”

Faulk said the Bishopville division would serve projects not only in Lee County, but in Kershaw, Chesterfield and Darlington counties.

“We already have several (state Department of Transportation) projects in this area now,” Faulk said.

“We\’re not only going to be paving your roads, but we’re going to be in the community. We\’re going to be involved in recreation programs, and not just your youth programs but right on to high school.”

Faulk said the Bishopville division will be seeking truck drivers, site workers and lab technicians immediately.

Lee Harrelson, the Bishopville division manager, said anyone interested in applying for work at Palmetto Paving can apply at the Bishopville site when an office is established next month.

“But they don\’t have to wait until April to apply for a job,” Harrelson said. “They can call the Conway office (at 1-800-340-2156) and ask for the human-resources person and tell them you want to apply for a job at the Bishopville division.”

Palmetto Paving representatives made the announcement following a meeting at which Lee County Council gave final approval to a zoning amendment to allow rural property to be used to produce gravel, paving and sand.

Faulk credited Palmetto Paving employee Ed Perdue for selecting the Bishopville site for the company’s expansion.

Perdue said the company considered two other sites before deciding on Bishopville.

“Actually, we were looking at primarily Williamsburg and Chesterfield counties, and we happened to be driving through Bishopville,\” he said. \”When I got back to the office, I looked up Lee County (Economic Development Alliance) on its Web site. And I was impressed.”

Perdue said it wasn’t long before he met with Jeff Burgess, executive director of the Lee County Economic Alliance, and county Councilman Gordon Eckley.

“Jeff and Gordon have been nothing but outstanding,” Perdue said. “You have two people here who are excellent promoters of your county. I had no idea how to go about getting property and going through the process of what had to be done. They were so receptive. They made it easy.”

Perdue said the decision to select Bishopville was also easy.

“I called Russell and told him we want to call Lee County home,” he said.

Lee County Council Chairman Charles Arthur Beasley pledged the county will continue to support Bishopville’s newest industry.

“We’ll be here for you not just now, but five years from now,” Beasley said. “We’re just glad you’re here. This is great news for Bishopville and Lee County.”

“We’re excited about Palmetto Paving choosing Lee County,” Eckley said. “And we’re excited about the prospect of more jobs coming to Lee County, and that\’s what it\’s all about. This has been a cooperative effort, and everybody on county council has been behind this 100 percent.”

Palmetto Paving Co. was established in Conway in 1963 with nine employees. Faulk said he joined the company in 1972, and the asphalt manufacturer established its Florence division in 2001.