King Machine Selects Sumter County for Expansion Project

King Machine Selects Sumter County for Expansion Project

SUMTER, S.C., March 1, 2021 — Through the combined efforts of TheLINK Economic Development Alliance, Sumter Economic Development, The City of Sumter, Sumter County, Continental Tire, Thompson Turner Construction, and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, King Machine plans to invest $2.6 million and create 30 new jobs over the next several years.  King Machine will occupy the newly constructed Sumter speculative building.

Founded in 1951, King Machine is a leading provider and manufacturer of new tire molds and tire components for the original equipment and replacement markets.  The company also provides mold services, warehousing, repair, and refurbishment as well as consultative technical services to support tire operations.  Launching operations in Sumter, SC in February 2014, focused on providing support for Continental Tire, King Machine has been growing their business model and successes since.

Located at 1160 North Wise Drive Sumter, SC in the Black River Industrial Park, the custom finished 50,000 Sq. Ft. Sumter’s speculative building will provide King Machine the needed space to expand their service capabilities.

The expansion is expected to be completed by 2024. Individuals interested in joining the King Machine team should visit the company’s careers webpage.


“King Machine is excited to continue growing in Sumter, SC.  The support received from the Sumter community and Continental Tire, along with the support and expertise provided by Thompson Turner Construction has solidified our decision to continue investing and creating jobs in Sumter, SC”. – King Machine CEO Mike Wells

“South Carolina is a global leader in the tire industry, and it’s great to see that trend continue with this expansion by King Machine. These new jobs will make a positive impact within the Sumter community, and we look forward to seeing them grow and succeed in our state.” -Gov. Henry McMaster

“We’re always excited to see an existing company grow its presence in our state. Congratulations to King Machine on this latest expansion and the creation of 30 new jobs in Sumter County.” -Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“The expansion of King Machine in Sumter County speaks volumes not only about the growth trajectory of the company, but also the support and leadership that we have here.  Our goal is to surround businesses with valued stakeholders and a qualified workforce as a foundation for operational excellence. “-Chairman, Sumter County Council James T. McCain Jr.

“We are quite pleased to learn of the growth and expansion of King Machine in Sumter and look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship. The jobs and investment that accompany this expansion further cements Sumter as a great place to live, work and do business.” –Sumter Mayor David Merchant

“Indeed, we are delighted that King Machine chose us for their expansion. Choosing Sumter guarantees a dedicated team of enthusiasts that consistently assess and explore new ways of unearthing the very best talent and leading-edge methods to keep businesses out front and our community growing.” –Chairman, Sumter Development Board Greg A. Thompson

“This region is positioned for greatness as evidenced by the recent announcement of the expansion of King Machine in Sumter. We work diligently to provide industries the necessary backing to realize our fullest potential and their ultimate success.” – Chairman, TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Gordon Eckley

5 Fast Facts about King Machine:

  • King Machine is expanding operations in Sumter County.
  • The more than $2.6 million investment will create 30 new jobs.
  • King Machine is a tire mold manufacturer.
  • Located in the Black River Industrial Park in Sumter, S.C.
  • Individuals interested in joining the King Machine team should visit the company’s careers webpage.



Shaw AFB invites local manufacturing companies for a base tour and a F-16 demonstration

Shaw AFB invites local manufacturing companies for a base tour and a F-16 demonstration

We are grateful for the strong relationship that exists between Shaw AFB and Sumter area manufacturers.  After leaders from Shaw AFB toured local manufacturing companies such as Continental Tire, BD, and Pilgrim’s, Shaw AFB extended the invite to our manufacturing leaders for a base-wide familiarization tour and F-16 demonstration from the Viper Demo Team. As we work to highlight and connect the careers available both in the military and in manufacturing, we are creating better alignment for military spouses, veterans, and transitioning service members as they seek employment. Our local manufacturers offer excellent opportunities, and our military spouses, veterans, and transitioning service members possess the skills needed to fill these jobs. Everything you need is HERE!

Virtual Career Fair for Shaw Air Force Base and the SC Military Community

Virtual Career Fair for Shaw Air Force Base and the SC Military Community

January 27, 2021
Contact: James Richter
Phone: 803.528.1288

(Columbia, SC) – Today, SC Future Makers, a workforce initiative of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA), announced that it will host a virtual career fair with Shaw Air Force Base and the South Carolina military community on Friday, February 5, 2021.

In partnership with the Sumter Economic Development Board, the SC Department of Veterans Affairs, The Boeing Company, and Hiring Our Heroes, this virtual career fair is for South Carolina employers who are looking to hire veterans, transitioning military personnel, and military spouses. The virtual career fair will utilize a mobile platform called Ping by Tallo, a matchmaking system for job seekers and employers. Ping by Tallo uses a customized algorithm to not only match but also prioritize applicants based on the needs of the company. Companies can review matches, view resumes, and contact job seekers both during and after the February 5th event.

Individuals who are a part of the South Carolina military community can learn what to expect using Ping, see a running list of participating employers, and register at

“Workforce development is key to the future of the South Carolina manufacturing and the business community,” said John Wall, General Counsel and Vice President of Government Relations for the SCMA. “As a veteran, I know firsthand how important it is for transitioning service members to learn about the wonderful career opportunities that exist when leaving the military. This collaborative effort with our partners will allow service members, veterans, and military spouses to connect with the countless employments opportunities that exist in South Carolina and will establish a framework to be emulated at other military bases around our great state.”

Through funding from SC Future Makers and a generous donation from The Boeing Company, this event is free to employers and members of the South Carolina military community. Since 2009, The Boeing Company has invested over $4 million in support of veterans programs throughout South Carolina.

“Boeing has a long history of supporting veterans during and after their time of service,” said Lane Ballard, Boeing South Carolina Site leader. “Through this partnership with the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance and SC Future Makers, we are honored to help veterans and military spouses transition into successful civilian careers, which in turn creates lasting opportunities for them and their families and strengthens our overall community.”

South Carolina Secretary of Veterans Affairs, William F. Grimsley, praised the mission of the event.

“South Carolina has a rich history of being a military-friendly state, and there are tremendous career opportunities throughout our state for individuals who are veterans or are a part of the military community. Our Veteran, military member and family population provide a ready resource of highly trained, skilled, educated, motivated and dedicated people to stay in South Carolina as valued and contributing employees. This event and many more like them in the coming months are a wonderful chance to show off our State, its people, and our strong business community.”

Sumter area leaders also echoed the importance of engaging transitioning military personnel, veterans, and military spouses.

“As a Sumter native I am proud this Virtual Career Fair will be held in conjunction with Shaw Air Force Base,” said South Carolina Representative Murrell Smith. “There are so many talented Airmen and ARCENT Soldiers transitioning from the military at Shaw – both the military members themselves and their spouses. It is more important now than ever that we tap into this talent to meet South Carolina’s employers’ needs. If we can attract the talent we have in our men and women in uniform and their families to work for our South Carolina companies, I am even more hopeful for the future of our economy and our state.”

“We have such an abundance of talent at Shaw Air Force Base, but it can sometimes be challenging for military spouses and service members who are transitioning into the workforce to match up with the right employment opportunity for them, “said South Carolina Senator Thomas McElveen. “It is important to continue seeking and finding avenues to connect these veterans and military families with the great job openings in the Sumter area and across our State. I thank and commend the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, the Sumter Economic Development Board, and SC Future Makers for their proactive, innovative, and collaborative approach to connecting the local community, Shaw Air Force Base, and the business community by hosting what will be a very productive event in Sumter.”

“The Sumter Development Board is the region’s galvanizing force to recruit new companies while helping our existing businesses thrive,” said Greg Thompson, Sumter Development Board Chairman. “A key component for company success is the ability to find, hire and retain highly-skilled employees. Together with our allies, we are thrilled to launch this replicable and reoccurring event designed to help Shaw AFB’s highly-skilled transitioning military members, veterans, and their families find great career opportunities while assisting our region’s and state’s world-class companies find the talent they need to remain competitive and successful now and in the future.”

“The City of Sumter is grateful for Shaw AFB’s many positive impacts on the Sumter community, and we are especially thankful for the great people that serve our nation right here in Sumter, SC,” said David Merchant, Mayor of Sumter. “Any opportunity to support our nation’s servicemembers and families is indeed a win-win for Sumter and the state of SC.”

“Sumter County is very proud of our longstanding relationship with Shaw AFB,” said James T. McCain Jr. Sumter County Council Chairman. “As we continue to find new ways to strengthen partnerships with our military and business community, programs like this are truly game-changers in helping our companies and military community establish connections for excellent career opportunities.”


About SC Future Makers
SC Future Makers is an initiative of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance that connects emerging talent with opportunities in advanced manufacturing and other industries throughout South Carolina. Since its debut in 2016, SC Future Makers has worked with more than 100,000 students and more than 200 South Carolina high schools. Given this success with the education community, SC Future Makers saw an additional opportunity to build connections with the large talent pool of veterans and the military community across South Carolina.

Shaw AFB Wing Commander and Command Chief at Pilgrim’s, Continental & BD

Shaw AFB Wing Commander and Command Chief at Pilgrim’s, Continental & BD

Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK Alliance facilitated a series of Sumter based manufacturing familiarization tours with the leadership from Shaw Air Force Base.  Thanks to Pilgrim’s, BD, and Continental Tire for showcasing what you do.  The Airmen and Soldiers at Shaw Air Force Base possess the skills needed in today’s workplace.  These partnerships are instrumental in highlighting the great career opportunities available in our region for transitioning military members.  HERE, our labor force is strong and prepared.

Company’s $84 million investment will create 164 new jobs

Company’s $84 million investment will create 164 new jobs

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Santa Cruz Nutritionals (SCN), a subsidiary of Santa Cruz Healthcare, today announced plans to expand operations in Sumter County. The $84 million investment will create 164 new jobs.

Established in 1968, SCN is a leading manufacturer of enhanced confectionery delivery systems. The company uses research and science to develop gummy vitamins such as calcium, fiber and other supplements for the functional food and nutraceutical markets. Additionally, the company produces a wide range of products for a number of branded industrial and retail partners.

Located at 2720 Southgate Drive in Sumter, SCN’s expansion includes a 24,000-square-foot packaging and employee facility as well as a 120,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center.

The expansion is expected to be completed by December 2024. Individuals interested in joining the SCN team should click here.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to the project.


“We are excited to partner with the state of South Carolina, Sumter County and Sumter Economic Development in building and creating the world-class standard for Vitamin, Mineral, Supplement (VMS) gummy manufacturing facilities. This investment serves to grow our capacity to deliver enjoyable health and wellness nutritional supplements. More importantly, it serves our broader mission to holistically improve lives through the innovative products we produce and the growth opportunities they present both for our partners and local community.” -Santa Cruz Healthcare CEO Carlyn Solomon

“Congratulations to SCN for making the commitment to better serve its customers by expanding its operations in Sumter County and creating 164 new jobs for South Carolinians. I look forward to watching this company continue to flourish for many years to come.” -Gov. Henry McMaster

“When a business decides to expand in South Carolina, it speaks volumes not only about our business climate, but also about our workforce. SCN’s decision to invest $84 million and create 164 new jobs is a huge win for Sumter County, and I am excited to see what the future has in store for this great company.” -Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“Indeed, this is an exciting opportunity for Sumter County and demonstrates our ability to attract and grow national and international businesses in our area. We are committed to the continued support of Santa Cruz as they strengthen our economy and our industrial landscape.” -Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain

“It is so good to see the increased growth in manufacturing in Sumter. It’s always great when our businesses and our people thrive. Santa Cruz’s expansion will bring new jobs, fortify our job outlook and further solidify Sumter as a great place to do business.” -Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen

“A strong industrial sector speaks to the strength of your community and economy. We are overjoyed that Santa Cruz Nutritionals recognizes our capability to provide the workforce and support needed to bolster a company of its magnitude and look forward to their continued growth and community engagement.” -Sumter Economic Development Chairman Greg A. Thompson

“This region continues to develop strong national and international ties by showcasing its ability to host and provide companies with the essential ingredients for its success. That, coupled with a durable workforce and dedicated leadership, catapults TheLINK region as we recruit and expand industries. We are delighted by Santa Cruz Nutritionals’ expansion announcement.” -TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Chairman Gordon Eckley


  • Santa Cruz Nutritionals (SCN) is expanding operations in Sumter County.
  • The $84 million investment will create 164 new jobs.
  • SCN is a manufacturer of enhanced confectionery delivery systems.
  • Located at 2720 Southgate Drive in Sumter, S.C.
  • Individuals interested in joining the SCN team should click here.



More than $14.9 million investment will create 25 new jobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. (Nova), a chemical manufacturing company, today announced plans to expand operations in Sumter County. The more than $14.9 million investment will create 25 new jobs.

Founded in 1991, Nova is a leading producer of high-purity solvents. The company’s high-value solvent Recovery and Return program helps companies reduce costs, increase supply certainty and improve sustainability initiatives. Additionally, through its Recovery and Return program, chemicals are recovered that would traditionally be sent to waste disposal, reducing environmental impact and allowing better risk mitigation of raw material supply.

Expanding to the Pocotaligo East Industrial Site in Sumter, located within an Opportunity Zone, Nova’s expansion will increase the company’s manufacturing operations.

The expansion is expected to be completed by 2024. Individuals interested in joining the Nova team should visit for more information.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to this project. A $300,000 Set-Aside grant was also awarded to Sumter County to assist with the costs of site preparation and infrastructure improvements.


“Nova began considering options in four states including South Carolina. All sites were located within Opportunity Zones which will provide significant tax benefits which will be reinvested back into the business. The Sumter, S.C. site was selected due to the proximity of the existing production facility to utilize and expand the outstanding Sumter community workforce we currently enjoy. The proximity also allows for better collaboration between sites. The financial incentives offered by the local and state governments were very competitive as well as the favorable corporate tax structure.” -Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. Chairman of the Board Jon Michael Clumpner

“While we work every day to bring new companies to South Carolina, it is always exciting to see one of our existing businesses expand. We celebrate Nova’s $14.9 million investment in Sumter and the 25 new jobs the company will create.” -Gov. Henry McMaster

“South Carolina has a history in chemical production, and today’s announcement shows that this sector continues to thrive in our state. Nova’s decision to expand in Sumter County is another indication our business-friendly climate is helping companies grow.” -Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“It is always exciting to publicize and acknowledge the growth of a company in our county that has been an exceptional leader and partner in not only their line of business, but also in community cooperation and support. Increasingly, in the company’s time in Sumter, they have proven their desire to provide excellence in service to corporate customers and support to the well-being of our region.” -Sumter County Council Chair Jim McCain

“During my time as mayor, one of our top priorities has been to continually strengthen our existing industrial and technology sector and build upon our business partnerships. This expansion provides further evidence that our efforts have not been futile but rather fruitful. We are elated that Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. will be growing their operations and providing new high-tech jobs for our citizens.” -Sumter Mayor Joseph McElveen

“As we continue the work to strengthen our region with a robust lineup of industries, we are more than pleased to know that Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. recognizes those efforts and has decided to expand their current operations to meet the business demands of their existing and potential customers right here. We are committed to helping secure their current and future business success.” -TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Chair Gordon Eckley

“For more than a decade, Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. has provided superior service to Fortune 500 companies from around the globe from their Sumter operations facility. That, coupled with their announcement of an expansion, speaks volumes about the quality of work and workers that transpire in this region. We have long pursued and will continue to seek solutions to match world-class employers with exceptional employees that meet and exceed their expectations in order to respond to business needs. We are thrilled that Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. is growing and also for our community which will benefit greatly from this investment and job creation.” -Sumter Economic Development Board Chair Greg A. Thompson


• Nova Molecular Technologies, Inc. (Nova) is expanding operations in Sumter County.
• The more than $14.9 million investment will create 25 new jobs.
• Nova is a chemical manufacturing company.
• Expanding to the Pocotaligo East Industrial Site in Sumter, S.C.
• Individuals interested in joining the Nova team should visit for more information.

eSTEAM Road Show

eSTEAM Road Show

Due to the current health concerns related to Covid-19, as an alternative to what would have been the 3rd year of the eSTEAM Sumter Festival, TheLINK Economic Development Alliance hosted the eSTEAM Road Show. While the eSTEAM Sumter Festival focuses on advancements in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), many people are not aware that it was also created to celebrate National Manufacturing Day, which is always the first Friday of October. National Manufacturing Day celebrates and acknowledges manufacturing along with advancements in the industrial sector. Manufacturing continues to be one of the leading sectors of the economy in the Sumter region, South Carolina and nationally where the average wage for a manufacturing job is $54,000.

In an effort to build awareness of the significance of modern manufacturing, and with the eSTEAM Sumter Festival having been cancelled, TheLINK Economic Development Alliance seized on an innovative way to interact directly with those members of our community who make modern manufacturing happen on a daily basis. During the week of September 28th-October 2nd, TheLINK Crew and STEAMER, the festival mascot, hit the road in a florescent yellow convertible to meet and greet manufacturers in Sumter and Lee Counties for the eSTEAM Road Show. Along for the ride, the team brought games related to both STEAM and community awareness trivia and offered similar contests through a variety of social media platforms. The eSTEAM Road Show visited several businesses in both Lee and Sumter counties along with the Pee Dee Math, Science, and Technology Academy in Bishopville where they met with parents, kids and community members ready to spin the wheel for an opportunity to win prizes or complete physical challenges with Steamer. As a unique way of saying “Thanks for Making Us Cool” the eSTEAM Road Show provided ice cream treats to employees of some of the local manufacturers. “Providing our manufacturers with ice cream is a very small token of our appreciation for the big job they do for our community”, commented Brian Rauschenbach, Project and Existing Industry Manager for TheLINK Economic Development Alliance, “Although the connection isn’t always made, industrial development ultimately leads to commercial development. Retail and restaurants follow a strong industrial portfolio.”

As TheLINK looks to host the eSTEAM Sumter Festival again next year, the hope is that this year’s eSTEAM Road Show has continued to foster a greater understanding that Boosting Your eSTEAM shows not only the significance of Manufacturing but also how STEAM curriculum continues to support and to enable our manufacturers successful right HERE.

BD Sumter hosted US Senator Lindsey Graham.

BD Sumter hosted US Senator Lindsey Graham.

August 26, 2020 – BD Sumter hosted US Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham praised BD for their active involvement in manufacturing medical devices made in the USA. Additionally Senator Graham recognized the efforts of the City of Sumter, Sumter County, Central Carolina Technical College, and the Sumter Economic Development team for creating a world class environment for manufactures to locate and thrive for the long term, as well as praising the solid and educated workforce to keep Sumter’s manufacturers running with excellence.

2020 eSTEAM Sumter Festival Cancelled

2020 eSTEAM Sumter Festival Cancelled

For Immediate Release Contact: Erika D. Williams 803-464-8880
2020 eSTEAM Sumter Festival Cancelled
Out of an abundance of caution for the public safety of our children, community and businesses, the eSTEAM Sumter Festival originally slated for October 3, 2020 has been cancelled due to the COVID 19 world-wide pandemic. In what would have been the festival’s 3rd year, eSTEAM Sumter is designed to highlight the many advances and opportunities that exist in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. Organizers were looking to draw a crowd of more than 7,500 students, parents and organizations. The festival is held in celebration of National Manufacturing Day which is the first Friday in October annually. Since its inception in 2018, the event has drawn thousands of attendees from Sumter and surrounding counties. Although a full festival is not scheduled, TheLINK Alliance and eSTEAM Sumter will continue to support STEAM initiatives and promote contests through its social media platforms.

Further event details are located at or facebook/eSTEAMsumter.


Sumter’s eSTEAM Festival wins Excellence on Main Street Award

Sumter’s eSTEAM Festival wins Excellence on Main Street Award

Main Street South Carolina recognized Sumter’s eSTEAM Festival with the Excellence on Main Street Award. This award recognizes the top project from among the winners in the five categories of the annual Main Street Inspiration Awards.

The eSTEAM Sumter Festival in downtown Sumter celebrated a program that brought together pre-K and K-12 schools as well as universities and tech schools to promote STEAM, also known as science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The eSTEAM program began when efforts to stage job fairs and manufacturing expos showed to the city that many students and parents did not grasp the range of available career opportunities in Sumter. As a result, city staff sought out businesses and organizations to plan the eSTEAM Sumter umbrella program.

The program highlighted career paths and aimed to increase the talent pipeline. In doing so, it sought to dispute the idea that success requires at least a four-year degree. By creating more buy-in from a wider range of audiences in the community, eSTEAM sought to contribute to Sumter’s broader economic development efforts, from expanding workforce development through the local technical college to infrastructure investments undertaken to attract and retain employers.

Funding came from workforce development organizations like the Regional Economic Development Alliance, Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the SC Department of Commerce Workforce Division and the city. The city and the Downtown Sumter program were also involved in every step of the process from planning to logistical support during the festival.

The initial 2018 eSTEAM Sumter event brought together more than 3,000 participants, 16 partnering organizations and 63 exhibitors for special activities encompassing an entire city block. The 2019 event grew to more than 6,000 participants, 17 organizations and 68 exhibitors, taking up two blocks.

“The City of Sumter and Downtown Sumter have done it again. They have used public-private partnerships to bring even more educational opportunities to kids in their city,” said Jenny Boulware, Main Street SC manager.

Main Street SC is a program of the Municipal Association of South Carolina. It empowers residents, business owners and local officials with the knowledge, skills, tools and organizational structure necessary to revitalize their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts into vibrant centers of commerce and community.

Main Street SC follows the National Main Street’s Four Point Approach — economic vitality, design, promotion and organization. Each year, Main Street South Carolina recognizes members’ achievements and successes in downtown revitalization. For more information, visit the Municipal Association’s website at

‘Giving back’ to Sumter in the pandemic: Paint company Sumter Coatings produces hand sanitizer for community, customers

‘Giving back’ to Sumter in the pandemic: Paint company Sumter Coatings produces hand sanitizer for community, customers


All our coronavirus coverage is free to the public. It’s the right thing to do as a public service to our community. If you find this article helpful or informative and want to support our continued coverage, please subscribe or support us with a tax-deductible donation.

To find all our coronavirus coverage, including helpful local resources and website links, click here.

Around Sumter Coatings manufacturing plant, there is a slogan: “Anybody can sell paint. We sell quality and service.” Amid the pandemic, the company on U.S. 15 South stepped in to meet a need in the community.

Sumter Coatings President and CEO Barry Reynolds and two members of his management team sat down Friday to discuss how the midsized chemical paint manufacturer started producing hand sanitizer in the spring when there was a product shortage at the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Reynolds described thinking late one night in March about the shortage of hand sanitizer in the country with the start of the virus’ spread and the fact that his operation is a chemical manufacturer. The question became: “How can we get into manufacturing hand sanitizer, not on a major scale, but at least enough to support our community?”

After a few phone calls and discussion with legal counsel for the American Coatings Association, Reynolds was able to get a relatively simple FDA-approved formula. The next step for Sumter Coatings was getting a temporary exemption from the FDA to produce the hand sanitizer as long as the company produced it to the agency’s exact specifications, according to Reynolds and company Vice President Randy White.

With many of the raw materials for the finished goods already on hand including plastic gallon containers, shipping cartons and in-house label printing capabilities, the company’s purchasing department bought the necessary ingredients, and manufacturing began.

“It wasn’t a difficult startup to get into making hand sanitizer because we had all the raw materials,” Reynolds said. “Just getting the approval of the formula was the big thing.”

The FDA-approved formula is about 80% denatured alcohol, or ethanol, distilled water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol.

Sumter Coatings produced the hand sanitizer in 238-gallon containers, or totes, used regularly in its production cycles. During about eight weeks in April and May, the company produced a little more than 2,000 gallons of the sanitizer, Reynolds said, in addition to its regular coatings business.

Given the simple formula, Sumter Coatings could produce a 238-gallon batch size in one to 1.5 days, he added. The batch translated to 238 plastic 1-gallon jugs for packaging, sale and distribution.

After putting the product on the company’s Facebook page, community members became interested because of hand sanitizer’s short supply at the time. Shaw Air Force Base purchased the largest volume – 200 gallons. Local nursing homes, assisted living facilities and several churches also ordered jugs.

Reynolds structured it so that charitable organizations, such as the local United Way, received the sanitizer for free. Nonprofit groups basically got it at cost, and for-profit outfits were charged a reasonable price, he said.

Sumter Coatings also provided it to many of its customers across the country, especially in New York and New Jersey, where there was a big need. Each company employee also got a free gallon jug, White said.

Some people even walked in off the street to get gallon containers.

Since then, regular hand sanitizer makers have ramped up their production, and there is plenty in the U.S. supply chain. Therefore, Sumter Coatings has stopped production.

The company still has one full 238-gallon tote container of it on the production floor that could be distributed right way if demand picks back up, plant manager Kevin Sweeney said. Reynolds added his company could also start producing it again if there is a need.

“I am from Sumter, and we have a lot of ties to the Sumter community as a company,” he said. “We’re in the nature of giving back to the community. That’s why we went down this road with the hand sanitizer. We stepped in to meet a need and provide a service for our community.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

Sumter County companies weathering COVID-19 with help from Small Business Association, County Economic Development Team

Sumter County companies weathering COVID-19 with help from Small Business Association, County Economic Development Team

Written by Brantley Strickland, SCCED

As the economic ramifications of a worldwide health crisis loomed, economic development officials throughout the state were preparing to protect their most precious commodity: existing industries.

And things are no different in Sumter County, where local manufacturers have managed to navigate COVID-19 with a little help from their friends near and far.

“We’ve tried to help in any way we can, and we know better than anyone that companies are getting flooded with information about COVID-19,” said Brian Rauschenbach, SCCED, Project Manager for Sumter Economic Development. “Some of the things we’ve been trying to do throughout this pandemic is to protect our companies by relaying the most relevant information possible, while being a connector and problem solver.”

Some of the most pertinent information companies have found use for include news on the federal government’s recently-launched the Paycheck Protection Program.

Administered through the Small Business Administration, PPP loans were designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The loans, which carry a 1 percent interest rate, are forgivable if the applicants meet certain benchmarks. Among the criteria, all employees must be kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.
As an indirect result, economic developers like Rauschenbach have been thrust into the position of information conduit for companies looking to utilize the funding to help weather the economic ramifications of COVID-19. The SBA estimates 61 percent of all small business (500 employees or smaller) have applied for PPP funding.

“We are hearing a good success rate for approval, depending on the financial institution they choose to use,” Rauschenbach said. “You have to remember the program was rolled out very quickly which caused some delays. Companies have applied with financial institutions both locally and nationally, including QuickBooks. We have several that have applied and been approved that have already received funding.”

Rauschenbach also mentioned the Department of Commerce’s COVID-19 response microsite as a critical resource for Sumter County companies.

“I think Commerce has done a great job with their webpage,” he said. “It’s been a great central hub for information that we can direct companies to.”

Although some companies have reported furloughs and reductions in orders because of the recent economic climate, the long-term outlook continues to trend upward.

“As difficult as this has been for our companies, both large and small, they have done very well during this trying time,” Rauschenbach said. “We’re very fortunate to have a solid manufacturing base, and we’re ready to move forward. Times like these show the importance of a having great relationships with employers and having a strong business retention and expansion program in place. Once a company locates to our region, they are part of our family and we want them to thrive, no matter the situation.”

For more information on Sumter Economic Development, visit Rauschenbach is also on Linkedin at:

COVID-19 Community Outreach

COVID-19 Community Outreach

The safety, health and well-being of our community is of the utmost importance during this especially challenging time. We all play an important role in slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and hopefully limiting the impact on local and regional business functions.

In response to the COVID-19, we have compiled a list of resources for our local businesses and their employees. Please check the following pages for resources:

SC Department of Commerce, through their COVID-19 Business Resource Center, has compiled helpful resources regarding business and health updates. Be sure to use this information and check back often for the most current updates:

SC Emergency Management Division information for companies: The Emergency Management Division (EMD), has helpful measures that companies may want to consider and be proactive with should the state go on lockdown. View these two links and

We’ll continue to provide information and updates as it becomes available.

Sumter Original Brewery Establishing Operations In Sumter County

Sumter Original Brewery Establishing Operations In Sumter County

$6.5 million investment will create 20 new jobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sumter Original Brewery, a local craft brewery, today announced plans to establish operations in Sumter County. The company’s $6.5 million investment will create 20 new jobs.

The first-of-its-kind in the county, Sumter Original Brewery will brew beers using the centuries-old Germanic tradition of step mashing – coaxing out subtle nuances by enzymatic activity.

Located at 2 South Main Street in Sumter, Sumter Original Brewery’s 30,000-square-foot facility will have a 15-barrel brewing system that will brew a diverse selection on craft beers including an IPA, stout, sour, pale ale, light beer and more.

Operations are expected to be online by mid-March. Individuals interested in joining the Sumter Original Brewery team should visit


“We are excited to bring Sumter’s first brewery to downtown Sumter and continue the revitalization efforts of this historic area. We want to create a convergence of world-class beer, along with the great food and atmosphere of downtown for the people of Sumter and surrounding areas. Thank you to everyone that has supported and contributed to this project over the past twelve years.” –Sumter Original Brewery Owner and Operator Gray Shuler

“All around South Carolina, businesses of all types are thriving, and today’s announcement by Sumter Original Brewery is a testament to that. We congratulate this company and look forward to watching them impact the community for years to come.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“South Carolina’s craft brewing industry continues to grow, making a name for itself locally, regionally and nationally. We welcome Sumter Original Brewery to Sumter County and are excited about the impact these 20 new jobs will make in the community.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“The opening of Sumter Original Brewery will take Sumter’s revitalization to the next level, as a vibrant downtown benefits everyone. It will complement everything that has been done and encourage even more investment. I believe our downtown success instills pride in all our citizens.” –City of Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen

“Sumter Original Brewery will be an economic anchor as we highly anticipate an uptick in young adults eating and exploring downtown as a result.” –Sumter County Council Chair James McCain

“It is really exciting to witness the great response by the community to Sumter Original Brewery. We believe this investment will have a longstanding impact on our local economy and helps to cement downtown Sumter as a dynamic place to do business.” –Sumter Economic Development Chair Greg A. Thompson


• Sumter Original Brewery is establishing operations in Sumter County.
• $6.5 million investment will create 20 new jobs.
• Sumter Original Brewery is a local, craft brewery.
• Located at 2 South Main Street in Sumter, S.C.
• Individuals interested in joining the Sumter Original Brewery team should visit



Thursday, December 19, 2019
More than $14 million investment to create 57 new jobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Jemison Metals, a leading supplier of carbon flat-rolled products, today announced plans to expand operations in Sumter County. The more than $14 million investment is expected to create 57 new jobs.

Since establishing operations in Sumter, S.C. in February 2001, Jemison Metals has focused on vertical integration to allow for more control over its supply chain. This expansion will include a new product line that will increase service capabilities to provide additional downstream manufacturing and fabrication for the company’s customers and end users.

Jemison Metals’ existing operations are located at 1255 Northgate Drive in the Live Oak Industrial Park in Sumter, S.C., and the new product line will occupy 70,000 square feet of a building located at 2630 Highway 15 South, in the same industrial park.

The expansion is expected to be complete in 2023. Individuals interested in joining the Jemison Metals team can apply directly at 1255 Northgate Drive in Sumter, S.C.


“Jemison Metals is thrilled about our opportunity for business growth, further investment and creation of new jobs in Sumter, S.C. The hard work, dedication and support by Team Sumter during this process was a key factor in our decision to grow our operation in the community.” –Jemison Metals President and COO Craig Mathiason

“We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the growth of Jemison Metals in Sumter County. The company’s decision to continue investing in South Carolina is a huge win for the local community and our state’s manufacturing industry.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“South Carolina businesses continue to excel, thanks to the dedication displayed by our world-class workforce. Jemison Metals’ additional investment in Sumter County is a testament to the reputation the community has built, and I look forward to seeing all this company will achieve in the years to come.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“We are always elated when companies in Sumter County grow and expand. It demonstrates that we have all the necessary components for businesses to not only locate here, but also to thrive.” –Sumter County Council Chair James McCain

“It is indeed exciting to know that Jemison Metals will be expanding its Sumter operations. It is always our goal to create a climate that stimulates growth, development and progress for our businesses and our citizens.” -Mayor of Sumter Joseph McElveen

“Jemison Metals’ Sumter County expansion is yet another illustration of how committed we are to developing successful businesses and growing our economy. There’s something uniquely special about this community and it’s always great when our industries recognize this distinction as well.” –Sumter Economic Development Chair Greg Thompson


• Jemison Metals is expanding operations in Sumter County.
• The more than $14 million investment is creating 57 new jobs.
• The company is a leading supplier of carbon flat-rolled products.
• The expansion includes a new product line that will be located at 2630 Highway 15 South in Sumter, S.C.
• Individuals interested in joining the Jemison Metals team can apply directly at 1255 Northgate Drive in Sumter, S.C.

Sumter Featured in Where to Retire Magazine

Sumter Featured in Where to Retire Magazine


Sumter Featured in Where to Retire Magazine

Houston, TX (Dec. 11, 2019) – Sumter, SC, has been selected as a top retirement destination by Where to Retire, the only magazine in America geared toward helping people with retirement relocation decisions. Sumter is profiled in a feature titled “8 Tax-Friendly Towns” in the January/February 2020 issue, available nationwide now.
Where to Retire Editor Annette Fuller said many retirees seek out a budget-friendly town that still offers charming attractions and amenities. “While the cost of living is low, these communities provide a high quality of life,” Fuller said. “A popular spot for veterans, thanks to an Air Force base, Sumter, SC, has friendly locals, according to our interviewed retiree, and myriad cultural and outdoor options, like a 1,000-acre state park.”
Retirement Relocation Trends
According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns in retirement each year. Generally, these relocating retirees are healthier, better educated and more affluent than those who choose to not relocate, and they bring significant economic benefits to their new states and hometowns.
Florida continues to reign as the No. 1 destination for retirement relocation, followed by Arizona, South Carolina and North Carolina. The most popular region is the Southeast, claiming eight of the 17 states showing increases in total net retiree migration. This research and the latest census data is detailed in Where to Retire’s four-part series on retirement relocation. Order these back issues online.
About Where to Retire
As the authority on retirement relocation since 1992, Where to Retire has covered hundreds of the best retirement regions, towns and master-planned communities. The magazine is published six times a year and has a national circulation of 200,000. The July/August issue also includes the magazine’s most popular feature story — the 11th edition of the “50 Best Master-Planned Communities in the U.S.” (View a complete list of the 50 Best online.) Where to Retire editors recently released the sixth edition of the book “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire.”
Request a free trial issue at
8 Tax-Friendly Towns: Anacortes, WA; Boulder City, NV; Nacogdoches, TX; Robertson County, TN; Smyrna, GA; Sumter, SC; West Feliciana Parish, LA; Winter Garden, FL.
For more information or interview requests, please contact Kathryn Worrall at

SKF expanding Sumter County operations $26 million investment to create 10 new jobs

SKF expanding Sumter County operations $26 million investment to create 10 new jobs

SKF expanding Sumter County operations
$26 million investment to create 10 new jobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – SKF, a global leader in bearing manufacturing, today announced plans to expand its Sumter County operations. The company’s $26 million investment is projected to create 10 new jobs.
SKF manufactures bearings of all sizes and serves applications and markets, including military, medical, semi-conductor and the standard catalogue business.
Operating in two facilities located at 925 Corporate Circle and 840 Corporate Circle in Sumter, S.C., the company’s world-class manufacturing, industry 4.0 orientation activities and increased demand are leading to a new line design and installation of state-of-the-art equipment and handling systems.
The expansion is expected to be completed by December of 2020. Individuals interested in joining the SKF team should visit
“SKF is proud to have a home here in Sumter. We are committed to world-class manufacturing and providing a world of reliable rotation through a talented and engaged workforce. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of local government and community officials in establishing a business-centric environment where SKF can feel confident in investing in our facility and creating valued jobs. We look forward to the continued success of our SKF Sumter manufacturing team as they advance the world of next-generation bearing manufacturing.” –SKF Sumter Director of Operations Marcus Jakob
“We work hard every day to recruit new companies to South Carolina, but it’s even more exciting to see one of our existing businesses expand. When a company like SKF grows its operations, it sends a message to other businesses that South Carolina is a place where they can thrive. We celebrate SKF’s decision to invest $26 million and create 10 new jobs in Sumter County.” –Gov. Henry McMaster
“SKF is a valued part of the South Carolina business community, and it’s great to see them continue to grow within our borders. We look forward to seeing this company prosper for years to come.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt
“Then Kaydon, now SKF; one thing that has not changed is this company’s high reputation and delivery of service. We are grateful for SKF’s continued investment in our community and our people of Sumter County.” –Sumter County Council Chair James McCain
“We are always thrilled to announce company expansions in Sumter, as it highlights our ability to produce quality products and superior talent that promote growth and vitality for our industrial partners and our community.” –Sumter Mayor Joseph McElveen
“We are fortunate to have companies that are true partners who are not only committed to the growth of their business, but also to the well-being of our citizens and neighbors. Our task is to continuously regenerate the talent needed to deliver outstanding results for our partners bearing all confidence in our ability to perform.” –Sumter Economic Development Chair Greg Thompson

 SKF is expanding operations in Sumter County.
 $26 million investment to create 10 new jobs.
 SKF is a global leader in bearing manufacturing.
 Located at 925 Corporate Circle and 840 Corporate Circle in Sumter, S.C.
 Individuals interested in joining the SKF team should visit

About S.C. Department of Commerce
As South Carolina’s leading economic development agency, the Department of Commerce works to recruit new businesses and help existing business grow. S.C. Commerce has recruited world-class companies to South Carolina such as BMW, Boeing, Continental, Giti Tire, LPL Financial Holdings, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Samsung, Toray and Volvo Cars and also supports startups, small and existing business, innovation and rural development initiatives. S.C. Commerce partners with the S.C. Technical College System via readySC to support workforce training and recruiting, and with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, which provides worker training and employment opportunities within the state. With a strong international footprint, the Palmetto State was among the top in the nation for attracting jobs through foreign investment on a per capita basis in 2018 – extending its streak of top five finishes since 2011. Additionally, the state has won the Gold or Silver Shovel Award from Area Development magazine every year since 2011; and, in 2017, the state was recognized as Business Facilities’ State of the Year. For more information, visit

Alex Clark, CMP
Director of Marketing & Communications South Carolina Department of Commerce (803) 737-1998

Sumter’s Bates Middle School earns national STEM certification

Sumter’s Bates Middle School earns national STEM certification

Four years ago, Bates Middle School offered the same handful of electives – physical education, band, art and keyboarding – that you could find in a school a generation ago.

As Principal Ayesha Hunter describes it, by now tapping into the skills and talents of its teachers and using community partners, the Sumter School District school offers 40 electives with a focus on 21st-century skills.

For all that hard work, a leading educational certification group recognized Bates last week as a nationally certified STEM-accredited school. It’s the second district school to earn the national accreditation for its curriculum focus on science, technology, engineering and math – Alice Drive Middle is the other.

Hunter and her STEM faculty team sat down and discussed the four-year journey on Wednesday.

To be nationally recognized with the certification, schools have to show evidence they are meeting 11 STEM standards across categories for students, teachers/administrators and experiences.
Hunter and teachers said transitioning from a traditional school to a STEM school involves a “mindset change.”

There’s a general change in teaching style, where the teacher becomes more of a facilitator, students are given goals, and the class is more student-led. Students generally sit in groups to increase collaboration and work on projects involving problem-solving.

Examples of some of the electives include digital multimedia, AutoCAD/robotics, financial literacy, character education, Advancement Via Individual Determination and biomedicine.

Those electives result in “authentic experiences” for students who often can’t be successful in a traditional classroom setting, according to eighth-grade science teacher Tiffany Green.

“When students are working on projects, they are not going to sit isolated from each other,” Green said. “They are going to be working in groups and collaborating.”

She said, given technology advances, students often work on laptops, and teachers across different subjects can work collaboratively on the same shared documents.

Partnerships with professors and teachers from Central Carolina Technical College, USC Sumter and the district’s Sumter Career and Technology Center have helped transform the learning environment, Hunter and team members said.

In Angina Montgomery’s digital multimedia class, middle schoolers were creating animation with Google Classroom slides.

Seventh-grader Kevin Gordon had 91 slides with characters from a Dragon Ball Z battle. He said TV shows and movies got him interested in animation.

In Jermaine White’s AutoCAD/introduction to robotics class, sixth-graders were making spheres and creating blueprints of 3-D models.

Dominique Wilson, a second-year CCTC student majoring in engineering design technology, was helping lead the class.

Dalton Williams, 11, said when he grows up he thinks he would like to make robots.

“Robots are really powerful in everyday life because they can do things most humans can’t do,” Williams said. “They can be stronger than humans or even sometimes smarter if you program them correctly.”

Williams said he might want to become a Navy SEAL and invent naval weapons.

“I am pretty sure,” he said, “they are using a lot of robots now.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Receives Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council

TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Receives Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council

CONTACT: Erika Williams
October 18, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – TheLINK Economic Development Alliance won a silver award for its eSTEAM Sumter Festival, a project in the category of special event of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The honor was presented at an awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 15 during the IEDC Annual Conference, which was held October 13 – October 16, in Indianapolis, IN.

“This award is a big win for our community as it acknowledges what can be accomplished when we work together collaboratively. The eSTEAM Sumter Festival recognition from IEDC showcases that we’re a world-class region with world-class people capable of meeting the needs of both new and expanding business and industry. This festival highlights many of our competitive advantages”, said Erika Williams with TheLINK Economic Development Alliance.

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. 34 award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 400 submissions from 12 countries.

Lee and Sumter counties joined together in 2014 forming TheLINK, the regional economic development organization charged with fostering job creation and increased earnings. Strengthening our talent pipeline is critical to this process as we showcase the region’s assets for business recruitment and business success.

“The recipients of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity, and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day”, said 2019 IEDC Board Chair, Tracye McDaniel. “We’re honored to recognize more than 100 communities for their excellent work, which forges new opportunities for our profession. We look forward to even greater participation from economic developers across the globe in the 2020 awards program.”
About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in a wide variety of settings including local, state, provincial and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. Learn more at


Recover. Return. Grow.: NOVA Molecular Technologies Inc. marks 5 years in Sumter

Recover. Return. Grow.: NOVA Molecular Technologies Inc. marks 5 years in Sumter

NOVA Molecular Technologies Inc. gets the sticky out.

NOVA’s high-value solvent recovery and return program is like lighter fluid to tape residue. The Sumter-based manufacturing company takes solvent, messy, hazardous, waste that companies have used to make their products, and sends it through fractional distillation columns that clean it. They extract the waste and get the material back to its original form, if not cleaner.

The result is a material that can be returned to the customer for reuse. It’s a cycle that is both better for the customer’s bottom line – they’re not paying to either burn or dispose of the waste – and better for the environment in a world where industries are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint.

Imagine if, instead of simply cleaning up a mess left behind, lighter fluid returned Duct tape to its original form.

Imagine that, instead of simply being durable residue, the sticky left behind was flammable and highly hazardous in a situation gone wrong.

Imagine how, instead of being used to hold and seal items around the house and shop, Duct tape and its residue was critical to make insulin, contact lenses and other pharmaceutical, agricultural, biotechnical products?

“There’s nobody else doing this. People will take waste material and do something with it; they’ll take it up the value line, take it to become something you can put into a paint thinner, but they won’t take it to where they can return it back to its original form,” said Greg Hoffman, vice president of operations for NOVA. “That last segment is the real science, the real art of the business.”

NOVA launched 30 years ago in Houston, Texas, but four years after expanding to Sumter, the 40-employee company sold its original plant to focus its efforts on Magnolia Street. Now, its five-year anniversary in Sumter that will commence next week closely coincides with today’s National Manufacturing Day.

Those efforts are more complicated than it is difficult to get Duct tape residue off without lighter fluid.

A lot goes into running a chemical plant. It deals daily with high-hazard solvents that must be managed without being able to see the material. Safety systems must be followed, permits adhered to, training ready to be employed.

“If you don’t maintain a pump correctly in a flammable environment, you have a problem,” Hoffman said.

Quality control in the labs, lab technicians to keep it running, chemical and mechanical engineers all must have technical training and expertise to keep the plant running smoothly. Even maintenance employees have technical certifications.

“The primary products we deal with are exceptionally difficult to purify, and it’s severely capital-intensive,” said Chris Adams, vice president of sales.

To put it simply, the work they do – purifying material used by the medical and pharmaceutical industry to a point where it’s good enough quality to be reused by the medical and pharmaceutical industry – is hard.

“When you’re talking about biomedical, if they don’t produce drugs and get them to market, people’s health is at risk,” Adams said. “They’re very concerned with making sure that material is flowing back to them.”

What they do is complicated, but for Mike Clumpner, the decision to put all of NOVA’s eggs in Sumter’s basket was not.

After its “boom times with the textile industry,” Sumter went through a period of downturns, the owner of NOVA said. Coming out of that now, he said, Sumter is “forward-thinking and aggressive.”

“They have people here with a work ethic and who like to work, like to be responsible citizens, and you don’t get that everywhere,” Clumpner said.

He said there may be “spots” of growth and opportunity for manufacturing companies to land, but “this is a prime spot.”

He took those customers downtown for dinner, where he said Sidebar, which serves barbecue and offers a wide selection of bourbon, stood out to one of the women there who was from Dallas.

What they do may be complicated, but the lifestyle in Sumter attracted one of NOVA’s premier process engineers to stick around.

Chris Carano graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State last year and moved to Sumter for the job at NOVA. Already, he’s involved in a church and has leadership positions. He participates with Sumter Economic Development, which helps foster relationships between businesses and the community. He recently bought a house.

“It’s crazy. In my first year here, I’ve done more things than people probably have done in 10 years elsewhere,” he said. “I’ve been able to do what I’ve wanted to do because it’s available here.”

What he does is complicated, but NOVA’s leadership is pushing him to charge forward. Longtime industry employees had to work a decade before being tasked with some of the projects Carano has completed.

Usually, Carano said, he’d be looking over someone’s shoulder for years at a larger corporation. At NOVA, he is provided with resources and tasked with meaningful projects. He designed and built a new distillation column that was completed a couple weeks ago.

What NOVA does is complicated, but its impact is easy to see, even if the gunk in the pipes isn’t.

Carano is spending his Saturday at the second-annual eSTEAM Festival, a free event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on South Main Street in downtown Sumter that is geared toward kids of all ages, featuring hands-on activities highlighting dozens of local companies and their connection to science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Carano built a mini distillation column. His replica is clear so kids can see what’s inside and how it will appear to get cleaner from chamber to chamber.

Just as NOVA purifies solvent to recycle back to companies, maybe Carano will continue the cycle of finding that next generation to push forward.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Sumter building to attract new industry, officials say

Sumter building to attract new industry, officials say

SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — State, county and city officials are among a group of people working to bring new industry to Sumter.

A new spec building is a part of their vision for growth. It will be 50,000 sq. ft. (expandable to 100,000 sq. ft.) and located in the Black River Industrial Park.

Once built, the vacant space will be a location for a company to open up in town.

“We’ve had buildings developed in this manner in the past and they’ve all been occupied, … put people to work and created some new tax revenue for the community,” Jay Schwedler, President and CEO of the Sumter Economic Development Board, TheLINK and the Sumter Smarter Growth Initiative said. “The number one priority for us is to make sure that we are creating bountiful, good paying jobs.”

This will be the fifth building of its kind in the county, according to Schwedler, who says they expect to break-ground on the project in the next two to three weeks.

“We’re just really excited to get this thing underway,” Schwedler said. “We anticipate that a development, end user could come in and retrofit the facility in a matter of a couple months and have their product to market within six-months-time.”

It is possible that the space will be filled with a business in the advanced manufacturing arena, but they have not yet confirmed a particular buyer.

Credit: WLTX 19

Local Economic Development Professionals Earn Prestigious Certification

Local Economic Development Professionals Earn Prestigious Certification

Brian Rauschenbach and Eliza Buxton of Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK Economic Development Alliance have both earned the prestigious title of SC Certified Economic Developer (SCCED). Brian and Eliza were two out of only 10 professionals throughout SC that were selected for the SC Economic Developers’ Association’s Advanced Symposium which covered topics such as negotiations, product and infrastructure development, site due diligence, deal structuring, incentives, marketing and communication strategies, and other topics relevant to the economic development profession. Each session throughout the robust year-long program involved graded exams followed by a final case study which had to be analyzed and presented before a group of certified economic development professionals. Brian and Eliza join Jay Schwedler as SC Certified Economic Developers within Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK Economic Development Alliance.

Recent Lee County High School graduate is named tech champion

Recent Lee County High School graduate is named tech champion

Lavern Harry, a 2019 Lee Central High School graduate, was recently named the 2019 Technology Champion for the Santee-Lynches Region.

He earned the honor for his academic and community service endeavors.

As the winner, Harry received $500 to be used toward post-graduate expenses and a South Carolina Department of Education Office of Career & Technology certificate.

Harry also attended the Education and Business Summit, a Career and Technology Education state conference hosted by the Office of Career and Technology Education at SCDE in Greenville held June 24-27.

EBS is designed to provide learning opportunities in the area of Career and Technology Education, expand practices for use in the classroom or in administrative roles, create plans to groom South Carolina students for college and career readiness and help participants to develop stronger CATE courses and programs.

Credit: The Sumter Item

SC Ports Graduates 25 Port Ambassadors

SC Ports Graduates 25 Port Ambassadors

CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 19, 2019 – South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) recognizes 25 delegates for completing the 2018-2019 Port Ambassador Program, which provides participants a deep understanding of the connection between the Port of Charleston and South Carolina’s thriving business community.

The 10-month Port Ambassador Program immerses participants in port operations through educational sessions and tours of oceanside terminals, inland ports, cruise vessels and manufacturing operations around the state, showing firsthand the Port’s $53 billion annual economic impact on the state.

The program also shows ambassadors how the maritime, transportation, port and manufacturing sectors intersect and spur economic development in South Carolina.

“This program introduced us to the bigger picture, which is that 1 in 11 jobs in South Carolina is tied to the Port,” Port Ambassador Tiffany Santagati said.

The ambassadors celebrated their graduation June 6 aboard the new homeported Carnival Sunshine in Charleston Harbor.

Santagati, executive senior vice president of talent and culture at Southern First Bank in Greenville, said the ambassadors program gave her insight into the Port’s statewide operations, emphasizing how many S.C. industries depend on the Port of Charleston to thrive.

“I have lived in South Carolina my entire life, and until I participated in the Port Ambassador Program, I did not fully understand the impact the Port makes on employment and the movement of goods throughout the state,” Santagati said. “It was fascinating to see how it is all connected.”

Port Ambassador Alex Fournil, owner and principal of Vista Insurance Group in Columbia, said the group’s visit to BMW Manufacturing Co. and Inland Port Greer stands out as an example of the Port of Charleston’s vital role in moving goods throughout the state to global markets.

“Hearing directly from BMW how important it is to have Inland Port Greer and how it gives them a competitive advantage was really amazing,” Fournil said.

The Port Ambassador Program also creates a networking opportunity for ambassadors; participants live throughout South Carolina and come from a variety of industries and backgrounds.

“The Port Ambassador Program engages a diverse group of South Carolina leaders to learn from experts in the maritime industry and port-dependent businesses. It gives them an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Port’s critical role in the state,” said Jordi Yarborough, SCPA’s senior vice president of external affairs. “Ambassadors also build relationships and create strong connections with other professionals they might not otherwise meet.”

SCPA launched the Port Ambassador Program in 2016 to increase public awareness and understanding of SCPA’s strategic plan and foster support for the Port’s key statewide activities.

The Port Ambassador Class of 2019:
Ann Angermeier, Upstate Workforce Board, Spartanburg
John Brand III, Stifel Financial Corp., Florence
Van Cato, Office of Senator Lindsey Graham, Greenville
Andrew Cook, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Hilton Head Island
Christine Crawford, D&G Management, North Augusta
Johnny Cribb, Berkeley County, Moncks Corner
Suzanne Dickerson, SC Council on Competitiveness, Columbia
Alexander Fournil, Vista Insurance Group, Columbia
Jamey Goldin, Nelson Mullins, Columbia
Sara Hazzard, SC Manufacturers Alliance, Columbia
Angie Leidinger, Clemson University, Columbia
Thomas Lorenzo, Domtar, Fort Mill
Bill McCarthy, Charleston Gate Co., Charleston
Sunny Philips, SC Chamber of Commerce, Columbia,
Tony Pope, State Farm Insurance, Summerville
Buddy Pough, South Carolina State University, Orangeburg
Brian Rauschenbach, Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK Alliance, Sumter
Anne Smith Reid, Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Charleston, Charleston
Tiffany Santagati, Southern First Bank, Greenville
Mark Schmidt, Intermodal Container Logistics – NA, Decatur, Ga.
Steve Sydow, Charleston
Tom Trouche, ServisFirst Bank, Charleston
Marlon Walters, Bank of America, Elgin
Tom Winslow, Goldfinch Winslow Attorneys at Law, Murrells Inlet
Jason Zacher, Upstate Chamber Coalition, Greenville

Participants are selected from nominations by the Review and Oversight Commission on the State Ports Authority, the SCPA Board of Directors and Senior Management Team. Each program is limited to 25 ambassadors.

About South Carolina Ports Authority
South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport and intermodal facilities in Charleston, Dillon, Georgetown and Greer. As an economic development engine for the state, Port operations facilitate 187,200 statewide jobs and generate nearly $53 billion annual economic activity. SCPA is soon to be home to the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet, and the Port is an industry leader in delivering speed-to-market, seamless processes and flexibility to ensure reliable operations, big ship handling, efficient market reach and environmental responsibility. For more information on SCPA, please visit

Credit: SC Ports Authority



The 9th Air Force commander, who leads eight wings and three direct reporting units through its Shaw Air Force Base headquarters, is set to retire next month, but he won’t be going far.

Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist said Monday after giving a keynote address at the Sumter County Veterans Association Memorial Day ceremony that he and his wife, Kay, have picked Sumter as their home in retirement.

Zobrist will retire from the U.S. Air Force after 33 years in the military, during which time he has held staff positions at the Air Staff, Air Combat Command, U.S. Forces Japan and 9th Air Force, has commanded two fighter wings and is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours, according to his Air Force biography.

He said he first experienced Sumter in August 1992 when his assignment as an assistant weapons officer for the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron was relocated to Shaw Air Force Base after Hurricane Andrew destroyed Homestead Air Force Base in south Florida. He was then assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron as chief of weapons and aide to the commander of the 9th Air Force at Shaw.

“I came here with my wife, we didn’t have kids yet, and two dogs … and the welcome we received here in Sumter was amazing. We have some friends who are still in the area who took care of us at the time,” Zobrist said. “And when we came back, it was my next assignment, but I hadn’t realized the transformation that had occurred in both the city and the county and how well the county and the city work together. So, when it came time to make a decision on where to go, it was actually a pretty easy decision when we realized we could just stay put here.”

[Fourth Friday Concerts in Sumter]

As commander of the 9th Air Force, Zobrist is in change of ensuring the operational readiness of more than 400 aircraft and 29,000 active duty and civilian members. Since he took the reins in May 2016, the 9th Air Force has become a deployable, operational-level Joint Task Force, providing the Department of Defense with an “air-centric capability to task during crisis operations.”

He earned his commission in 1986 as a distinguished graduate of the University of Southern California’s ROTC program. In 1987, he was a distinguished graduate from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas and was assigned to fly the F-16. He has since flown the F-16 at five operational bases in the U.S. and Europe.

His combat experience includes Operation Deliberate Force over Bosnia, where he served as mission commander of NATO’s first mission of the operation. He also deployed as the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom and as the deputy director of the Air Component Coordination Element, Combined Joint Task Force-82 and vice commander of the 455th Expeditionary Wing in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Before his current assignment at Shaw, he served as deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and deputy commander of Combined Force Air Component, where he was responsible for the command and control of air operations in a 20-nation area of responsibility covering Central and Southwest Asia to include Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria.

Zobrist was promoted to major general in May 2014.

He said his wife likes to play tennis at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center and that they both enjoy activities available in and around Sumter.

He said the amenities are great, but the people are the main reason they are choosing to stay.

A car was recently stalled on U.S. 378 in Sumter with a bumper having fallen off. His wife suggested they stop and help.

“By the time we had turned around and came back, 30 seconds max, two other cars and a policeman had already pulled over to help. When you see a car that has stopped, regardless of the background of the individual, other Sumterites stop and try to help. So it’s that kind of community spirit. It’s uncommon patriotism,” he said, referring to Sumter’s slogan, “but it’s uncommon friendship. It’s a great community that we are really looking forward to being a part of.”

He said his retirement date and change of command will be June 13 and that his replacement is coming from a direct conflict as deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS, but that he is no stranger to the South, having been wing commander at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Eaton’s employee Nyaaisjah Samuel shares her story

Eaton’s employee Nyaaisjah Samuel shares her story

Nyaaisjah Samuel is a social butterfly, mom of an active 3-year old — and a switchboard technician at Eaton.

“My job is to identify parts that are compatible with the switchboard structure,” she said. “I reference electrical drawings for amperage and the type of material being used.”

Preparing her for this role was a degree in engineering graphics technology, though she was initially drawn to the Associate of Science with an eye toward architectural engineering. “I really like to design things and see them come together; that’s what really grabbed my attention about the engineering field.”

She enjoys the position and utilizes just about everything she learned while in school. For example, she became proficient in several software programs to include Solidworks, AutoCAD and Investor that are used regularly at Eaton.

That interest, combined with her degree, have propelled her to a successful job at Eaten for 10 months and counting. Her favorite part? Despite having a technical background, she says it’s the people and their down-to-earth attitude who bring her work contentment.

“I like the people and the fact that I get to use all the skills that I learned in school and apply to my technician role. I even get to teach others the stuff I know.”
Nyaaisjah’s future is bright at Eaton, and demonstrates the strength of our workforce pipeline and our ability to connect talent with opportunity.

Lee Central Middle STEAM Launch

Lee Central Middle STEAM Launch

TheLINK Economic Development Alliance in Partnership with The South Carolina Department of Commerce- Workforce Division, held a STEAM Launch at Lee Central Middle School Today to introduce STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) concepts to the students in preparation for the STEM Lab that will be launched next year at the school. There were 15 exhibitors with interactive displays showcasing STEAM/STEM related items. All students in grades 6-8 participate in the three-hour event which was held in the gymnasium.

Also, Lee Central High School held a press conference at the middle school today – during the STEAM launch to announce the Drone Certification Program that they are hosting this summer. They have 40 slots for students to register for drone licensure. Lee Central is one of fewer than 10 school districts in the state to participate.

Alice Drive Elementary School students display STEM inventions

Alice Drive Elementary School students display STEM inventions


The Alice Drive Elementary School cafeteria didn’t look much like a cafeteria on Monday night but more like a science lab.

That’s because the school was holding its STEM-inspired Invention Convention, where students displayed projects they made with a science, technology, engineering and math focus. But, these weren’t just any contraptions.

“They had the opportunity this year to invent an actual prototype that would solve a problem,” ADES fifth- grade math and science teacher Kim Johnston said. “And, we told the students to think of something personal, and so it’s just an awesome event for their family and friends to come out and kind of see what they’ve been working on and put their hearts into.”

Johnston said she is glad students could invent something that intrigued them and that the project helped develop their problem-solving skills.

“As a teacher, that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “I want my students to learn, but I want them to love learning. I want them to enjoy it, and I want them to take that learning to the next level.”

Projects included a charm bracelet to help remember chores, a mesh bag to prevent the loss of socks when washing them, a trash basket that had another trash bag instantly ready when you removed the old one and a duck extractor, which was invented by fifth-graders Jenkins Andrews and Joseph Chapman.

“Our problem was picking up ducks when you shoot them in the duck hole,” Andrews said. “Well, we couldn’t get them if they went so deep, and it would just be wasted, and we don’t want that. So what we invented was an RC boat with a net on front; it drives out, and when you get to it (the duck), you gas it (the boat) and it goes down, lifts up under the duck, and once you do that, you can drive it back, and there’s no more wasted ducks.”

Chapman said he thinks they have a better solution to retrieving dead ducks as opposed to using dogs.

“The only solution that people have made so far is using dogs,” he said. “But the thing is, when you have dogs, the vet (and) food (are) real expensive, and I’d rather have a dog just to hang out with instead of having to train him. Dogs can get sassy when you’re trying to train them, and then they don’t want to be trained.”

Andrews said the whole experience was worthwhile.

“(What I liked was) working together and inventing something that we really needed,” he said, “and being able to use it and seeing all that we’ve done. It’s just knowing that you made it.”

Chapman said making the duck extractor was rewarding.

“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “The (most) fun part is seeing it work because you have all the processes and all the paperwork and everything you have to do. And then the best part is just getting the sigh of relief of seeing it come back to you.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

‘Gummy expert’ buys Sumter’s Mount Franklin

‘Gummy expert’ buys Sumter’s Mount Franklin


The way a corporate executive described it Wednesday, “there’s a little more science to getting those vitamins in there than meets the eye.”

Jill Pergande, chief human resources officer with top-volume gummy producer Santa Cruz Nutritionals, was referencing her company’s recent acquisition of Mount Franklin Nutritionals’ multi-vitamin gummy facility at 2720 Southgate Drive in Live Oak Industrial Park.

California-based Santa Cruz Nutritionals acquired the 100,000-square-foot plant in February after Mount Franklin — a confectionery company out of El Paso, Texas — decided to pull out of the vitamins, minerals and supplements industry market.

Pergande said Mount Franklin’s effort to venture into the growing VMS market in 2017 is common for candy companies that eventually run into difficulties in the market.

While consumer demand for confectionery items, such as jellybeans, has plummeted, demand for gummy vitamins and supplements is soaring, she said.

What separates Santa Cruz from most other gummy contract manufacturers to large brands is its experience and history in the market, according to Pergande.

In 1997, company scientists in research and development created the first-ever multivitamin gummy to hit the market, and Santa Cruz is considered an industry leader in gummy innovation and also taste, according to industry sources. It’s sometimes referred to as “the gummy expert” in the industry.

“With our research and development base and the years of experience that we have,” Pergande said, “we’ve been able to put things together in a way that allows us to have more supplements in the gummy.”

In acquiring the local facility, Santa Cruz retained all 49 Mount Franklin employees, including Plant Manager Michael Barrett, and the manufacturing equipment.

At its four other facilities in the U.S. and Canada, Santa Cruz was already producing millions of gummies a day. Sumter is now its fifth facility, and the manufacturer is looking to ramp up quickly here.

Barrett and Pergande said the plant is looking to add 35 production-level positions for a second shift during the next month and will continue to hire management staff, as well. Open production jobs are available for packagers, machine operators, maintenance technicians and more.

The plan is to bring on an additional 30 workers for a third shift this fall, they said. Then, the facility will operate 24 hours a day, five days a week.

Barrett and Pergande said applicants with Food and Drug Administration experience is helpful but not a necessity. Workers with manufacturing experience is also ideal, but the company has said it will invest in the right people who have the proper skill sets.

Credit: The Sumter Item

TheLINK Economic Alliance and USC-Sumter Graduates First Emerging Leaders Class

TheLINK Economic Alliance and USC-Sumter Graduates First Emerging Leaders Class

TheLINK Economic Development Alliance along with the University of South Carolina- Sumter announce graduation ceremonies for the inaugural class of the Ross McKenzie Emerging Leaders Program on Tuesday, May 21st. Emerging Leaders is a year-round leadership experience for high school juniors that introduces concepts in economic and community development through 8 monthly interactive sessions. The Emerging Leaders will receive 3 college credit hours, serve as a regional ambassador and be placed on a community board or committee during their senior year of high school next year. Sixteen students from Crestwood, Lakewood, and Sumter High Schools completed the program. Graduation will be held at Patriot Park Pavilion at 6:00 pm with a reception to follow.

Ross McKenzie, for whom this program is named, was a long-standing, well-respected member of the Sumter community. The Williams Brice Edwards Charitable Trust has funded the Ross McKenzie Emerging Leaders Program to honor Ross McKenzie’s and his legacy by inspiring Sumter’s youth to become Sumter’s future leaders.

Emerging Leaders is presented by TheLINK and USC Sumter in partnership with The City of Sumter, Sumter County, Lee County, The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, The Sumter School District, and The South Carolina Department of Commerce Workforce Division.

Year at A Glance
October- Philanthropy and Non- Profit
November- Legislation and Government
December- Crime, Victims, and Justice
January- Career and Higher Education
February- Industry, Economic and Commercial Development
March- Invest, Finance and Business
April- Arts, Culture, and Class Project
May- Health and Wellness

Lee Central High students honored in cord ceremony

Lee Central High students honored in cord ceremony

BISHOPVILLE – Eight Lee Central High School students were among more than 1,500 high school seniors recognized by S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman recently for making a future commitment to the U.S. military or to a military academy. The statewide Military Honor Cord Ceremony was held in the Richland School District 2 auditorium in Columbia.

This is the fourth year the South Carolina Department of Education has honored high school seniors who are actively involved in their schools’ ROTC programs who commit to serve after graduation with red, white and blue graduation honor cords.

LCHS students who participated in the ceremony were: Desiree Holmes (Army National Guard); Tyler Marcus (Army); Nyasia McQuillar (Army Reserves); Lakiya Mickel (Army Reserves); Hysaun Peeples (Army National Guard); and Nykeema Williams (Army Reserves). The two LCHS students who were unable to attend the ceremony were Christopher Boykin (Army) and Ahmondre Hickmon (Army National Guard).

The students are scheduled to attend Recruit Basic Training (boot camp) this summer after graduation for six to 13 weeks, depending on the branch of service.

“This is a major accomplishment for these students as they are about to join the military family and support our country,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Juan Cobbs and LCHS’ senior JROTC instructor. “Also, this is an accomplishment for our school, as this shows our growth in numbers at these events, and that we are developing effective leaders who are worthy to be honored.”

This year’s military and military school enlistees from LCHS have increased from last year’s five.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Central Carolina Technical College celebrates more than 600 graduates

Central Carolina Technical College celebrates more than 600 graduates

Central Carolina Technical College held two commencement ceremonies May 10 at the Sumter County Civic Center to accommodate more than 600 graduates.

The 10 a.m. ceremony was for students graduating from Business and Public Service programs and Industrial and Engineering Technology programs. The 3 p.m. ceremony was for students graduating from General Education, Health Sciences, Environmental Engineering Technology and Natural Resources programs. Academic Program Manager for Mechatronics and 2018 E.C. “Red” Kneece Award Recipient Bert Hancock spoke at the 10 a.m. ceremony. CCTC Philosophy, Religion and Spanish Instructor and 2018-19 Faculty of the Year Award Recipient Dr. Raymond Watkins delivered the keynote address at the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Academic Program Manager for Pharmacy Technician Dionne Simmons was honored during the morning commencement ceremony as this year’s recipient of the E.C. “Red” Kneece Teaching Excellence Award. Simmons is consistently spoken of as one of the best instructors on campus by students and fellow faculty and regularly volunteers and participates in college-related and community service activities.

Sixteen students from Manning High School, East Clarendon High School, Lee Central High School, Crestwood High School, Sumter High School, Lugoff Elgin High School and the Homeward Education Association graduated with associate degrees from CCTC that were enrolled in the Early College Program. They are Haley Andersen, Anna Bench, David Botzer, Shakira Brailsford, Kinsley Driggers, Rebecca Fleitas, Amir Jackson, Grace Joyner, Kelli McElveen, Cole Munger, Harmoni Parker, Janiya Singleton, Krysten Skinner, Madison Spring, Thomas Wallace and Leroy Woods. Sixteen students from Lee Central High School enrolled in the Dual Enrollment Program, which is offered at CCTC, and graduated with general education certificates from CCTC before they finished high school. They are Ni’Kiyah Carter, Ke’osha Evins, Shybleke Gregg, De’Ablo Halley, Akenyiah Hickmon, Destiny Johnson, Ayanah Lucas, Brittany Morant, Shakaila Pollard, Keishan Scott, Janayla Smith, Janise Spann, Ny’Keema Williams, Courtney Wilson, Timothy Wilson and Emani Young-Fortune.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Sumter’s Merchant Iron Works owner credits his mentors, employees in his journey to success

Sumter’s Merchant Iron Works owner credits his mentors, employees in his journey to success


Sumter Economic Development Board President Jay Schwedler describes winners in the world of local economic development as those who are team players who find solutions to add value and increase opportunities in the communities that they represent.

At an industrial business expansion celebration on Thursday, Schwedler said David Merchant, president of Sumter-based manufacturer Merchant Iron Works, is such an example.

About 100 friends, family members, clients and local and state officials turned out for the event marking Merchant’s business expansion, which was first announced last year.

The company, at 3215 Beulah Cuttino Road, is a fabricator and installer of structural steel, miscellaneous metals and material-handling equipment in the industrial and commercial markets and in the midst of growing its facility and adding 27 jobs along the way.

Phase One of a three-phase, multi-year growth plan included an 8,000-square-foot plant expansion and new equipment purchases to increase production and ramp up employment from 35 to 51 employees, Merchant said. The facility currently has about 40,000 square feet.

Phase Two will be completed soon and will feature a 150,000-square-foot outdoor steel processing and shipping area on site, he said. When the expansion is complete, Merchant Iron Works will have about 62 employees.

Founded locally in 2001 by Merchant, the company has grown from “humble beginnings,” according to him. After graduating from Clemson University with a degree in agriculture, starting a welding company in Sumter was a second career for Merchant, representing a “hobby”-turned-dream-come-true.

His first shop was a rented 1,750-square-foot warehouse space in Black River Industrial Park, he said.

He said his wife, Laurie, was his “touch-up painter and installation assistant” when he began the business.

A little later, Merchant was able to hire a helper. Business was good, he said, and in 2003 he was able to buy a local welding shop.

With the help of a fellow church member and business mentor, Gifford Shaw, Merchant set out to grow the business even more and did so with a product line that included stairs, handrails and smaller fabrication projects.

The operation grew to about 15 employees, and in April 2008, he moved the business into its current facility on Beulah Cuttino Road.

That was just before the Great Recession and economic collapse hit hard on the building construction industry across the country.

Merchant recalled shrinking his operation from 25 employees down to eight.

“That was tough,” Merchant said. “We struggled through ’08; we had a backlog and just couldn’t sell anything. It really got tough in ’09, ’10 and ’11, and I wanted to make a sign but I never did that said, ‘Next time you have a ’05, ’06 and ’07, don’t forget about ’09, ’10 and ’11,’ because it’s very humbling.”

Finally, in 2012, he said, the business cycle began to turnaround, and he was able to get his workforce up to about 25 employees. In 2014, he implemented technical upgrades to help production efficiencies, and in 2017 he set out to establish his current growth plan.

Reflecting on his life and career, Merchant said he’s been fortunate to have friends and mentors through the years.

“In closing, ‘I’m just a welder the Lord has blessed,'” Merchant said, quoting Archie LeTourneau, an early pioneer in the welding and steel business. “It’s kind of fitting: He had an interesting way that he got into it, and I look back on our story, and it’s an interesting way how we all got here. But, I’ve been blessed. Blessed with great friends, great customers, great mentors, and it’s truly been a blessing on me and my family.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

Merchant Iron Works Hosts Expansion Celebration

Merchant Iron Works Hosts Expansion Celebration

Sumter, SC- Merchant Iron Works, a leader in steel and metal fabrication held a luncheon today, May 9th, in celebration of their operation expansion that was announced summer of 2018. Surrounded by more than 100 guests including local community leaders, customers and special guests, David Merchant, owner, shared his story and the plans for further phases of the expansion that are forthcoming.

In total, the expansion will bring 27 new jobs and $2.5 million in investment to the Sumter based company. Founded in 2001, Merchant Iron Works services support the industrial and commercial markets.


“The fact is, lives will be changed by the employment opportunities Merchant Iron Works’ expansion will bring. More people will become employed and we will continue to increase our tax base and per capita income–that makes this a win for everyone.” James McCain- Sumter County Council Chair

“We are surrounded by companies that are not only committed to the growth of their business, but also to the well-being of our citizens and neighbors. Merchant Iron Works has been a longstanding member of our industrial portfolio and we commit to them a continuous pool of qualified candidates for their continued success.” –Jay Schwedler- President and CEO, Sumter Economic Development/TheLINK Economic Development Alliance

Up Close with Eliza

Up Close with Eliza

My path to Sumter is circuitous to say the least. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. I went to college at Princeton in New Jersey. After that, I lived in Princeton, London, San Francisco, Richmond, DC, Columbia (SC), Paris and Charleston. You may think calling Sumter home might not work for a world traveler, but I’d say you’re wrong. Working in the Economic Development office here keeps me plugged in around the globe as our office reaches out to multi-national companies to recruit industry and create jobs and wealth for all the citizens of Sumter and the Lee/Sumter region represented by TheLINK. But I don’t have to look outside of Sumter for an international perspective. As the home to Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter is blessed to have service men and women with experience around the globe calling Sumter home.
Before working in Economic Development, I worked in appraising antiques and fine art when I lived in San Francisco. In the world of appraising, the quality of any object has a direct impact on its value.
Quality and more specifically Quality of Life is the ultimate value proposition I have found in Sumter. The community welcomes newcomers with open arms. Sumter offers a myriad of activities for all ages from festivals, museums and galleries, specialized boutiques and minimal traffic compared to a large metropolitan area. Fine dining options like Hamptons rival those found in any of the places I’ve lived. Fun dining options that are kid-friendly are plentiful and more are popping up all over town
Sumter is an ideal place to raise my family. My kids not only play sports at school but also with Sumter Parks and Recreation and the YMCA. We enjoy tennis at the world-class tennis facility, and our family has easy access to hikes in the Poinsett State Park. We also enjoy one of the most beautiful parks in South Carolina – Swan Lake Iris Gardens which offers lovely gardens and walking paths, irises and, of course, swans of every species.
The cost of living here is lower than other places in the State, but that doesn’t mean that the quality of what you can find in Sumter is any less. And Sumter is an exciting place to be right now with downtown redevelopment underway at a brisk pace. It shows that the Team Sumter approach to and vision of making Sumter even better is working. The leadership here is invested, and I’ve found that there is a seat at the table for anyone with an interest in improving their community.
Looking in from the outside and reading reviews online may be misleading, and I’ve found that once someone is here, they are blown away by the assets and atmosphere Sumter offers. Quality of Experience here adds another layer to the value of calling Sumter home.
I never in a million years thought I would be living and raising a family in Sumter, South Carolina. One of our Board members said to me shortly after we moved here that his philosophy was to “Bloom where you are Planted.” The quality of life and quality of experience that I’ve found in Sumter provides me with all the elements I need to do just that.

Hometown – Richmond, VA

Hobbies – Travel, antiquing, cooking, reading and watching any kind of basketball.

Favorite Place to Eat – Upstairs outside at Rafters on a beautiful evening.

Favorite Place to Shop
– Sumter Lighting and Home – my happy place.

Most Rewarding About my Job
– seeing the impact of my work on improving our community.

Why is this Region Simply a Great Place
– I think I addressed that above.

Pets and People
–Married to the charming Bill Buxton, a family, probate and real estate attorney (voted best family attorney in Sumter 2 years in a row I might add). As we come close to celebrating 20 years of marital bliss this year, he’d be the first to tell you that “Every day is a victory!” We adore our 12-year old variety pack (boy girl twins) Knox and Lucy who keep us hopping. Pets include and have included at one time or another two dogs, 5 rabbits, 4 chickens, 3 fish, a hermet crab, a miniature lobster and more turtles than we can count. We’re down to one dog, Molly and one fish, Salt, but all the pets we have ever had are named in prays every night.

Eliza Buxton

Up Close with Yanet

Up Close with Yanet

Is Manufacturing really a great career choice? It took me sometime to figure this out—here’s my story. As a Cuban native my family and I moved to the United States in 2007. We were very fortunate to be the recipients of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program which is usually referred to as “Winning the Lottery” in many countries because the chances of being drawn to receive a green card are limited. I was just a kid when we were selected, but I remember how excited my parents were about this new opportunity to offer my siblings and I a brighter future. Without knowing much about this new country they still took the risk of leaving everything they had behind to start a new life in the United States. Having to support a family of five was not easy when getting paid close to minimum wage. Of course, English was a language barrier and it forced my parents to accept the less attractive jobs no one wanted. After struggling financially in Miami for more than a year, my parents were recruited by a Manufacturing company out of the state. They saw that as an opportunity to progress in life and they definitely took it. Their salary increased but the work was very tough. My parents worked at the assembly line for long hours (overtime was required) during the 3rd shift. “Aléjate de la fabricación!” —they said, which translated to “Stay away from Manufacturing!” That’s what my parents told me ever since because of their own personal experience.

I followed my parent’s advice and tried to stay away from any manufacturing related career. So I went to college at the University of South Carolina – Sumter campus and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. During my last year I did an internship for Sumter Economic Development/TheLINK and it was a great experience that turned into an internal position. As many of you might know, the primary role of economic developers is to recruit new manufacturing industries and retain existing industries to increase tax base and provide citizens with well-paying jobs (yeah—I just copied our mission statement!). Well… I never anticipated that after staying away from manufacturing I was now going to be recruiting them. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and it has been almost 2 years now that I’m been with the organization.

I have had the great pleasure to work very closely on different programs/events with our industries personnel and visited their plants multiple times. Now… I see how my parents where wrong and how it’s far from what I pictured. I learned that if you actually get the skills needed to perform the job required then manufacturing can be very rewarding. Modern manufacturing is actually advanced, clean, safe, lucrative, and has many opportunities for growth and development. After learning about different programs our local technical college offers for the manufacturing sector I was able to share the information with others including my own sister. She registered at Central Carolina Technical College and took advantage of all the great benefits offered to students. She enrolled in the CNC Machinist program that was offered and fully paid by the college. She continuous to work on her education and before even graduating this summer from the program she received an offer from a local manufacturer starting at $58,000 a year plus benefits. She loves her job and all the opportunities that she has for growth and development with the company. These are opportunities that my parents never realized existed, and of course, it has changed my perspective on manufacturing. Interacting with our local and regional Industries has also changed my mindset.

So is Manufacturing really a great career choice? Absolutely!

Yanet Alvarez

Up Close With Brian

Up Close With Brian

As a former US Air Force member, we learn many things while serving our great country. Some of which entail learning a trade, working individually and as a team, communication skills, commitment, dedication, attention to detail, professionalism, and leadership. I had the privilege of serving our great nation for 15 years and upon separation from the Air Force, my family and I could have moved anywhere we wanted. Being that Shaw AFB was my favorite assignment, we fell in love with the town of Sumter, and decided to call Sumter our permanent home to live, play, work, and raise our children.
Service is all about passion and commitment and I cannot think of a better community to serve as we all work together to make our communities the best they can be. Upon transitioning from serving our nation, I had the privilege of serving our great state of SC, followed by currently serving our local communities as a member of Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK.
As we work to make the place we call home wonderful, we have a choice to speak positively or negatively about our community. If we each take a moment and look around us, our community has so much to offer compared to 20 years ago, and that is worthy of positive comments and excitement. The world is watching us. Companies looking to expand or start-up in the US are watching us. They are wanting to invest their money and resources in the communities that provide the best chance for success, not just for making products or providing services, but also in having great success in finding the hardworking and qualified people to work for them. People that serve our military are watching us. Those that are assigned to Shaw AFB have preconceived notions about our community. We want the preconceived notions to be positive ones, thoughts and facts that make them excited to move here, not worried about moving here. When it is time for the airmen and soldiers to leave the military, we hope they are excited to stay in Sumter or move back here to join our community as a civilian. When our children graduate high school or college, we want them to be excited to call Sumter home because great jobs and an amazing quality of life awaits them. It is my pleasure to serve my community with excellence and to represent out great town with pride and positivity. We can do great things if we work hard, are intentional, focused, positive, and make the hard decisions. We are Team Sumter and we have a bright future. Let’s all work together and serve/represent our great community with excellence! The best is yet to come!

Hometown: Pickens, SC
Hobbies: Fishing, hunting, watching college football
Favorite Place to Eat: Sidebar/Hampton’s/Rafters
Favorite Place to Shop: Simpson’s
What’s most Rewarding about your Job: Seeing people find great jobs and being able to have a wonderful quality of life. Additionally, helping our manufacturers grow, expand, and be successful.
Why is this Region Simply a Great Place: Our region is filled with many outdoor adventures, beautiful sights, and great places to eat and socialize. Plus, we are two hours from the coast or the upstate. Lastly, we have great people, people that truly care about our community.
Pets and People: I am married to an amazing woman, Kimberly Rauschenbach, and I have two wonderful children, Calla who is 16 and Brooks who is 12. I love my family and I am so proud of them. We also have two dogs, Daisy and Lucy, which are great furry family members.

Up Close with Erika

Up Close with Erika

In the world of Economic Development, the acronym BRE is commonly used for Business Retention and Expansion. If you’re talking BRE, you’re making sure that all of your existing companies are happy, satisfied and essentially their needs are being met with hopes that they’ll have the need to grow their operations. Over the past month or so, I’ve discovered that BRE for me takes on a different meaning. For me, BRE is Born, Raised, and Educated –all in South Carolina. And as we take this week to celebrate Economic Development, with my BRE in mind, it’s easy for me to understand why I am so passionate and have such a great love for the growth of this region. I was born in Denmark, SC—a rural town of about 3,000 people in Bamberg County. The youngest of 4 girls—or as I so often remind my sisters, the baby AND the best. My parents were and still are great! My dad emphasized the importance of sound education, and my mom put a microphone in my hand at the tender age of 2. Both talked about morals, values, family –and I’m still trying to figure out what “Lead your beef to bad market” means.
My formative years of school were just that–formative. This is where I was actively involved in just about everything I was introduced to—okay, not drugs- but creative arts and opportunities of expression. This is also when I started to take notice of things that were missing; when I started noticing gaps. As I interacted with kids from other schools I realized that they were a little more prepared than I was. Some had access to more resources and even things like better books. I noticed that some communities were better than mine. Some had more stores, different options and a variety of places to eat, worship, and work. Despite the lack, thanks to my village, I stayed on track and excelled in many areas, through high school and even as a student at Lander University.
Over the last 15 years, my journey in public relations and marketing has taken me all around this state and around the United States. I’ve seen many highs and enough lows to keep me motivated. I understand my responsibility to pay it forward… not that I ‘got to’ but that I ‘get to’. Prior to working in economic development, I really didn’t understand how it all works. I had no clue that economic development is what essentially yields to commercial and community development. Once upon a time, I avoided industrial parks—now I glide pass them intentionally. When I am held up by a train, it only means that a constant flow of enterprise and freight is moving. When I close my eyes at night, I’m grateful that I get to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. It is my goal to make sure our region stands out because indeed it IS outstanding. Because my rearing, education and employment has taken me from the low country, to the upstate, and the midlands—when SC wins, so do I.

Erika D. Williams

Caterpillar of Sumter honored for excellence in corporate responsibility

Caterpillar of Sumter honored for excellence in corporate responsibility

Caterpillar of Sumter was among 20 South Carolina manufacturing facilities honored by the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance with its Corporate Responsibility Award for its accomplishments in 2018 at SCMA’s statewide annual meeting in Charleston on Thursday.

The award honors state manufacturing facilities that positively impact their respective local communities. Applicants are judged in three categories: Community Involvement and Philanthropy, Environmental Stewardship, and Wellness and Safety.

“We created the Excellence in Corporate Responsibility Award to honor manufacturers for the incredible contributions they are making every day in South Carolina,” Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, said in a news release. “The companies who earn this award are held to very high standards, and each have demonstrated that they have gone above and beyond in empowering their teams to be a catalyst for change that better their operations, community, and the state of South Carolina. We are proud to honor so many South Carolina facilities for their commitment to excellence in corporate responsibility.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

Thomas Sumter Academy wins SCISA Science Fair

Thomas Sumter Academy wins SCISA Science Fair

Thomas Sumter Academy continues to lead the way in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) by winning the South Carolina Independent School Association Science Fair. TSA students competed against 133 students from 37 schools. TSA was represented by seven students in elementary, middle and high school categories. TSA freshman Jack Dennis won two awards for his innovative project on aquaponics. He was the overall winner for the Senior Division and the Senior Environmental Division. Tenth-grader Lizzie Silvester won first place in the Senior Behavior Division for her project on memorization. Additionally, ninth-grader Logan Scruggs won third place in the Senior Biological Division for her project on natural fertilizers. The TSA team was led by Mrs. Beverly Weatherford.

For more information about Thomas Sumter Academy’s STEAM program or academics, visit

Credit: The Sumter Item

Business Development Corporation Closes South Carolina’s First Rural Modernization Program Loan

Business Development Corporation Closes South Carolina’s First Rural Modernization Program Loan

Loan Helps Carolina Metal Finishing Create 20 New Jobs in Bishopville, SC

Business Development Corporation of South Carolina (BDC) and South State Bank have assisted Carolina Metal Finishing in securing a Rural Modernization Program Loan to add an additional manufacturing line within their Bishopville, SC facility. The loan, which will provide an expansion of manufacturing capacity and create 20 new jobs, was used to purchase paint coating equipment which is essential to plant operations.

An affiliate of Paramount Metal Finishing in Linden, N.J., Carolina Metal Finishing supplies contract services for metal parts cleaning, assembly, industrial painting and powder coating. The Bishopville facility has been in operation since 2006 and currently employs 24 associates.

Carolina Metal Finishing is very excited on the progress we’ve made toward the expansion of our manufacturing facility in the Bishopville, S.C. area. The Rural Modernization Loan program has been instrumental in the process allowing us to purchase new equipment and to create new jobs in Lee County. We are grateful for the assistance and ability to work along with the teams from BDC, South State Bank, SC Department of Commerce, Lee County Council and the LINK Economic Development Alliance to ensure a successful expansion process.” -John Gibart, Plant Manager for Carolina Metal Finishing.

“Team South Carolina is always excited to celebrate the continued success of existing industry, especially in one of our rural communities. We congratulate Carolina Metal Finishing and look forward to watching them continue to thrive within our borders.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“We are excited to begin offering this important loan program for businesses located in counties that are experiencing challenging economies. This financing project with Carolina Metal Finishing is a great example of public-private partnerships working well to improve the local and state economies,” -Peter Shand, President of BDC in Columbia

“South State Bank is proud to be the largest bank headquartered in South Carolina. For 85 years, we’ve been serving customer and communities like Lee County by staying true to our values of relationship banking and commitment to customers.” -Phillip McCorkle- Senior Vice President, South State Bank

“We are pleased to be the very first County to utilize the Rural Modernization Loan Program. Carolina Metal Finishing has been longstanding in our community for more than a decade and we look forward to the continued success of the company. “–Lee County Council Chairman Travis Windham

“We have always been confident in our community and our ability to develop quality people and grow successful businesses. Lee County being the first recipient of the Rural Modernization Program Loan reinforces and enhances that assurance. We are excited about the expansion of Carolina Metal Finishing and the jobs it will create for our region.”–TheLINK Economic Development Alliance Chairman Gordon Eckley

The Rural Modernization Loan Program is a joint effort between the State Department of Commerce, Palmetto State Growth Fund, Business Development Corporation, and an eligible county. Currently five (5) counties are eligible to participate: Allendale, Bamberg, Lee, Marlboro, and Williamsburg. The program is designed to assist manufacturers in those counties to become more competitive and create jobs.

About BDC
Since 1958, Business Development Corporation (BDC) has been financing small businesses in South Carolina, creating new jobs for the citizens of the Palmetto State. BDC and its associate company, Certified Development Corporation
(CDC), have approved more than 2,745 loans on projects in excess of $1.7 billion, providing leadership in economic development lending and job creation in South Carolina. To learn more about BDC, visit or call 803.798.4064.

Sumter is a finalist for civic engagement annual award

Sumter is a finalist for civic engagement annual award

National Civic League names All-America Cities each year


It is described as the Nobel Prize, the Superbowl, the Oscars for civic engagement awards bestowed upon communities, and Sumter is one of 20 finalists for it.

The National Civic League has been recognizing cities since 1949 with the All-America City Award, this year focusing on projects that demonstrate inclusive decision-making processes to “create healthier communities for all, particularly populations experiencing poorer health outcomes.”

Mayor Joe McElveen said on Tuesday at Sumter City Council’s regular meeting, where city officials surprised him and council members with the finalist standing, that the city has tried for it at least twice before and had not been selected.

“This is a win for our city and sends a message that what we’ve been working for for years as a community, and not just as a city but a whole community, has been paying off,” he said.

City of Sumter Communications and Tourism Director Shelley Kile said NCL officials have said this is an “extremely competitive year.” Finalists, 10 of whom will win, range from San Antonio, Texas, the seventh-largest city in the nation, to Gothenburg, Nebraska, a city of only 3,500.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Continental Tire the Americas to Produce ContiSeal™ and ContiSilent™ Tires in the U.S.

Continental Tire the Americas to Produce ContiSeal™ and ContiSilent™ Tires in the U.S.

• Production scheduled to begin at Continental’s Sumter, South Carolina facility in May 2020
• 50 new jobs will be added by 2020 to support production in Sumter

Sumter, SC, April 4, 2019 – Continental recently broke ground in Sumter, South Carolina with the addition of a new building to its approximately 2 million-square-foot tire manufacturing facility to produce ContiSeal™ and ContiSilent™ tires. Producing these tires in the U.S. will increase the supply of tires on hand and reduce the turnaround time from order to delivery to our customers across the region.
“Currently only two Continental plants in Europe produce ContiSeal™ and ContiSilent™ tires,” said Ahmed Boualam, Sumter plant manager. “This announcement celebrates Continental’s trust in the Sumter facility to continue delivering quality products to our customers. I am very excited to add these lines to our production portfolio in Sumter and look forward to ramp-up early next year.”
Continental broke ground on the new building in March 2019 and will begin the installation of equipment in September 2019. Production of the high technology tires are on target for May 2020. Along with this monetary investment, the Sumter plant will also be investing in people by providing more than 50 new jobs by 2020 to support with tire production.
“With the ability to produce ContiSeal™ and ContiSilent™ tires in the U.S., we are able to expand our portfolio in the Americas to support the demand for new mobility solutions,” said Juan Botero, vice president of key account management for Original Equipment Passenger and Light Truck Tires for Continental Tire the Americas. “We have listened to the needs of our customers and are excited to offer products and solutions designed to ensure a quieter and more comfortable ride, which undoubtedly will become increasingly important as we see more electrification and autonomous vehicles in the market.”

ContiSeal™ is a technology developed by Continental designed to seal a damaged tire tread. In case of penetration by foreign objects such as nails, there is no need for immediate roadside tire changes, and holes remain sealed even if the puncturing object becomes dislodged.
ContiSilent™ is a tire noise-reducing technology developed by Continental. It is designed to reduce interior noise on all road surfaces. ContiSilent™ tires are equipped with an inner tire absorber, a polyurethane foam, attached to the inner surface of the tread area with an adhesive. Regardless of the temperature, the structure of the foam stays intact.
Continental develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Founded in 1871, the technology company offers safe, efficient, intelligent, and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transportation. In 2018, Continental generated preliminary sales of around €44.4 billion and currently employs around 244,000 people in 60 countries and markets.

Press Contact
Kathryn Blackwell
Vice President Communications & Marketing
Continental, North America
Phone: +1 248-393-6593

A different kind of signing day for Sumter students

A different kind of signing day for Sumter students


9 high school seniors starting apprenticeships at Sumter’s Continental Tire

Friday was “Signing Day” for nine high school seniors in Sumter School District. These soon-to-be graduates won’t be lacing up their shoes for your favorite college football or basketball team. Instead, they are signing on as apprentices with Sumter County’s largest private-sector employer, Continental Tire.

The Sumter County Career and Technology Center on McCrays Mill Road played host to the signing ceremony, and two Continental representatives were on hand to extend the seniors their apprenticeship offer letters, company caps and T-shirts.

The youth apprenticeship program is a partnership between the tire manufacturer, Central Carolina Technical College and the district’s career and technology center, according to Brian Rauschenbach, economic development project manager with the Sumter Development Board.

The program targets high school seniors with the goal of moving them directly into employment with Continental and potentially a career with the international company, he said.

In the program model, students take the center’s Introduction to Manufacturing course in the fall semester of their senior year. Then, based upon teacher recommendations and a face-to-face interview process with Continental, students can be selected in the spring to work part time at the tire facility after school – and be paid – while finishing their high school diploma.

On the job site, each apprentice is mentored by a trainer and receives proper training in the work fundamentals. If all goes well, they can work full time during their spring break and in the summer with the potential to then move into full-time employment, said Shirrie Miller, director of the career and technology center.

If the students stay on with Continental and later want to pursue higher education, there are tuition-reimbursement opportunities via Continental with two-year colleges and four-year universities.

Rauschenbach said the workforce model for area high school students is one of several offered between local employers, the school district and CCTC.

“This model is one of many that offers students exposure to these careers and to get a jumpstart on a wonderful career opportunity,” Rauschenbach said. “Students then can become economically independent with a livable wage, eventually buy a house, buy a car and pursue higher education with little to no debt.”

He added this is the third year for the youth apprenticeship program but the first time it’s had a formal signing ceremony.

Sumter High School seniors Cameron Williams and Spencer Scarborough, both in their first year at the career and technology center, were all smiles after the signing ceremony and said they never thought they would have an opportunity like this.

Scarborough said he wasn’t always a great student in school but that his dad motivated him in recent years to start thinking about his future – and his grades improved.

He said his eyes are now set on Continental for a career.

“I would like to pursue more into manufacturing and work my way up in the company,” Scarborough said. “I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”

He and Crestwood High School senior Christopher McCauley also wanted to thank William Dyson, the center’s Introduction to Manufacturing teacher, for pushing them to strive for more.

Miller, the career and technology center director, said the day showcased that the center offers students a “competitive advantage” because it can provide them the necessary skills to venture into the job market and find employment.

She said she also wanted to thank Continental and other local businesses and industries for their support.

“These opportunities allow our students to go out into the job market and be successful,” Miller said. “It’s prudent that we have the support of business and industry to do exactly what we are doing here today. Sometimes, you have to grow your own. If you want to have a pool of employees to choose from, you have to be a piece of that puzzle, as well.”

Credit: The Sumter Item

Sumter Career and Technology Center becomes part of TransformSC network

Sumter Career and Technology Center becomes part of TransformSC network


The Sumter Career and Technology Center has made steps forward in recent years, and it hopes a new collaboration with a statewide education innovation group will help it continue to grow and develop.

Shirrie Miller, director of Sumter School District’s career and technology center, spoke Wednesday on the center officially becoming part of the TransformSC network last month.

The network of schools focuses on building a 21st-century workforce by transforming South Carolina’s public education system to prepare more graduates for careers, college and citizenship. Utilizing innovation in schools’ curriculum and collaboration with business leaders are key elements of that process, according to TransformSC.

Miller said joining the network will allow the center to look at innovative schools from across the state and view their curriculums and programs to potentially implement at the center.

“This is another part of developing students who are career and college-ready,” Miller said. “By joining the network, we will be able to stay abreast of innovative ideas to ensure we’re providing the necessary support and opportunities for our students.”

She said her ultimate goal is to help the center’s students and help the local economy by providing a skilled workforce to business and industry.

The Sumter center currently has an enrollment of about 290 students, Miller said, from the district’s three feeder high schools. It has 14 programs of study across various industry sectors, including manufacturing/engineering, health sciences, welding, automotive technology, culinary arts and fire and safety management.

A total of 69 public schools in the state are part of the network. Bates Middle School in Sumter County is also a TransformSC member.

Credit: The Sumter Item

Interactive Sumter expo for middle-schoolers highlights manufacturing technology and potential jobs

Interactive Sumter expo for middle-schoolers highlights manufacturing technology and potential jobs

Eighth-graders across Sumter School District middle schools had the chance to learn about the advanced technology used in the manufacturing industry at the third-annual Manufacturers and Technology Expo.

Organized by Sumter Economic Development, The LINK Economic Development Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the event featured a full day of hands-on, interactive STEM activities, displays and showcases at multiple Central Carolina Technical College campuses in Sumter that showed students how manufacturing jobs they can eventually get right here in Sumter use curriculum they’re already learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

According to the Department of Commerce, South Carolina, once focused on textile mill and apparel jobs, now is focused on its diversified industry of manufacturers, including leading the nation in the export of sales of tires and passenger vehicles. Over the last 10 years, the Palmetto State has averaged manufacturing employment growth of more than 18 percent, which ranks second in the Southeast.

Credit: The Sumter Item

3rd Annual Technology Expo Planned for Students in Sumter County

3rd Annual Technology Expo Planned for Students in Sumter County

March 26, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Erika Williams


3rd Annual Technology Expo Planned for Students in Sumter County

(Sumter, SC)— Sumter Economic Development (SED), TheLINK Economic Development Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Commerce are hosting the 3rd Annual Manufacturers and Technology Expo for 8th grade students in Sumter County on Friday, March 29th from 9am-2pm on multiple campuses of Central Carolina Technical College. The purpose of the expo is to allow students to be EXPO‘SED’ to the advanced technology used in today’s manufacturing. “The importance of introducing students early and often to the advanced technology used in today’s manufacturing is critical to the success of our region”, commented Jay Schwedler, CEO of Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK Alliance, “We are positioning ourselves to respond to the demands of employers with our talent standing at-the-ready. Manufacturing offers good jobs, with good pay– we are dedicated to changing the mindset of not only the traditional manufacturing environment, but also the thought of what is considered the pathway to success.”

Eighth graders were a logical choice to attend this technology Expo. “Based on state education requirements, 8th grade students choose a career cluster as they approach high school., stated Brenda Golden, Regional Workforce Advisor for the SC Department of Commerce. “Having the expo highlights manufacturing and technology as a career path, allowing students to make informed decisions.”

There is a full day of interactive Technology and STEM related activities planned for the students including industry displays and a tour of technology at both the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center (853 Broad Street) and the Industrial Technology Building (506 N. Guignard Drive- Bldg 400). Educational partners for the event are the Sumter School District and Central Carolina Technical College. NBSC/Synovous Bank is the presenting event sponsor.

Florence Concrete Products, Inc. Expand Sumter Operations

Florence Concrete Products, Inc. Expand Sumter Operations

For Immediate Release
Contact: Erika D. Williams
March 27, 2019

Florence Concrete Products, Inc. Expand Sumter Operations

(Sumter, SC) Florence Concrete Products, Inc., a leading manufacturer of precast concrete is expanding its Sumter, SC manufacturing facility. The $4.2 Million investment will create 80 new jobs allowing for increased production, fabrication, delivery, and installation of their products within South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.

“We appreciate the support of Sumter Economic Development, Sumter County, and the City of Sumter for all the help they have provided as we make our expansion plans a reality.” –Sherry Jones, President of Florence Concrete Products, Inc.
Florence Concrete has operated for more than 50 years, currently having just over 100 employees. “We are thrilled about the growth plans for Florence Concrete Products, Inc. in Sumter and are positioned to ensure a seamless expansion process. We value our manufacturers and the economic impact they bring to our community.” –Jay Schwedler, President and CEO Sumter Economic Development.

“Continued investment from industrial manufacturers is foundational for economic success,” commented State Representative Murrell Smith. “Our state as well as Sumter County is well-known for its unwavering support and ability to drive growth that is mutually beneficial for both our businesses and citizens.”

“Sumter County Council is always excited when one of our local industries experience growth. The expansions are proof of our pro-business climate and showcases that Sumter has the talent to fill the jobs of today and the future. We are happy to celebrate this expansion announcement with Florence Concrete Products, Inc. and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.” –James T. McCain Jr., Chairman of Sumter County Council

“Team Sumter congratulates Florence Concrete Products upon its expansion announcement. We appreciate their investment which shows confidence in our community and its future. Our priority is increasing the quality of life for our citizens through the creation of new jobs and increased income.” –Joe McElveen, Mayor, City of Sumter

Fast Facts:

• Florence Concrete Products, Inc. is expanding its Sumter, SC Operations
• The expansion will bring $4.2 million total investment and create 80 new jobs
• The expansion allows for increased production, fabrication, delivery, and installation of their products within South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia

Solar Company to Launch Projects in Lee County

Solar Company to Launch Projects in Lee County

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Southern Current, a leading developer in the residential, commercial and utility-scale solar markets, is expanding its solar farm portfolio with new facilities in Lee County. The company is investing in a total of five individual projects within Lee County, bringing a collective capital investment of $100 million.

Southern Current is an owner and developer of utility-scale solar energy facilities across the southeastern United States. With an in-house team of development professionals, the company manages projects from site selection and origination through construction and operation.

For more information on Southern Current, visit the company’s website at


“Southern Current is thrilled to make these clean energy investments in Lee County. These projects are the culmination of strong partnerships with our landowners, county council, the economic development team and all our consultants and vendors. Without their support and teamwork, none of this would be possible.” –Southern Current Chief Development Officer Paul Fleury

“This tremendous new $100 million investment in one of our rural counties is further proof of the business-friendly environment we’ve worked hard to build here in South Carolina. The future is bright for Southern Current and their solar projects throughout the state.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“Team South Carolina works hard every day to cultivate a pro-business environment for companies of all types in our state, and this new high-tech solar project in one of our rural counties is further evidence that our team-first approach is paying off. Congratulations to Southern Current on this new project.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“We are excited about this new solar energy project and about our new corporate partner in Southern Current. We are confident this will be a mutually-beneficial project for the company and our community.” –Lee County Council Chairman Travis Windham

“TheLINK Economic Development Alliance is pleased to welcome Southern Current to Lee County and Bishopville. Clean energy projects are on the rise, and we are grateful our region is a part of this growth.” –TheLINK Economic Development Alliance President and CEO Jay Schwedler


Southern Current is launching new solar projects in Lee County.
$100 million of total capital investment through five individual projects within Lee County.
Southern Current is a leading developer and owner of residential, commercial and utility-scale solar projects across the southeastern United States.
The company manages projects from site selection and origination through construction and operation.
For more information on Southern Current, visit the company’s website at

Sumter Easy Home to Host Grand Opening Celebration

Sumter Easy Home to Host Grand Opening Celebration

Sumter, S.C. – Sumter Easy Home LLC, a supplier of Housewares and other retail goods, is celebrating the grand opening of its first US based operation in Sumter County, South Carolina. The company is projected to bring $37 million of capital investment and the creation of approximately 100 new jobs over the next 1-3 years.

Invited guests for the September 10th celebration include: President, Mr. Zhiqiang Lu and other upper level company representatives of Sumter Easy Home, LLC. In addition, representatives from Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Whitmor, have been invited to participate in event, as well as Sumter County Council, Sumter City Council, Sumter Economic Development, TheLINK Economic Development Alliance, and The Sumter Smarter Growth Initiative.
Sumter Easy Home LLC produces and distributes home organization and housewares to a variety of clients, including Walmart and Lowe’s.

The company is housed in what was formerly Black River Spec Building, a 104,000-square-foot facility at 1521 North Wise Drive in Sumter, S.C. The opening of the Sumter operation was in response to the Buy America Hire America Initiative spurred by the current White House Administration according to information released by Sumter Easy Home, LLC.


“We are excited to share in the grand opening celebration with Sumter Easy Home, LLC and willing to support this endeavor to make sure it’s a wonderful success–Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain

“Sumter Easy Home’s decision to operate here speaks volumes about Team Sumter and our competitive, pro-business community. Hosting a grand opening event is yet another way this company and our community are teaming up for success”–Sumter Mayor Joseph M. McElveen

“Sumter is grateful for the investment of Sumter Easy Home, LLC and looking forward to continued success of the company in this area. The Sumter operation is yet another example of how our overall leadership, community and workforce agenda intersect and determine the growth of our region.” –Sumter Development Board Chairman Greg A. Thompson


Sumter Easy Home, LLC is hosting a grand opening Celebration in Sumter on September 10th.
$37 million investment to create near 100 new jobs by 2022.
Sumter Easy Home LLC. is a manufacturer and supplier of home organization and housewares to a variety of clients, including Walmart and Lowes.
The company operates in the former Black River Spec Building, a 104,000-square-foot facility on North Wise Drive in Sumter, S.C.
Sumter Easy Home, LLC President Zhiquiang Lu along with other upper level company executives and customer representatives are invited to attend the celebration.

BD Investing $150 Million in Sumter Operations

BD Investing $150 Million in Sumter Operations

COLUMBIA, S.C. – BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), a leading global medical technology company, today announced a $150 million investment in its existing Sumter County manufacturing facility. The company is projected to create an additional 125 new jobs over the next several years.

Employing more than 65,000 associates worldwide, BD is one of the world’s largest medical technology companies and supports health care providers in more than 190 countries around the globe. BD’s Sumter County facility has been in operation since 1970, manufacturing blood collection devices that are critical to the health care industry.

Located at 1575 Airport Road in Sumter, S.C., BD’s Sumter facility is actively hiring for the new positions, and interested applicants should visit for more information.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to this project, as well as a $600,000 Set Aside grant to assist with the costs of road work and site preparation.


“For nearly 50 years, BD’s Sumter facility has consistently delivered superior quality products, vital for our customers and their patients, through a talented and engaged workforce. We would like to thank TheLINK economic development alliance, Sumter Economic Development, the City of Sumter, Sumter County and the S.C. Department of Commerce for their continued support of BD and our employees as we continue to invest in the facility. We look forward to the ongoing success of our BD Sumter manufacturing team as they continue to advance the world of health.” –BD Executive Vice President of Global Operations and Chief Supply Chain Officer Jim Borzi

“After opening in our state more than 40 years ago, we’re thrilled that BD continues to grow and succeed here. This announcement once again demonstrates that South Carolina is a place where medical technology companies want to do business, and we welcome this new $150 million investment.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“Not only does our state excel in advanced manufacturing, we’re also increasingly a top choice for companies in the life sciences sector. BD has been a strong member of Team South Carolina for decades, and we congratulate them on their ongoing success.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“BD has been a leading employer in this county since opening its doors in 1970. We are grateful for their continued investment in our community and our people.” –Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain

“We have long-enjoyed BD as a key component in the fabric of our industrial portfolio. This investment demonstrates their trust in our leadership, their commitment to the success of their business and their belief in our ability to regenerate the talent needed to produce the quality of goods for which BD is known.” –Sumter Economic Development Chairman Greg Thompson


BD is investing in its existing Sumter County manufacturing facility.
$150 million investment to create 125 new jobs.
Employing more than 65,000 associates worldwide, BD is one of the largest medical technology companies in the world and supports health care providers in more than 190 countries.
Located at 1575 Airport Road in Sumter, S.C., BD’s facility manufactures blood collection devices for the health care industry.
BD is actively hiring for the new positions, and interested applicants should visit for more information.


About BD

BD is one of the largest global medical technology companies in the world and is advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care. The company supports the heroes on the frontlines of health care by developing innovative technology, services and solutions that help advance both clinical therapy for patients and clinical process for health care providers. BD and its 65,000 employees have a passion and commitment to help improve patient outcomes, improve the safety and efficiency of clinicians’ care delivery process, enable laboratory scientists to better diagnose disease and advance researchers’ capabilities to develop the next generation of diagnostics and therapeutics. BD has a presence in virtually every country and partners with organizations around the world to address some of the most challenging global health issues. By working in close collaboration with customers, BD can help enhance outcomes, lower costs, increase efficiencies, improve safety and expand access to health care. In 2017, BD welcomed C. R. Bard and its products into the BD family.

Merchant Iron Works Expanding Sumter-based Operations

Merchant Iron Works Expanding Sumter-based Operations

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Merchant Iron Works today announced an expansion of its existing Sumter County operations. The company’s $2.5 million investment is projected to create 27 new jobs.

With a combined staff of 35 experienced engineers, office support and fabrication personnel, Merchant Iron Works is a Sumter-based fabricator and installer of structural steel, miscellaneous metals and material handling equipment. Founded in 2001, the company’s services support the industrial and commercial markets.

Located at 3215 Beulah Cuttino Road in Sumter, S.C., Merchant Iron Works’ phased expansion will result in an 8,000-square-foot plant addition and a 150,000-square-foot outdoor steel processing and shipping area.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved a $100,000 Set Aside grant to Sumter County to assist with the costs of site preparation. For more information on Merchant Iron Works, visit the company’s website.


“We are very excited about this expansion. It will increase our overall production capabilities and allow us to process a product line in Sumter that we currently outsource to other states, thus providing further economic opportunities for our local community. It has been a pleasure working with the Sumter Economic Development team, TheLink and the S.C. Department of Commerce. They have been a tremendous resource and great partners through all of the various phases of this project.” –Merchant Iron Works, Inc. President David P. Merchant

“We’re always excited to celebrate a business investment in South Carolina, but it’s special when it’s one of our existing firms. In operation here for more than 17 years, Merchant Iron Works’ success speaks to the positive business environment we’ve cultivated across this state.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“Today, we congratulate a longtime member of the South Carolina business community – Merchant Iron Works. By making this new investment, the company is doubling down on its commitment to South Carolina, and we look forward to watching them thrive here for years to come.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“Merchant Iron Works continues to grow, delivering quality results and reliable solutions. We are pleased with the expansion of this company and the additional jobs it will bring to Sumter.” –Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain

“The strength of our industrial portfolio in this region is phenomenal. We are surrounded by companies that are not only committed to the growth of their business, but also to the well-being of our citizens and neighbors. We commend Merchant Iron Works for their expansion, and commit to them the continuous pool of qualified talent needed for their success.” –Sumter Development Board Chairman Greg A. Thompson


Merchant Iron Works is expanding its existing Sumter County operations.
$2.5 million investment to create 27 new jobs.
Merchant Iron Works is a Sumter-based fabricator and installer of structural and miscellaneous steel, chute work and material handling equipment.
The company’s phased expansion will result in an 8,000-square-foot plant addition and a 150,000-square-foot outdoor steel processing and shipping area.

Crown Laundry Brings 160 Jobs/$12 Million to Bishopville

Crown Laundry Brings 160 Jobs/$12 Million to Bishopville

Through the combined efforts of TheLINK Economic Development Alliance, Lee County, and the City of Bishopville, Crown Health Care Laundry Services, a provider of linen and laundry processing exclusively for healthcare organizations, is set to begin operations in Bishopville, SC later this fall.  With the creation of 160 jobs and a $12 Million Dollar investment, the Bishopville facility will operate from the I-20 Industrial Park, right off Interstate Exit 116. Since 1955, Crown has provided laundry services to healthcare facilities, namely hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, rehab centers, physician practices and other healthcare entities.

“Crown is very excited about our most recent expansion and bringing 160 employment opportunities to Bishopville and the State of South Carolina.  Bishopville is the ideal location for Crown to better service our existing customer base in South Carolina and extend our proven quality service to other hospitals in the Palmetto State and other strategic markets that are easily accessible from Bishopville.” Don Haferkamp, President and CEO of Crown Laundry.

“We are pleased that Crown Laundry recognized the countless assets and resources offered in TheLINK Region,” commented Gordon Eckley, Board Chairman of TheLINK Economic Development Alliance, “We trust that these things coupled with our devoted leaders will benefit them greatly as they ramp up their Bishopville operations.”

“The City of Bishopville is elated to help secure this project that will so greatly impact all of us,” Remarked Alexander Boyd, Bishopville Mayor. “It is always great to see dedicated efforts come into fruition.

Crown Laundry’s presence will effect both the City of Bishopville and Lee County.

“Indeed, we are thrilled about this partnership. It represents an incredible opportunity for this community in terms of the number of jobs that will be created and the lives that will be changed.” Lee County Council Chairman, Travis Wyndam.

“While a strategic location is important in our industry”, Haferkamp said, “it was the quality of the people and the strong work ethic that ultimately drew Crown to the area.  We cannot wait to get the doors open and start producing the quality product and service that our customers demand and have come to expect from Crown Health Care Laundry Services.”

Headquartered in Pensacola, Florida, Crown Laundry is set to begin operations late fall this year. Employment seekers are encouraged to contact For more information about Crown Healthcare Laundry Services, visit

Sumter Easy Home Launching First US Operations in Sumter County

Sumter Easy Home Launching First US Operations in Sumter County

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sumter Easy Home LLC, a supplier of housewares and other retail goods, is locating their new manufacturing operations in Sumter County. The development is projected to bring $37 million of capital investment and create 88 new jobs.

Sumter Easy Home LLC produces and distributes home organization and housewares to a variety of clients, including Walmart and Lowe’s. Sumter Easy Home will be servicing multiple businesses out of this facility, including the warehousing and shipping of orders.

The company has purchased the Black River Spec Building, a 104,000-square-foot facility on North Wise Drive in Sumter, S.C. Interested applicants should visit Ready SC’s website for more information.


“All of us at Sumter Easy Home are excited and grateful to be locating our manufacturing operations in Sumter, S.C. This new facility will help us better service our customers by reducing lead times and controlling costs. Our company has been producing innovative houseware products for more than a decade in Asia, and now, with the support of Sumter County and the state of South Carolina, we’re opening our first U.S. manufacturing facility. We feel as if we’re not just coming to Sumter, we’re coming home.” –Sumter Easy Home LLC CEO Michael Lu

“Our state’s workforce has proven that it’s one of the best in the world, and that’s why we know Sumter Easy Home will succeed here. We are grateful for the commitment this investment shows in our state and look forward to seeing this great company prosper here for a long time.” –Gov. Henry McMaster

“It’s always exciting to see foreign-based firms establish operations in the Palmetto State. Today, we celebrate Sumter Easy Home LLC and their decision to invest more than $37 million in Sumter County.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“Sumter County Council is always pleased to partner with a company to bring jobs and strengthen our economic outlook. Every member of this community will benefit from Easy Home’s Sumter-based operations.” –Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain

“Sumter Easy Home’s decision to operate here speaks volumes about Team Sumter and our competitive, pro-business community. It is our goal to make sure all companies, foreign and domestic, large and small, have an environment in which they can succeed.” –Sumter Mayor Joseph M. McElveen

Sumter Easy Home to Host Grand Opening Celebration

Sumter County Recognized in Dixie Dozen

Recently, Sumter County was recognized in Southern Business and Development as one of the top twelve counties in South Carolina who have created projects with 50 or more jobs between 2010 and 2016. The counties recognized are significant as they all have fewer than 200,000 residents. South Carolina is amoung four South Eastern states recognized in this magazine edition. Read the article here.

More than 300 Students “EXPO’sed to Manufacturing Industry

More than 300 Students “EXPO’sed to Manufacturing Industry

More than 300 eighth-grade students from Sumter and Lee Counties recently converged at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center on Broad Street to gain a greater understanding of the advanced technology required in today’s manufacturing. And although the Expo was held on the last day of March, the purpose of the event was to make a ‘lasting’ impression on those in attendance far beyond the day. From listening to motivational speakers and taking tours of technology to strolling through an industry fair, there were a host of engaging activities for the students and their school chaperones—all designed to grab their attention and hopefully, maintain it.

Modern manufacturing is on the rise—so is the pay. The average salary for a manufacturing job in SC is $54,444; while the average salary for other jobs in the state is $40,797, yet there are currently more than 350 unfilled manufacturing positions, demonstrating the critical need for a skilled workforce. Affrica Spain was on hand for the expo encouraging the students from the nine participating middle schools to reach beyond working in fast food—even as a teenager. Spain, was a registered apprentice through Apprenticeship Carolina and the United States Department of Labor.  The Introduction to Manufacturing Program at the Sumter Career and Technology Center is where it all began for Spain. Through the apprenticeship program, he started working at Continental Tire during his senior year of high school and shared how it has allowed him to purchase a car and become a homeowner.

In addition to motivational speeches, the students engaged with more than 20 regional employers, all with interactive displays and technical demonstrations to highlight their manufacturing processes and the technology involved.  An economic development challenge game tested the students’ community-based knowledge.

Mount Franklin Foods Investing $10 million to Create 225 New Jobs

Mount Franklin Foods Investing $10 million to Create 225 New Jobs

Mount Franklin Foods, a leading North American manufacturer of high-quality candy and nut products, is launching new operations in Sumter County. The project is expected to bring $10 million in new capital investment and lead to the creation of 225 new jobs.

Based in El Paso, Texas, Mount Franklin Foods employs more than 2,800 team members across North America, supplying major retailers, wholesalers and foodservice distributors. With four manufacturing plants and a net operating space of more than one million square feet, Mount Franklin Foods is one of the largest foodservice distributors in the United States.

To accommodate continued growth, the company is upfitting its new Sumter County operations, which are located in the Live Oak Industrial Park, with state-of-the-art equipment. Expanding beyond its current focus as a multi-line candy business, Mount Franklin Foods plans to add both organic and nutraceutical products that are fortified with multivitamins, probiotics and other ingredients. Hiring for the new positions is projected to begin in the first quarter of 2017, andreadySC (link is external) will assist with the recruitment process.

For more information on the company, visit (link is external).


“Everyone at Mount Franklin Foods is excited about our operations in Sumter, South Carolina. This new location will provide us with a strong platform for driving revenues by continuing to serve our customers with compelling product offerings. It is clear that South Carolina is a state that is focused on providing quality jobs for its citizens. Our time spent at readySC, the Central Carolina Technical College and its Advanced Manufacturing Training Center was truly inspiring. We are confident that we will have an abundance of excellent candidates as we build our team. We especially appreciate the cooperation and hospitality provided by the state, county and local government agencies. It is great to work with people who are genuinely interested in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.” –Mount Franklin Foods President and CEO Gary Ricco

“We couldn’t be more excited that Mount Franklin Foods has chosen to build its newest manufacturing facility in Sumter County. The 225 new jobs this $10 million investment means for our people will make a real difference in the lives of South Carolinians, and we look forward to watching the newest member of the South Carolina family grow and thrive in Sumter for a very long time.” –Gov. Nikki Haley

“Agribusiness remains a powerful force in South Carolina’s economy, and the addition of Mount Franklin Foods to Sumter County only makes that sector stronger. I congratulate them on their success and look forward to watching them grow and thrive here.” –Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

“Sumter County Council is always pleased to partner with a reputable company that will bring jobs to our residents and strengthen our economic outlook. Every member of this community will benefit from Mount Franklin Foods being here.” –Sumter County Council Chair Vivian Fleming-McGhaney

“Mount Franklin Foods’ decision to operate here demonstrates our long-standing commitment to establishing a business-friendly environment in Sumter. Our team works tirelessly to ensure that companies can be successful and are fully supported here. This will be a win for our city, our county, Mount Franklin Foods and all of our citizens, whether they actually work at Mount Franklin or not. Growth of our manufacturing sector helps everyone.” –Sumter Mayor Joseph M. McElveen

“Upon visiting Sumter, Mount Franklin Foods took notice of the countless assets offered here which will undoubtedly bolster their business. They were most impressed, however, with what we know to be our sustainable competitive advantage for this region – a workforce agenda that works. We are committed to the emergence of a talent development agency to meet, exceed and anticipate the growing needs of this industry. It’s a huge complement to our team and speaks volumes about the confidence this company has in our community.” ­–Sumter County Development Board Chair Greg A. Thompson

“TheLink Regional Alliance is excited to have played a role in this effort to positively impact job creation opportunities for the region’s citizens. This is another example of our region working together to make a difference.” –TheLINK Regional Economic Development Alliance Chair Gordon Eckley

OMSK to Locate Carbon-Black Facility in Bishopville

OMSK to Locate Carbon-Black Facility in Bishopville

OMSK Carbon Group one of the top ten leading carbon black producers in the world plans to set up operations in the 117,865 square foot, former Alstrom building located in the I-20 industrial Park in Bishopville.

Gordon Eckley, Chairman of TheLINK- an Economic Development Alliance representing Lee and Sumter Counties said, “TheLINK welcomes OMSK to Lee County, South Carolina. We wish them nothing but success and prosperity and thank them for creating jobs and investing in our community.”

“OMSK is a global leader,” added Travis Windham, Chairman of Lee County Council. “They recognized that Lee County has countless assets and resources that will benefit them as they open their first US based facility. We are extremely happy they will now call Lee County home.”

Based in Omsk Russia, OMSK is among the top ten leading carbon black producers in the world. They currenly have plants in Omsk and Volgograd, Russia and their annual production capcity reaches 400,000 tons per year. Their product range includes more than 30 grades of carbon black. The company has business with a wide range of customers in Russian domestic and foreign markets, from producers of automotive tires to manufacturers of printing inks. Omsk current distribution and transloading facilities include Germany, Romania, Turkey, and Canada. Their new Bishopville facility OMSK will serve the South Carolina tire industry and partners with a variety of coompanies such as Michelin, Continental Tire, Bridgestone, Goodyear, Giti, Trelleborg, and Midas among others.

For more information, see:

Colliers International represents Reger Holdings, LLC in 117,865 square foot lease to OMSK in Bishopville, SC


Central Carolina Technical College Develops Prosthetic Hand for Turbeville Teen

Central Carolina Technical College Develops Prosthetic Hand for Turbeville Teen

Sumter, SC (WLTX) –  At 13-years-old, Connor Morgan gave his mom a right-handed greeting for the first time as his father. Morgan was gifted with the 3D prosthetic from Central Carolina Technical College’s Engineering Graphics Technology program on Thursday.

“We take those things for granted,” said Morgan’s dad, Gary. “Every day when we get up and we’re able to do those sorts of things, but to see your son do it for the first time, as commonplace as it may be, it was kind of emotional.”

Morgan had no idea a middle-school trip to the college two weeks ago would end in him becoming the latest project for David Tuders and Rick Lavergne.

“I came here to learn about 3D printing and stuff, and they called me out and said they were working on my hand,” said Morgan.

“They had been been trying to get someone to do this for them for quite a while and when they asked us, we have never done anything like it,” said Lavergne. “We decided to take it on as a challenge and that’s what we took the project on, we wanted to help the young man.”

“It was a little daunting at first, but now that we’ve gotten through the process, we were happy with the challenge,” said Tudors, the program’s director. “It was an interesting challenge.”

It took a week for those with the program to print the pieces and assemble the hand. Yet it only took one moment for everyone in the room to realize their lives had changed.

“I feel great, now I can finally climb trees and stuff better,” said Morgan.=

“There’s always that, especially when you’re a teenager, of feeling different,” said Gary Morgan. “This gives him an opportunity to not feel so different and that’s satisfying, it’s very satisfying.”

“It was probably one of the greatest projects we’ve ever done,” said Lavergne.

The hand grasps as Morgan bends his wrist. Tudors says as Morgan’s wrist strengthens and gets used to the prosthetic, so will his grip

Teamwork: S.C. Commerce Chief Hitt Credits Local Economic Development Units For Agency’s Success

SC Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt talks about the importance of Teamwork in Economic Development, specifically that economic development takes place on a local level. He also references the Continental Tire deal in Sumter as the one project that stands out as a turning point for economic development during his tenure.

Read the full story here–

Sumter Income Level On the Rise

An informational letter from South Carolina Department of Revenue announced Monday that Sumter County’s 2014 per capita income is $36,077, a little more than $3,000 higher than in the previous year.

Sumter County is ranked No. 11 out of South Carolina’s 46 counties based on its per capita income, which increased by 8 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to Sumter Economic Development.

Also, Sumter’s per capita income falls $600 short of matching the state’s average of $36,677.

Sumter Economic Development President and CEO Jay Schwedler said a sign that Sumter is making solid progress in creating a better quality of life for residents is reflected in how close the county’s per capita income reflects the state average.

He said per capita income serves as a measurement of the stability and wealth within an economy, which suggests the same for the individual.

Schwedler said collective efforts by leadership in private and public sectors have contributed to Sumter’s per capita income growth.

There is still much work to be done in order to continue improving the community, he said.

Schwedler said the primary key to furthering Sumter’s progress is continuing to focus on creating a talented and educated workforce.

That involves Sumter School District, Central Carolina Technical College, University of South Carolina Sumter, Morris College and other workforce preparedness organizations working hand-in-hand to create a dynamic learning environment, Schwedler said.

“We all owe it to the next generation to give them the opportunity to succeed and live a better life than ourselves,” he said.

Schwedler said expectations for Sumter’s 2015 per capita income include passing the state’s average and continuing the forward momentum to achieve the progress the community and region are capable of achieving.


Reprinted with permission of Sumter’s daily newspaper, The Item. For more information or to subscribe, please visit

Continental’s Sumter Plant to Supply Tires for Exclusive Elio Motors Three-Wheeled Vehicle

(Sumter, SC- November 16, 2015)— Elio Motors, Inc. announced that Continental Tire the Americas, LLC – Sumter Plant will be the producer of tires for a unique vehicle set to launch late 2016. The Elio Motors design is an enclosed three-wheel vehicle that will get up to 84 MPG. With a targeted base price of $6,800, the vehicle is set to be equipped with power windows, air conditioning and multiple safety airbags. The vehicles’ tires will be of an evolutionary steel-belted, radial design and will conform to standard sizing metrics.

“Continental’s belief in Elio Motors and our vision to provide an affordable, highly fuel-efficient passenger vehicle that is made in America is a huge validation to us for our efforts to date.”  Paul Elio- President and CEO of Elio Motors.

Based out of Phoenix, AZ, Elio’s first manufacturing site will be in Shreveport, La. With more than 46,000 people having already reserved an Elio Motor Vehicle, this lends to a forecast of constant need for tire production leading to a longstanding relationship for Continental’s Sumter based operations.

Read more in PRNewswire–

APEX Tool Group wins Manufacturer of the Year


Creating new, well-paying jobs and a strong commitment to the community are reasons the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce 2014 Manufacturer of the Year Award was given to Apex Tool Group.

Sumter Economic Development Board member George Kosinski presented the award to former plant manager Ryan Cagle at the chamber annual retreat Saturday, Jan. 31.

“As part of our recruitment and retention program, we ask local companies to brag on themselves a little about their impact and involvement in the community and their commitment to their workforce,” Kosinski said.

He said Apex’s presentation stood out.

“We put together a selection committee and we rank and grade them based on their impact in the community, commitment to workforce and involvement,” he said.

He said the committee was impressed that they invested $21.5 million in an expansion and brought 180 new jobs to the community.

“They have a competitive benefits package, a 401(k), 80 percent of the insurance is paid by the company,” Kosinski said. “In addition to that (they have) employee recognition programs, educational reimbursement, health and wellness and, of course, safety is a top priority there.”

Apex Tool Group manufactures professional hand and power tools for industrial, vehicle service and assembly, aerospace, electronics, construction and do-it-yourself markets.

Kosinski said Apex donates tools to several local school systems for use in shop, art and maintenance classes and sponsors many community programs such as the American Heart Association Heart Walk, the Tuomey Foundation, Wounded Warriors and many local youth parks and recreation teams.

“One of the other things was their Duke Energy Progress Partner Award which is for their responsible energy use,” he said.

Cagle said he thinks the plant has been a good steward of the community and has helped change the economic climate in Sumter.

“I think the plant has done a good job in changing economic conditions to be a steward of the community,” Cagle said.

“You look at the compensation we have for employees; it is definitely above average for what you would see. There is really an employee focus at the plant.”

Cagle, who has moved further up the management ladder, said he spends about one weekend a month in Sumter.

“I had a great time in Sumter,” he said.

Cagle said the plant has been in Sumter since 1973.

“It went through a lot of growth initially and then went through a downturn as products changed,” he said. “The number of employees had gone down at one point.”

He said Apex has invested a lot in “lean” manufacturing tools to make the manufacturing process better and get its products to market quicker.

He said the Sumter plant has benefited from the company consolidating operations.

“We had a lot of plants especially – our Dallas, Springdale, Arkansas and Sumter plants – operating at 50 to 60 percent capacity.

“Consolidating into Sumter allowed us to remain competitive,” he said. “Look at that campus we have there, 100 acres, 400,000 square feet and the infrastructure is very good. We have room to do some different things and it really makes good sense.”

Cagle said employees from Texas and Arkansas have already begun to move to Sumter.

“We have over 40 additional employees that will be relocating from Dallas and Springdale to Sumter,” he said.


Reprinted with permission of Sumter’s daily newspaper, The Item. For more information or to subscribe, please visit 

Partnering for the Workforce of Tomorrow: Work Experience Program Announced

A new economic development program that will offer paid work experience opportunities for Central Carolina Technical College Industrial & Engineering Technology students was unveiled on January 22nd at the Central Carolina Technical College’s Main Campus in Sumter.  The program – called WE (Work Experience) is a partnership between Central Carolina Technical College; Santee-Lynches Workforce Investment Board; Sumter Economic Development; industries in Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee and Sumter counties; and the Industrial & Engineering Technology students.

A group of 19 students who have been selected to participate in WE were recognized at the event.  These students, who are the first group to enter the WE program represent the top students in the fields of Welding, Engineering Graphics Technology, Mechatronics and CNC Machine Tool programs.

Funded by the Workforce Investment Board, this program will give students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience over the course of 200 hours to make them more competitive in the job market.  Local industries who are participating in this program (see list below} – will be able to better attract and target local skilled students to fill available positions.  The will also develop a pipeline of prospective employees for high-technology careers.

Addressing the students, Jay Schwedler, President and CEO of Sumter Economic Development in addition to TheLINK economic development alliance, reinforced that talent is the key to economic development success.

“WE is another example of our community’s ability to partner on issues that impact us all,” he said.  “Today is another shining example of business, industry, government and education coming together to provide the foundation for improving our number one economic development asset – our talent.”

Participating Industries:


Canfor Corporation

Caterpillar, Inc.

Continental Tire the Americas, LLC

The Coca Cola Company

Eaton Corporation

Georgia-Pacific, LLC

Johnny’s Welding Service

Kaydon Corporation

Manchester Fluid Power

Mancor Industries

Meritor, Inc.

Mid-State tooling

Powell Valves

Singleton Steel Company, LLC

Smoak Irrigation Co.

Wolfe Mechanical & Equipment Supply

RBC Bearings to boost operations in S.C.

RBC Bearings Inc., a manufacturer of precision plain, roller and ball bearings for the industrial, defense and aerospace industries, announced plans to consolidate and restructure its large bearing manufacturing facilities.

Sometime this month, the Oxford, Conn.-based company said it will discontinue manufacturing large bearings in Houston, and will consolidate the manufacturing into other RBC manufacturing facilities, mainly in South Carolina.

RBC has manufacturing facilities at 1377 Wisacky Highway in Bishopville and at 2268 S. 5th St. in Hartsville. The company also has its Eastern distribution center at 224 Truman Road in Bishopville.

Further details of the impact on operations in South Carolina were not available.

The company said the consolidation will strengthen the efficiency of large bearing manufacturing operations. This consolidation will result in a pre-tax charge of $7.7 million and an after-tax charge of $5.5 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013.

In its most recent full fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2012, RBC Bearings had $397.5 million in sales, an 18% increase over 2011. Net income for 2012 was $50 million, up 43% over 2011.

Founded in 1919, RBC Bearings is primarily focused on producing highly technical or regulated bearing products requiring sophisticated design, testing and manufacturing capabilities for the industrial, aerospace and defense markets. RBC Bearings employs about 2,122 people and operates 23 manufacturing facilities in four countries.

Bishopville industry to expand operations

BISHOPVILLE – Martech Research, located at 310 Truman Road in the former Dorby Frocks building, announced plans Wednesday to invest $4.65 million in expansion of its facility.

Benny Maresca, technical director for Martech Research, said the expansion will generate 60 new jobs.

Martech Research, also referred to as Biological Solutions, is a maker of synthetic and natural chemical products.
“We are pleased to grow our presence in South Carolina,” Maresca said. “Bishopville has provided us with an excellent business environment and a skilled workforce. This expansion will allow us to better serve our current customers and increase our market share.”

Martech Research, also referred to as Biological Solutions, has bought the Kellve Building at the James Industrial Park and will upgrade the facility to handle the company’s manufacturing and warehousing operations. The new facility will be used in the production of the company’s expanded biological, microbial, synthetic and natural chemical products.
Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins said the county council has given final approval to a fee
in lieu agreement will serve to reduce the company’s property tax from 10.5 to 6 percent.

“This is great news for Lee County,” Watkins said. “Any time you talk about new jobs, it’s a good thing. And the company has told council that there could be as many as 100 jobs in the future.”

Lee County Economic Alliance Director Jeff Burgess said expansion of existing industry is big news for any community.
“About 70 percent of the new jobs and investment typically come from the expansion of existing industry,” Burgess said. “Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. New industry is important, but expansion of existing industry is also important.”
State officials said the company’s announcement was good for the state.

“While we work every day to bring new companies to South Carolina, it is always exciting to see one of our existing businesses expand,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “We celebrate Martech Research’s investment in Bishopville and the 60 new jobs the company will create.”

In 2011, South Carolina recruited more than $4.7 billion in investment and more than 13,000 new jobs in the manufacturing sector.

“South Carolina has a long history in the chemical production industry and today’s announcement shows that this sector continues to thrive in our state,” said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Kitt. “Martech Research’s decision to expand in Lee County is another indication our business-friendly climate is helping companies grow.”

Local officials also welcomed the announcement.

“We are excited about Bio(logical) Solutions expanding its operations in Lee County,” said Lee County Councilman Gordon Eckley. “The new investment and job creation are great for the county’s economy and will allow our citizens the opportunity to gain employment with a strong company.”

“We value and appreciate what Martech Research has done, is doing and will do in Lee County and look forward to their continued growth in our community,” said Bishopville Mayor Alexander Boyd.

Martech Research plans to hold a ribbon cutting for the new facility later in the spring.

The company will begin hiring for the new positions this month. Anyone interested in job opportunities with the company should contact Denise McNeil at SCWORKS at (803) 432-5153.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved a rural infrastructure grant worth $100,000 for the county to help with the building renovations.

Headquartered in South Carolina, Martech provides all-natural, custom-manufactured products to a host of globally-recognized businesses. The company is a global leader in green biological, microbial, synthetic and natural chemical products. For more information, visit

Central Carolina offering free college tuition to today’s ninth graders

A college education just got a lot more affordable for a lucky group of local students.

Any ninth grade student enrolled in the Lee County School District or Robert E. Lee Academy can go to college free, thanks to a brand new scholarship program being offered at Central Carolina Technical College. Dr. Tim Hardee, CCTC president, was in Bishopville Monday afternoon to make the announcement with a few folks from the education and business community.

“Any current ninth grade student who graduates from high school in 2015 will receive a 2-year scholarship to Central Carolina,” Hardee said. “And we’d be delighted if we gave every ninth grader a scholarship.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must graduate on time in 2015 with at least a “C” average, and test ready for college level coursework.

Hardee said the goal is to get students into college as soon as they graduate from high school. “The average age of our students is 28,” he said. “Rather than waiting for 10 years before they go back to school, we want to get the students in college earlier.”

That’s an idea Lee County Economic Development Alliance Director Jeff Burgess hardily supports. “Prospective industries are more interested in whether a community has an existing and future workforce rather than in location and other incentives,” Burgess said. “They want to know they can get skilled workers. This program puts that into motion. You can have a workforce ready when an industry comes.”

Hardee said students have a choice of more than 60 programs to choose from at Central Carolina. “Or, if they want to earn a bachelor’s degree, they can get two years’ worth of undergraduate credit with us and transfer to a four-year college,” he said.

Robert E. Lee interim Head of School Maria Watson said she is “very excited about this opportunity for our students. Students will be finding out about this now, in ninth grade, so they have something to work for; they have a goal to work toward.”

Lee County Superintendent of Education Dr. Cleo Richardson said the scholarship program will “help students understand why it’s important to make good grades. What it means ultimately for their future is that this is an opportunity to become a productive citizen. The program will provide good skilled workers for industries that choose to come to Lee County.”

Rep. Grady Brown said the scholarship offer is “unbelievable, almost too good to be true. This is wonderful for our community. A college education at Central Carolina is already affordable but this means a student can get a degree for free and come out with a marketable skill. Dr. Hardee has done a remarkable job as the president of Central Carolina.”

Hardee and his staff plan to meet soon with the county’s ninth graders and their parents to answer questions about the scholarship. “One of the goals of the program is to encourage students to stay in school and keep their grades up,” he said. “The scholarship is the carrot at the end: do your work and the scholarship is there waiting for you.”

Hardee said Central Carolina already has a good relationship with Lee Central High School and Robert E. Lee. “We teach dual enrollment college classes for eligible students at both schools,” he said. “This is an extension of our partnership that will benefit the entire community. We want to get the word out. There’s nothing to sign up for; the scholarship will be there waiting when you graduate in 2015.”

Progress Energy gives to Lee County

BISHOPVILLE – Lee County has received a $25,000 contribution from Progress Energy to assist the county in improving infrastructure on property owned by the county and the city of Bishopville.

Lee County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Jeff Burgess said the funds will be used to support paving a road from U.S. 15 to a building currently used by the county for storage. The building is located behind Carolina Metal Finishing Company, which is located in the old National Guard Armory building on 547 South Main Street.

An option with Carolina Metal to buy the building ran out in November 2010, Burgess said.

“They haven’t decided if they’re going to expand or not,” Burgess said. “They could still buy the building, or we could sell it to another business or small industry.”

Burgess said the paving project could cost as much as $140,000.

“This is a drop in the bucket of what we will need for this project,” he said. “We want to make this property more attractive to a prospect buyer. For now, it is hard to get to the building from U.S. 15.”

Carolina Metal, a subsidiary of Paramount Metal Finishing Company headquartered in New Jersey, owns the former armory building and began operations in late 2006.

The Bishopville facility applies powder coating to sprinkler heads, and employs some 20 workers, according to Plant Manager John Gibart.

Burgess said the paving project would enable 18-wheelers to drive to the back of the facility, if the company decided to expand in the future.

The company’s expansion is linked to buying the building owned by the city and the county.

Stuart Ames, a Progress Energy representative, said the company’s contribution comes from the utility’s annual license fee credits and will go toward road improvements to support the county’s efforts to add jobs.

“We’re proud to be part of the team that helps stimulate the growth of Lee County,” Ames said. “The success of our company is directly linked to the growth and prosperity of the communities we serve. The infrastructure support we provide through these license fee credits is just one of the ways we work together with local counties to help existing industries grow.”

Burgess said Progress Energy has a long history of supporting economic development in South Carolina includes support for infrastructure, industrial park development and local leadership and marketing activities.

“On behalf of the Lee County Economic Development Alliance and Lee County Council, I can say we truly appreciate everything Progress Energy has done to assist us with this project,” Burgess said. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Progress Energy as we enter 2012.”

Lee County Councilman Gordon Eckley said local utility companies have been supportive of the county’s efforts to expand local industries.

“This is a good example of the county working hard and trying to find money from other sources to save our taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We’re grateful Progress Energy is willing to work with us to make this possible. The county has always tried to support local industries when they want to expand and add jobs.”

Ames said the license fee credits were made possible by the 1996 Rural Development Act, which permits certain utilities, transportation providers and electric cooperatives to claim a credit against their state business license fees for amounts paid in cash to provide infrastructure improvements to eligible projects.

To be considered eligible for funding, a project must meet certain requirements generally involving the creation of new jobs.

Biological Solutions to expand operation

BISHOPVILLE – The Lee County Council is on the fast track to take action that will enable a local industry to expand its operation.

The Lee County Council is expected to give second reading to a fee in lieu agreement concerning Project Solution at a called meeting at 9:15 a.m. today at the Lee County Courthouse.

Biological Solutions, located at 310 Truman Road in the former Dorby Frocks building, is planning to expand its operation at its current facility.

Biological Solutions, owned by Benny and Amie Maresca, has been in operation in Bishopville for almost three years. The industry, which currently employs about 20 workers, manufactures safe cleaning products, food additives and flavoring products, according to Benny Maresca.

Maresca said the expansion will result in as many as 60 new jobs and will represent an investment of about $4 million.
“This has been a team effort,” Maresca said. “We have received great support from the county and the state. This expansion is going to take a lot of money in infrastructure, equipment and training. We will be able to invest in the expansion and not spend the money on taxes.”

Details of the fee in lieu agreement will be released at a public hearing scheduled at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 10 at the Lee County Courthouse, according to Lee County Economic Alliance Director Jeff Burgess.

Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins said the council is expected to give final approval to the agreement following the public hearing.

Burgess said the new jobs created by the expansion will provide salaries above the average county wage, which is $10.50 hour.

“They want to begin construction on the renovations during the first quarter,” Burgess said. “And they want to begin the hiring process soon. We are working to have a job fair in Bishopville for the industry. We want as many of the jobs to stay in Lee County as possible.”

Maresca said the company has established strong relationships with private and government businesses throughout the state.
“We want to attract government business,” he said.

The location of Biological Solutions in a depressed area with high unemployment works to the company’s favor, he said.
First reading approval of the Project Solution agreement was given by council at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

“This is something really important for the county, and we want to get this done as quickly as possible to allow Biological Solutions to begin work on the expansion,” Watkins said.

In May, Biological Solutions was recognized by the state for its performance in hiring people with disabilities. The company was named Small Employer of the Year by the South Carolina Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Watkins also announced the county is in the process of buying a facility located at the James Industrial Park, where it plans to relocate its EMS department.

Gibart named Ambassador for Economic Development

John Gibart was recently honored as an Ambassador for Economic Development by the Department of Commerce and legislative leaders as part of South Carolina’s 20th Annual Industry Appreciation Week.

The ceremony took place in Columbia on Tuesday, January 25 at the Statehouse and highlighted 47 individuals from 46 counties for their exceptional efforts to bolster community and economic development activities in South Carolina.

“Secretary Hitt and I have one very clear focus – to make our state the best and most competitive in the country for business development.

‘Can’t’isn’t an option for us. But we can’t do it alone. We need partners across South Carolina to grow the businesses we have, recruit new ones and help put our people back to work, and that’s what today is all about,” said Gov. Nikki Haley.

Gibart is a member of the Lee County Economic Development Alliance and has been integral in promoting Lee County. As a member of the Alliance board, he is a strong advocate for economic development. His experience as a small manufacturer enables him to provide valuable insight and perspective. Gibart oversaw the up-fit and renovation of the former National Guard Armory Building into the current home for Carolina Metal Finishing.

Since 2007, the fledgling company has grown, adding approximately 30 employees. More importantly, Carolina Metal Finishing’s parent company is currently exploring the possibility of purchasing an adjacent building for up-fit for a new production line and the addition of at least 20 jobs.

“Serving as examples of economic success, our state’s existing businesses are one of our most valuable economic development tools,” state House Speaker Bobby Harrell said. “These private sector leaders are at the frontlines of job creation and industry promotion for South Carolina and they do more for our economy than government can ever contribute.

Our Ambassadors for Economic Development serve as a true asset to our state and deserve real credit for their leadership.” “The health of our state’s economy hinges on the important contributions made by  business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout South Carolina. Whether it is bringing more capital investment and jobs to our state or supporting initiatives that bolster economic activities in communities, these ambassadors are committed to improving economic opportunities for all South Carolinians. We congratulate each Ambassador for Economic Development and thank them for their efforts,” said Bobby Hitt, Secretary of Commerce.

Each year the Department of Commerce joins local communities to thank businesses for their vital contributions to South Carolina’s economy. The Department of Commerce kicks off Industry Appreciation Week each year by recognizing individuals throughout South Carolina as Ambassadors for Economic Development. These individuals include local leaders from the private sector representing a variety of businesses and economic development organizations committed to securing new jobs and investment in their communities.

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.

Troy Santoscoy honored as Ambassador for Economic Development

Troy Santoscoy, plant manager at South Atlantic Canners, was recently honored as an Ambassador for Economic Development by the Department of Commerce and legislative leaders as part of South Carolina’s 19th Annual Industry Appreciation Week.

The ceremony took place in Colum bia on January 26 at the Statehouse and highlighted 48 individuals from 46 coun ties for their exceptional efforts to bolster community and economic development activities in South Carolina.

Gov. Mark Sanford said improving “our South Carolina’s business climate and developing a skilled workforce have been priorities for our administration, these efforts alone are not enough.”

Sanford said the help and efforts of community and business leaders in every corner of the state are critically important.

“We say thank you to these ambas sadors for economic development for their efforts to create jobs and economic opportunity in South Carolina, he said.

After working in Charlotte until 2004, Santoscoy came to Lee County to work with South Atlantic Canners Inc., the largest private sector employer in Lee County. He is now leading efforts to expand operations at the plant. A section of Cousar Street was recently closed to allow for the expansion of the company.

Santoscoy also supports his company’s civic involvement. South Atlantic is a major contributor to the Palmetto Pride campaign and actively assists in the organization and participation of Lee County Pride Day.

Santoscoy opens the plant to host a cookout and awards presentation for the participants following a litter pick-up.

Under his direction, the plant also participates in numerous philanthropic organizations, including the Adopt-a- Highway program, and plays an active role in supporting local schools, churches and community groups.

Santoscoy is also an active member of the Santee Lynches Workforce Invest ment Board, the Santee Lynches One Stop Youth Committee and the Lee County Chamber of Commerce.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said the state’s existing businesses are “one of our most valuable economic development tools. Job creation and industry promo tion begins on the ground level and is handled mostly in the private sector by these business leaders.”

Harrell thanked Santoscoy and all the Ambassadors for Economic Development for their “effective lead ership and for proving that our best resources lie not in the hands of government but reside in the private sector.”

Joe Taylor, Secretary of Commerce said small and large businesses have con tributed to South Carolina’s economy with investments, job creation and community involvement.

“This is a week to recognize the contributions of businesses and community leaders for their continued commitment to growing economic op portunity in South Carolina,” Taylor said. “These ambassa dors have dedicated their en ergy and gone the extra mile to enhance our communities and make South Carolina a better place to live and work. We congratulate each ambas sador and thank them for their efforts.”

Each year the Department of Commerce joins local communities to thanks businesses for their vital contributions to South Carolina’s economy.

The Department of Commerce kicks off Industry Appreciation Week each year by recognizing individuals throughout South Carolina as Ambassadors for Economic Development.

These individuals include local leaders from the private sector representing a variety of businesses and economic development organizations committed to securing new jobs and investment in their communities.

Ahlstrom Inc. employees and family members enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers during a Family Day and Employee Appreciation Day held Wednesday.

BISHOPVILLE — The Fourth of July has come a little early for the employees of Ahlstrom Inc., located in the Interstate 20 Industrial Park on Browntown Road.

A Family Day and Employee Appreciation Day was held Wednesday as the plant’s 100 employees and family members were treated to hamburgers and hot dogs and a tour of the facility.

Plant General Manager Wayne Merritt said the company had an employee appreciation day in 2008 and decided to expand the event in 2009.

As many as 500 people were expected to take part in the cookout and tour.

“We wanted son and daughter and in some cases mom and dad to see what we do here,” Merritt said.

At the Bishopville plant, Ahlstrom produces fabric for windmill blades. Despite the economic slowdown internationally, the demand for Ahlstrom’s product remains high, Merritt said.

“Because of the credit crunch, we had a slow down for a while,” he said. “But things are picking up. There’s a huge demand for alternative energy, and as the cost of fuel rises, the demand increases.”

Nemiah Tention said he appreciated the opportunity to see where his son — Leon Tention — works as a maintenance technician.

“My son’s got a good job,” he said. “I’m glad to get to come and see what he does.”

Leon Tention, a resident of Sumter County, has worked at Ahlstrom for 16 months and is responsible for making sure the machines and equipment are operational.

“This shows the company has an interest in our family,” he said. “And it’s good to meet the family of our co-workers.”

Ahlstrom opened its Bishopville facility in 2006. It is a global manufacturer of nonwoven materials, using natural and synthetic fibers for customers who turn them into hundreds of products.

Contact Staff Writer Randy Burns at or (803) 491-4533.

Bishopville Closer To A Deal With Carolina Metal

BISHOPVILLE – The Bishopville City Council is going forward with extending an option to a Bishopville industry interested in buying property owned by the city of Bishopville and Lee County.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council gave first reading to an ordinance that would extend an option to Carolina Metal Finishing Co. to purchase the building located behind the National Guard Armory. The Lee County Parks and Recreation Department is currently using the building for storage.

The council took the action following an executive session with Lee County Economic Alliance Executive Director Jeff Burgess.

Carolina Metal acquired the National Guard Armory from the city and county a couple of years ago and had an option to buy the building behind the armory. The option ends in November, and the company is asking for an extension of one year until November 2010, Burgess said

Carolina Metal Finishing Co., a subsidiary of Paramount Metal Finishing, currently employs 25 people in a powder metal coating operation at the old armory facility, Burgess said.

“They want to expand and put in another line,” Burgess said. “They are looking at the expansion for either the Bishopville facility or in New Jersey.”

The expansion would likely add 10 to 25 jobs to the Bishopville operation, Burgess said.

The council is expected to give second reading and final approval to the option extension at its next meeting.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, council held a budget workshop to discuss the needs for fiscal year 2009-2010. Council met with Street Superintendent Jerry Adams and Finance Director Suzette Robinson to discuss their department needs. At a workshop in April, the council met with Utilities Director Mike Deas to discuss needs in the water and sewer departments.

The purpose of the budget workshop meetings is to identify priority needs and to estimate expected revenue, Bishopville City Administrator Gregg McCutchen said.

“Everybody is trying to be very frugal about their budgets,” McCutchen said. “They are not coming in asking for the sky.”

The city council holds meetings or workshops at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month at the Colclough Building on East Council Street.

Coca-Cola Eager To Expand Its Facility

BISHOPVILLE – Coca-Cola officials say they want to go full steam ahead with plans to expand their shipping and warehouse facility in Bishopville.

Expansion plans were put on hold in September after the city notified South Atlantic Canners that it could not support closing a section of Cousar Street that officials said was a prerequisite for expansion.

Lee County Council has begun action that will enable it to petition the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court to close a section of Cousar Street located in front of the warehouse. Plant Manager Troy Santoscoy said corporate officials met Wednesday with a representative of county council and Lee County Director of Economic Alliance Jeff Burgess.

“Coke has agreed to write a letter to the county council asking it to go ahead with closing the road,” Santoscoy said. “This is good news.”

Burgess agreed Coke’s continued interest in expanding its facility in Bishopville is good news for the entire community.

“We want Coke to know we support them,” he said. “And they have let us know that they support our efforts in closing the road.”

More than 100 people packed the main courtroom of the Lee County Courthouse at the first public hearing, with most in attendance apparently in support of the road closure.

County officials have said they are taking the action because the city didn’t. City officials insist they do not have the resources to maintain the section of Cousar Street that will remain open after the road is closed.

County Council Chairman Charles Arthur Beasley said council will do whatever is necessary to support Coke in its plans to expand.

“This is coming at a time when most companies are considering cutting back,” he said. “You don’t have that many companies willing to expand. We have to take advantage of this and support Coca-Cola. They are the county’s largest industry.”

A second public hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the courthouse. Council has given the ordinance two readings, and a third reading could take place at Tuesday’s meeting, Beasley said.

“This is about more jobs, a better tax base and a better quality of life,” he said.