An electricity provider is gearing up to invest at least $22 million in solar energy

An electricity provider is gearing up to invest at least $22 million in solar energy to meet electric needs in Florence County.

According to county documents, the company is considering 17 different projects that include conversion of solar electricity at a site in Florence County. A tax agreement was introduced by Florence County Council on Thursday for the group of investments, collectively known as “Project Fig.”

Sources familiar with the project told the Morning News the company behind this project is Duke Energy. Officials with Duke Energy declined to comment on the project.

The county’s resolution lists nine of the projects included in Project Fig, all under code name. Each of these projects holds an investment on no less than $2.5 million, according to the document.

The projects listed are Projects Bani, Bass, Blacktip, Goldenrod, McCormick, Rutledge, Sapphire, South and Willis.

Other council business

County council members also unanimously approved tax incentives for “Project Veg 3,” which is actually a $35 million expansion of McCall Farms. This project will create 150 new jobs.

The council unanimously finalized a measure that will refinance debt on an existing facility and use that refinanced bond to build a parking garage adjacent to the county complex on Irby Street.

According to county documents, the bond amount may ultimately be less than $12 million “depending if and how much of” penny sales tax dollars are used – but will not surpass $15 million.

Officials said construction on a parking facility could begin in the early months of 2018.

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Sharonview Federal Credit Union celebrates office relocation in Florence

By: Jessica Imbimbo, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – Sharonview Federal Credit Union held a ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon to celebrate the relocation of its Florence branch to 1921 W. Palmetto St.

Ambassadors with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce held the ribbon cutting and congratulated Sharonview executives and employees on their grand opening. The branch also held its “Cocktail & Conversations” event at 3:45 p.m. just before the ribbon cutting. Attendees mingled with Sharonview staff while enjoying light refreshments.

Sharonview Federal Credit Union is a full-service financial institution that offers a variety of services from banking to loan education and financial planning. The branch has been serving the Florence community since the 1970s and Bill Partin, president and CEO, said the company is thrilled to be opening the new branch.

“Achieving an enhanced member experience holds great value to Sharonview, and this new location will bring current members and new members the resources they need to meet their financial goals,” Partin said.

Alger Holloman, Florence branch manager, said the new location with allow for even more growth within the “Sharonview family.”

“Our team in Florence looks forward to building new and maintaining current relationships with our members in the area,” Holloman said.

Members of Sharonview Federal Credit Union have a say in credit union procedures because members are owners. Because it is a community charter branch, anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Florence County can become a member. To learn more about membership, call 800-462-4421.

The Florence hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit sharonview.org.

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WestRock to upgrade Florence County operations with a $470 million total Investment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – WestRock Company, a leading provider of differentiated paper and packaging solutions, announced today a planned investment in its Florence County kraft linerboard mill. This new investment will increase the mill’s efficiency, quality and service levels.

Taking place over the next two years, a $410 million investment will include installing a 330” state-of-the-art kraft linerboard machine and related infrastructure that will replace three older, narrow-width paper machines. The company expects the new machine to produce 710,000 tons of kraft linerboard annually. In addition, the company plans to invest approximately $60 million over the next five years to support the new machine and other mill projects.

When coupled with the recently-completed modern woodyard, the Florence mill will become one of the lowest cost kraft linerboard mills in North America.

The new linerboard machine will be housed in a building adjacent to the existing complex, and the company expects production on the new equipment, along with the shutdown of the three existing machines to occur in the first half of 2020.

Annual Membership Luncheon Recap

More than 500 community leaders attended The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Annual Membership Luncheon held at the Florence Civic Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. This year’s keynote speaker was Lynn Good, president, chairman and CEO of Duke Energy. The 2017 Business Person of the Year award was presented to Frank M. “Buzz” Rogers IV of WebsterRogers, LLP.. Congrats to “Buzz”.

Thrift shop holds ribbon cutting at new location in Florence

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence County Disabilities Foundation’s Pee Dee Thrift Shop held a ribbon cutting Tuesday morning to celebrate the opening of its new location at 1524 S. Irby St. in Florence.

Ambassadors with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce joined foundation board members and executives as well as local customers for the ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. The thrift shop moved to the new location from 1723 S. Irby St.

The public was invited to the ribbon cutting as well as to the shop’s grand opening set for Friday. During the grand opening, customers can look forward to special deals and sales throughout the day to help get a head start on holiday shopping.

The foundation operates other thrift shops in Scranton, Lake City and Johnsonville as well as a second location at 1650 E. Palmetto St. in Florence. The stores are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Florence County Disabilities Foundation was established to provide funding for the Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs Board. The foundation seeks support from sources such as corporate donations, fundraising activities and grants, as well as volunteer assistance for the agency. For more information, call 843-662-4021 or visit fcdfoundation.org.

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Florence Civic Center unveils new name, branding design

By: Joshua Lloyd, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – The 2018 season at the Florence Civic Center will be one for the books.

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the center’s opening, as well as the grand opening of the $16 million expansion that’s under construction and set to be complete by this year’s end.

Amid this forward progress, a new branding campaign was born, and officials revealed Tuesday what that entails. Starting in January, the facility will be called the “Florence Center,” and a new logo and color scheme will reflect that. The new slogan is “We’re at the Center of what’s happening.”

The new brand incorporates a “rivers, rail and roads” theme, to capture what makes this area special.

“This component is true to us, and we wanted to make sure what we’re promising is authentic to who we are,” said Barry Townsend, who designed the logo. “You have to make a promise you can keep. This idea of rivers, rails and roads is true to us and carries out authenticity.”

Becky Davenport – founder of Strategiz, a marketing company involved in the rebranding – said the goal with this rebrand was to get to the core of what the center is doing where it realistically wants to be: at the center.

“The mission the team developed is to deliver a unique experience that meets the diverse needs of our clients and creates an economic impact for our community,” she said. “Looking forward, the goal is to be truly be a destination for local, regional, national and even international events.”

Holly Beaumier, executive director of the Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this expansion and rebranding will usher in a new, transformative era for Florence.

“There’s this connectivity that’s being carried out in the design and brand, but it’s also carried over to the team,” she said. “It’s very exciting to see this connectivity with this team and the community. We have the same goals of creating an impact through events, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

The forthcoming expansion will add 28,000 square feet to the center, which includes 8,000 square feet of subdividable space, 5,000 square feet of new kitchen space and 12,000 square feet of lobby and meeting room space. There will also be an additional outdoor pavilion and sitting area.

The grand opening tentatively is scheduled in mid-January.

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McCall Farms acquires Sage Creek Vegetable Company brands

EFFINGHAM, S.C. — McCall Farms announced in September they are acquiring the brands of Sager Creek Vegetable Company, a division of San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods, Inc.

The acquired retail and food service brands have national and regional distribution and include well-known names like Allens, Veg-all, Popeye, Princella, Freshlike and Trappey’s.

Woody Swink, co-president at McCall Farms, said the Sage Creek Vegetable brands “fit perfectly with our heritage of making authentic, southern-style vegetables that can be served as a meal, side-dish or, used as a key cooking ingredient.”

“The opportunity we have to expand the branded products we offer is made possible thanks to our employees,” Swink said. “They are truly dedicated and passionate about McCall Farms being known as the preferred supplier for the highest quality vegetables available in retail and food service.”

McCall Farms is one of America’s leading producers of farm-fresh canned vegetables and fruits. Established in 1838, McCall Farms employs over 1,000 people in its 1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility and corporate offices in Effingham.  The family-owned-and-operated company produces a wide variety of high-quality, Southern-style products under four nationally distributed brands in retail and food service: Glory Foods, Margaret Holmes, Peanut Patch and Bruce’s Yams.

For more information on McCall Farms, visit mccallfarms.com

Immuno Tek Bio Centers to open facility in Florence

By: Jessica Imbimbo, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – ImmunoTek Bio Centers is set to open its latest plasma donation center on Wednesday at 1933 2nd Loop Road in Florence.

Established in 2014, ImmunoTek Bio Centers is a biotech company that collects and procures human blood plasma to create life-saving medicines. The Florence location is one of around 15 ImmunoTek centers in the U.S. and the first center in the Pee Dee, with others in Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

The Florence facility took approximately eight months and more than $2 million to create, according to ImmunoTek president, CEO and co-founder Jerome Parnell III. Parnell said the company opened a center in the Grand Strand a couple of years ago and as it was scouting the area, Parnell saw opportunity in Florence.

“The demand for plasma is exponentially growing. Plasma centers are going to be popping up in smaller cities so to speak like Florence,” Parnell said. “I really like Florence as a town; we’re very happy to be there.”

ImmunoTek Bio Centers gives residents an opportunity to donate plasma, a golden-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after removing the red and white blood cells and platelets. Plasma makes up approximately 55 percent of the volume of blood.

Residents can qualify to donate their plasma at ImmunoTek by passing an FDA-required medical screening. The donor must also be at least 18 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and have valid identification, a Social Security card and proof of a permanent address. The whole process takes approximately two hours to complete.

Donors are also compensated for their time based on the number of times they have donated. First-time donors at ImmunoTek receive $50 for their first and second donations. Return donors will receive $20 for their first donation and $40 for their second. A person can donate plasma up to two times every seven days.

“It’s a very controlled process and one of the most highly regulated industries in the world next to nuclear power,” Parnell said. “It’s very safe and it impacts a global reach.”

 Once donated, the proteins and clotting factors contained within the plasma can be used to create medications to treat certain conditions such as hemophilia or immune system deficiencies. The Florence location is expected to hire approximately 60 employees and disburse around $2 million annually to the local community, according to Parnell.

“We’re happy to be doing business in South Carolina,” Parnell said. “There are sick patients in need of plasma globally and this is a way for local folks to participate in meeting that demand.”

For more information about ImmunoTek Bio Centers, visit immunotek.com or call the Florence center at 843-773-6305.

Pecan Festival offered something for everyone

By: Rebecca Cross, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – An estimated 50,000 people flooded downtown Florence on Saturday to enjoy food, games, music, fellowship and vendors at the 14th annual Pecan Festival.

The festival spread through nine square blocks of downtown Florence, and attendees said that everywhere they turned there was something new to see, hear and do.

“It’s all-around fun and a family atmosphere,” said Lasheena Douglas. “Everyone can take something out of it.”

Douglas is a regular attendee at the Pecan Festival.

“It’s positive to see a variety of people come together, sharing fun and experiencing different activities and foods,” Douglas said.

For Kathy Ham, sharing her culinary talent has consistently drawn her out to the festival. This was her 14th year participating in the cooking competition, and she won three awards for her pecan dishes, including the overall award from Duke’s Mayonnaise.

“I take this contest very seriously, and I try to choose unique recipes with great presentations,” Ham said. “I very much appreciate the people who sponsor this contest and am grateful for the work they do.”

Duke’s Mayonnaise sponsored the cooking competition as it concluded a 100th anniversary tour at the Pecan Festival.

Musicians and dancers performed on stages throughout downtown, offering attendees a constant stream of entertainment. Beach music, jazz, blues, country and gospel were just some of the music genres represented at the festival.

Young performers gained confidence as they shared their talents with a large crowd. While Trinity Stewart has performed at other festivals with Extreme Cheer and Tumble, this was the teen’s first time taking the stage at the Pecan Festival.

“It’s enjoyable to see everyone’s reactions,” Stewart said. “All the little kids adore you.”

Visiting vendors joined with local vendors to offer more than 250 food and craft booths.

For Julia Hill-Montgomery, the dedicated attendees always make it worth the trip from Easley to sell her handmade soaps and crocheted items at the Pecan Festival.

“I love the crowds,” Hill-Montgomery said. “They come out rain or shine. I didn’t know Florence had so much to do.”

Smiles were wide as children played games, bounced on inflatables, carried balloon creations and met super heroes in the Kids Fun Zone. Activities were at no expense to parents’ pockets, another feature that Lasheena Douglas said keeps her coming back to the festival and bringing her daughter.

A new STEM Zone was adjacent to the Kids Fun Zone, offering more free activities from leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.

Jim Frederick, a professor at Clemson University, oversaw the construction and flight of paper airplanes. Through Clemson’s “Nature of Flight”-themed activities, Frederick said leaders wanted to engage students in intellectual conversations.

“It challenges them to see the science and math behind these fun challenges,” Frederick said.

The Pecan Festival has been held on the first Saturday of November each year since its inception in 2003.

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