Zach Hearne, of Signature Wealth Strategies, Chamber Ambassador of the Year

Zach Hearne, of Signature Wealth Strategies, was recognized as Chamber Ambassador of the Year during the Chambers Annual State of the City and County Luncheon held at the Florence Center.

Golden scissors cut ribbon for Florence’s new courthouse

By: Matthew Christian, Morning News

FLORENCE— With the snip of a few pairs of golden scissors, the new Florence County Judicial Center was officially opened a few minutes after 11 a.m. Friday.

State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, 12th Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles, County Councilman James Schofield and Master-in-Equity Haigh Porter spoke in a brief ceremony. Then Council Chairman Kent Caudle called city, county and state officials to the top step outside the entrance and counted down to the ribbon cutting.

“The citizens of Florence County now have a courthouse they can be proud of,” Leatherman said during his speech. “I see great nothing but great things for this county.”

The new building is on Irby Street, across from the Florence County Complex. It opened March 5 after county officials and workers moved in.

The idea for a new judicial center for Florence County was originally Judge Ralph King Anderson’s, according to Porter. Porter added that the new facility is the fourth courthouse in Florence County. The original building was built during the 1890s. That building was replaced during the 1930s, and facility currently in use opened in the 1960s.

The facility built during the 1930s had a major flaw: no air conditioning, which is not a good thing in the oppressive heat and humidity of South Carolina summers.

“They used to just throw the windows in the courtroom open in the summer,” said Porter, who worked as a young lawyer in the facility. “When a big truck went by you had to wait your turn to speak again.”

The facility built during the 1960s had air conditioning but was still not adequate so, Anderson’s idea was eventually embraced by Schofield and current County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith.

“[Schofield] was like a bulldog with a bone,” Council Chairman Kent Caudle said as he introduced Schofield at the ceremony. “He wasn’t going to stop until the job was done. Well, now it’s done.”

Leatherman and Nettles also noted Schofield’s dedication to opening the facility.

Nettles added that he felt the facility represented Florence County’s continued commitment to the rule of law, the idea that laws, not arbitrary decisions, should govern society.

Also given credit during the speeches were designers Stevens and Wilkinson, Goforth and Brown, and Justice Planning Associates, contractor BE&K Building Group, the Judicial Facility Advisory Group of Schofield, Nettles, former Clerk of Court Connie Reel-Shearin, Sheriff Kenny Boone and Suzanne King. Doris O’Hara, the current clerk of court, and Connie Haselden, clerk to the County Council, were also thanked.

The colors were presented by the Wilson High School Air Force JROTC and Jerrod Deas, director of music at Wilson, played the national anthem on his saxophone during the ceremony.

SCNow Web Article – Golden scissors cut ribbon for Florence’s new courthouse

Florence company planning April treasure hunt

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — R. Skelton Enterprise joined Ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to hold a ribbon cutting.

R. Skelton Enterprise is owned by Bob Skelton and oversees several business endeavors.

The next endeavor for the company, Skelton said, will be the Discover Florence Treasure Hunt.

“We wanted it to be something that had more value than just an event,” Skelton said. “We wanted to integrate something that would bring families together and create an experience here in the Florence area. It’s an event where people can turn their TVs off, go have dinner and go on a treasure hunt.”

Skelton said the event, which is scheduled to begin in April, will take treasure hunters on a journey around town to find clues.

Each month, 15 to 20 clues will be posted on the Discover Florence Treasure Hunt website. Skelton said residents must go to the business or historical landmark where a clue can be found, complete a task, and take a picture to document their experience.

Those who complete the monthly tasks will be entered to win $1,000. The 12 monthly winners will then compete for a grand prize of $10,000 next year.

Skelton said joining the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce was very important to get the local businesses involved.

“This is a perfect fit for the Chamber of Commerce,” Skelton said. “We feel like we can bring excitement to the business community and create a great experience to make a difference to our city and give back in an appreciative way.”

Skelton said the event is about bringing the Florence community together.

“It seems that everything is pulling our country apart,” Skelton said. “What we want to do is to bring our city together and unify the citizens. Something like this is just fun and it’s a great opportunity for us to grow closer together.”

Registration is limited to 500 applicants and Skelton said 300 have already registered. For more information, visit

SCNow Web Article – Florence company planning April treasure hunt

SCDOT awarded PDRTA with 2018 Transit Provider of the Year Award

Congratulations to our Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority team.

At the annual Transportation Association of South Carolina Conference last week, SCDOT awarded the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority with the 2018 Transit Provider of the Year Award for outstanding transit services to the general public. PDRTA was recognized in part for their compliance with financial reporting and ability to introduce new cost effective services. PDRTA Executive Director Chuck MacNeil accepted the award and offered praise and thanks to many involved in the recognition. “This award has been earned by our Board, our hard working employees, and community leaders throughout the Pee Dee who have supported our efforts to provide safe and cost effective public transportation service for our citizens. We are truly honored “, he said.

PDRTA Bus Driver Albert McClain won the SCDOT award for “2018 Operator of the Year” in the Demand Response category. The State Bus “Roadeo” competition on March 17 in Myrtle Beach was part of the conference when bus operators from around South Carolina competed on a skills course to demonstrate their abilities. Ms. Sandra Cokley from PDRTA came in third place out of 29 contestants in the small “cut-away” bus division.

Florence Chamber hosts diversity summit

By: Tonya Brown, WPDE

More than 60 people took part in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 “Building Bridges Diversity Summit” Monday at the Floyd Conference Center on the campus of Carolinas Hospital.

This year’s event featured a day-long group experience on racial and cultural diversity and competence.

The keynote speaker was President of Claflin University Dr. Henry N. Tisdale.

Panelists included Toyinda Smith with Leadership Strategy and Consulting, LLC, Octavia Williams-Blake with McLeod Health and Florence City Council, Dr. Erica James with Francis Marion University, Doris Lockhart with AccuStaff and Michele Pridgen with Honda of South Carolina Mfg., Inc.

The topics of discussion included racial and cultural sensitivity issues and women in the workplace.

Dr. Tisdale also talked about the impact of inclusive leadership in the business community across the state of South Carolina.

Chamber officials said “Building Bridges” serves as the premier diversity and inclusion program in the Pee Dee region and allowed for more in-depth discussions focused in a one-day event, rather than a multi-week program as in years’ past.

“With practical solutions that we are offering in this training, we feel very confident that this will go a long way in actual practical use,” said Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Director, Community and Minority Enterprise Les Echols.

WPDE Web Article – Florence Chamber hosts diversity summit

City leaders plan new entertainment venue in Florence

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Florence city officials recently revealed potential redevelopment plans for the old Carolina Theatre in Florence as the city continues to revamp its downtown scene.

The last time the 750-seat facility on South Dargan Street was used as a theatre was in the 1970s. After that, the building was used for church services until the 1980s.

Ray Reich, director of downtown development, said financing the renovations has been the setback.

“It’s always been that people have wonderful ideas, but being able to go out and be able to do a project that was, you know, one-and-a-half to $2 million is always a stumbling block,” Reich said.

Those renovations include doing away with the theatre and turning it into a multi-purpose event facility, something Reich said the city has been trying to do for several years.

After sending out proposals to developers across the country, the city has finally found their perfect match.

Reich said he can’t say who the developers are until plans are finalized. However, he revealed the company wants to redevelop the theatre to be primarily used for concerts. It will also have a bar and even add on the abandoned pharmacy next door for extra space.

“That’s really critical to downtown revitalization because you got to look at the future of downtown and that is our people that are in their 20s and 30s today,” Reich said.

Now, with the potential developer, Reich hopes reviving the old theatre will add more nighttime vibrancy to the downtown scene.

“We think it’s exciting and will bring some additional vitality to what goes on downtown,” Reich said. “When you add an entertainment like this that takes it up to the next level, so we think that’s a real important thing.”

Reich said he expects to know whether the company will finalize their plans within the next three to six months. He added he’s been speaking with a few outside developers on additional apartment complexes and hopes to announce a new apartment project in a few months.

SCNow Web Article – City leaders plan new entertainment venue in Florence

Same business, new brand for Florence family

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Martin’s Lawn Care & Landscaping Irrigation is rebranding after many years of service in the Pee Dee.

On Monday, the business joined the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and held a ribbon cutting to celebrate its decision.

Derrick Martin, owner of Martin’s Lawn care & Landscaping, said joining the chamber was an important move for the business.

“Since we’ve been in business, we’ve pretty much gone by word of mouth,” Martin said. “Joining the chamber gives us a chance to network and kind of rebrand. I have six kids altogether and some of them may be taking over the business and I want to put them in the very best position as possible.”

Martin’s Lawn care & Landscaping has been in business since 1993. Prior to opening the business, Martin graduated from South Florence High School in 1988 and then served three and a half years in the U.S. Army.

“I’m actually a second-generation landscaper,” Martin said. “I learned everything I know from my dad and I hope to pass that down to my kids.”

Martin said he looks at his business as a chance to bond with his family.

“My son and my daughters help me in the summer time and with different projects,” Martin said. “That’s why I’m trying to build it up so people will recognize it. The goal is to make it one more generation.”

Martin’s Lawn care & Landscaping offers a full range of landscaping design, construction, irrigation design and installation, and maintenance.

Martin said the business does lawn care, landscaping, irrigation, drainage, tree work, pressure washing, hedge trims, and other services.

“Our slogan is ‘we do it all,’” Martin said. “Anything you can think of, we offer.”

For more information, contact Martin’s Lawn care & Landscaping at 843-409-1683 or at The business also has a website at

“My dad always told me if you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all,” Martin said. “Everything we do, we try to make sure the customer is 100 percent satisfied when we leave. I make sure that I’m involved in all the business operations and we put our best foot forward in everything that we do.”

SCNow Web Article – Same business, new brand for Florence family

Pacing for Pieces draws more than 500 to Florence streets

FLORENCE, S.C. — More than 500 participants hit the streets Saturday morning to raise money for All 4 Autism in the a Pacing for Pieces 5K Run/Walk and Half Marathon.

The largest of Florence’s annual races, it is the only fundraiser for the Pee Dee’s only autism resource center, said Amy Pennington, outreach coordinator for All 4 Autism and race director of Pacing for Pieces.

“This is the only fundraiser for us. We wanted to put all our effort into one so that we could pay more attention to this one and keep it simple,” Pennington said.

Saturday’s half marathon started across from the organization’s offices at 183 S. Coit St. and the course included neighborhoods between Evans and Palmetto streets as well as between Evans and Darlington streets.

The 5K course looped around King and Gregg avenues and both races ended downtown with the Piece Jam festival.

“We would love to surpass 500 participants and raise awareness for everyone about autism and raise more funds,” Pennington said.

To have the city’s largest race after six years is a great thing, Pennington said.

“It feels wonderful, makes me feel loved and that we can do anything to make a difference here in Florence,” she said.

The center serves as a resource for families with an autistic member.

“Families come to us and we walk them through step by step for their individual who has ASD,” Pennington said.

Brittni Branton, her son, Dylan, and her daughter, Gracey, use the services offered by the center.

“She goes to the sibling support group and he went to summer camp this year for the first time,” she said as Dylan, 7, sat in a stroller ahead of the start of the 5K — the family’s fourth Pacing for Pieces race. “He had a lot of fun. He went dancing, he had snow cones and crabs.”

The services offered for Dylan, who attends St. John’s Elementary in Darlington, and the family are invaluable, she said.

“The support you get from the marriage classes to the different resources that you don’t know are out there to the sibling support group. It’s just really beneficial for her to talk to other siblings who can relate to her,” Branton said.

Saturday’s overall half marathon was won by Matthew Ferguson with a time of 1:26:57 while Steffen Husum won the 5K with a time of 18:50.

 SCNow Web Article – Pacing for Pieces draws more than 500 to Florence streets

Interstate 95 Pee Dee River bridge work expected to end six-days ahead of schedule

FLORENCE, S.C. — Traffic should flow freely in both lanes of Interstate 95 north bound through northern Florence County starting Saturday afternoon.

One lane over the Great Pee Dee River north-bound has been closed since Jan. 9 while crews work to rehabilitate the bridge deck and that has, at times, backed traffic up past the SC 327 exit.

That construction project is projected to be completed Saturday afternoon — six days ahead of schedule, according to a release issued by the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

“SCDOT wishes to thank motorists for their patience during this rehabilitation project,” spokesman Robert Kudelka wrote in the release.

2018 Outlook Luncheon set for March 20th in Florence

FLORENCE, S.C. – Business leaders can hear all about the state of the city of Florence and Florence County at noon on Tuesday, March 20.

That’s when the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce will hold its 2018 Outlook Luncheon at the Florence Center.

A crowd of 500-plus people is expected.

Florence County Council Chairman Kent Caudle will speak about growth in the county.

Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela will discuss the ongoing progress in the city.

The 2018 Small Business Person of the Year will be recognized by Dedicated Community Bank. “This is a great opportunity to hear our local leaders talk about accomplishments on improving our quality of life and what is on the horizon that will foster continued growth in our region of South Carolina,” Chamber President Michael Miller said.

Ticket are $30 for chamber members and $40 for nonmembers.

Register at or by calling 843-665-0515.

SCNow Web Article – 2018 Outlook Luncheon set for March 20th in Florence