Mobile Communications extends reach to Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Mobile Communications America joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber on Tuesday for a ribbon cutting.

Michael Johnson, general manager, said Mobile Communications America acquired Myrtle Beach Communications on July 2.

“It was a natural fit,” Johnson said. “Mobile Communications just continues to grow. Our focus in Florence will be on video surveillance, in particular.”

Mobile Communications America is the largest service provider in the country for mobile two-way radios and public safety accounts. The company has 40 locations in the Southeast and provides a number of services, including equipment repair, engineering services, maintenance contracts, system management, FCC licensing and more.

The company handles commercial accounts and does video surveillance and warning sirens for school districts, governmental bodies and large commercial businesses, including factories and plants.

“I’m excited about the community,” Johnson said. “As large as they are, Mobile Comm still gets community. They want to be a part of the areas they are in and look for places where they can get involved.”

Johnson said he was excited to extend to the Florence market. He said school districts, new construction sites and major plants are the company’s core customers. Mobile Communications focuses on commercial business.

“The big change for us is the resources,” Johnson said. “We have engineers on staff and the transition has been good for us. We think chambers of commerce are important to the community and with us coming to Florence, we felt it was important to join the chamber.”

Event showcases new Staybridge Suites hotel in Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. – Hundreds of business and community leaders gathered at Staybridge Suites on Thursday to celebrate the hotel’s grand opening in conjunction with a Business After Hours event.

Staybridge Suites, at 150 Westpark Drive near the Florence Center, opened about two month ago.

Robin Osborne, general manager of Staybridge Suites, said she was excited to show off the new property to the Florence community.

“It’s exciting,” Osborne said. “We’ve been here for two months, so we’ve gotten to see how beautiful it is, but we just wanted to have the opportunity to show Florence. Although, we don’t book a lot of room for locals, we have the meeting and banquet space that will interest locals in the community. We’ve got Christmas parties coming up and we’ve already booked some weddings and receptions.”

The hotel is owned and managed by Raldex Hospitality under a license agreement with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). IHG franchises, leases, manages or owns nearly 5,400 hotels and 800,000 guest rooms in almost 100 countries.

Raldex Hospitality owns and operates Holiday Inn Express, Hilton Garden Inn and two Hampton Inn & Suites in Florence.

Osborne said Staybridge Suites is Raldex’s first “extended-stay brand hotel.”

“It’s a whole different market that we’ve never been a part of,” Osborne said. “There are corporate travelers that have stayed a couple of weeks, a month, two months. We have got somebody staying here now for four months. They become like family to us. It really is more of a family atmosphere than your normal hotel.”

The new property has 112 rooms, which include a mix of deluxe studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom/two-bathroom suites with communal living spaces. Guests will be able to enjoy kitchens with a full-size refrigerator, microwave oven, cooktop and a dishwasher.

The hotel offers several amenities, including a daily hot breakfast buffet; a den for socializing, playing board games or reading; an outdoor pavilion that includes two custom-built infra-red grills; and evening receptions four nights a week with wine, beer and customized entrees.

Additional conveniences include internet, a zero-entry outdoor saline pool, complimentary guest laundry room, guest storage room, a 24-hour business center, a fully equipped fitness center and a 2,600-square-foot meeting space with a capacity for 225 people, making it the largest hotel ballroom in Florence.

Carolina Business Equipment joins Florence Chamber, cuts ribbon

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Carolina Business Equipment joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to celebrate the company’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

Carolina Business Equipment, at 1800 Second Loop Road, Suite 12, is an information technology provider that was established in 1975 in Columbia. Since then, the company has expanded to a multi-state, multi-office factory sales, support, service and training center.

Jim Buck, general manager of the Florence office, said the company has been serving Florence for more than 17 years.

“We’re an in-state provider,” Buck said. “We cover multiple lines, so it depends on what you’re looking for. We’re large enough that our buying power allows us to be extremely competitive. What I love to tell people is to look at what you’re paying now. If you feel like it’s too much, we’d love for you to contact us and give us a chance to look at what we can do for you.”

The company offers many services, including security and monitoring; on-site and remote support; network installation, support and design; hosted cloud offerings; backup and disaster relief; help desk; planning and auditing; and more.

Buck said joining the chamber was a way for the company to continue its growth and network with other businesses. He said the company originally had its main office in Columbia, but it decided to expand and add a Florence office to focus on the market in the Pee Dee.

“We decided that we had grown so much, actually we had grown so much in the state, that we wanted to have brick and mortar in Florence,” Buck said. “Joining the chamber was just the logical next step. We had been with the chamber before and they do a great job.”

Carolina Business Equipment can service and install IT equipment — such as servers, PCs, networking and firewalls — and desktop printing.

Mortgage finance company celebrates in new quarters in Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Pee Dee Branch of Finance of America Mortgage joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the company’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

Gregory O’Connor founded the local branch of Finance of America Mortgage with the goal of providing the best mortgage loan experience to customers in the community more than five years ago.

The company started out in the Gould Business Incubator, where it stayed for five years, before transitioning to its new office space at 2182 W. Evans St.

“It’s been amazing,” O’Connor said. “The incubator was a great place to be ‘incubated.’ Now, we are in a central location where we have good visibility and I think that does make a difference to any business, including ours.

The branch moved into the new space in June and O’Connor said he has enjoyed having the exposure of being in the center of Florence.

“It’s been great,” O’Connor said. “No complaints whatsoever. We’re physically located in the center of town.”

O’Connor said joining the chamber was one of the best ways for his business to get involved in the community.

“Being a part of the chamber means that we’re a part of a bond with the community,” O’Connor said. “The ribbon cutting ceremony is really bonding business to the community and I really want to be a part of the community.”

O’Connor said Finance of America Mortgage is successful because it focuses on just doing home loans.

“In a world of ‘go the internet and google something,’ we have that, but for first-time homebuyers and people that want a little extra help, that’s what we do best,” O’Connor said. “We really focus on hand-holding and educating the customer so that they are 100 percent comfortable with the entire process.”

Junior Leadership Florence County students visit Lake City

Contributed Photos

On Oct. 23, the Junior Leadership Florence County class enjoyed a fabulous fall day in Lake City learning all about our history and growing our appreciation for the arts. Thanks to ARTFIELDS, Moore Farms Botanical Garden, Ron McNair Life History Center and The Bean Market for hosting. JLFC is a program modeled after the Florence Chamber’s Leadership Florence program, and is designed for public and private high school sophomores and juniors. It enables students to be able to develop leadership skills while also increasing their awareness of the community.

Junior Leadership Florence County consists of an opening retreat, followed by eight monthly sessions and seeks to provide an investment in the community’s future leadership by fostering interest in the county and inspiring students to become the leaders of tomorrow. This program is a joint effort between Florence County 4-H, The Greater Florence Chamber and Francis Marion University with support from local businesses.



Clayton Homes, Vivid Network Solutions win People’s Choice awards at chamber cook-off

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – Clayton Homes and Vivid Network Solutions are the winners of the People’s Choice awards at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Kickin’ Chicken Wings and Chili Cook-off.

The event was held Friday night in downtown Florence.

Clayton Homes won the wing competition.

Vivid Network Solutions won the chili competition.

People who attended the event cast their votes at

In the wings competition, the judges gave the first-place award to University of BBQ. Performance Food Services IFH and Clayton Homes finished second and third, respectively.

In the chili competition, the judges gave the first-place award to Nucor Vulcroft’s Steel Smokin’ team. Duke Energy finished second.

The Nucor Vulcroft team donated its prize money to the family of Florence police Sgt. Terrence Carraway, who was killed on Oct. 3 in the line of duty.

Kickin’ Chicken event draws people to downtown Florence for food, music

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – South Dargan Street was filled with the smells of chicken and chili Friday evening.

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Kickin’ Chicken and Chili Festival was held in the 100 block of South Dargan Street from 5 to 9 p.m. The festival drew residents from Florence and even tourists from Indiana to downtown Florence.

Jim and Kelly Lee were one couple attending the festival, which included music from the band Sideswiped.

Jim said they came because the weather was nice and the festival gave them something to do. Kelly said she had received an email alerting her to the event.

“The organization of the event was very good,” Kelly said.

The festival features a chicken wing cook-off and a chili cook-off. The winners determined by a panel of judges were University of BBQ in the wings cook-off and Nucor Vulcraft in the chili cook-off. People’s choice winners will be announced today.

Jim said his favorite wings were those from Performance Food Service, which finished second.

Dennis and Danielle Hoskins were visiting from Indianapolis and received information about the festival on their phones and decided to attend. They hadn’t eaten yet but were excited to walk around to the various booths set up along Dargan Street.

The chicken wings and the opportunity to have something to do on a Friday night also drew Tawala Milling, Lisa Tention, and Debra Hill to the festival.

Florence firm offers ‘creative way’ to meet companies’ needs

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — K. Hope Creative joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the organization’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

K. Hope Creative is a boutique consulting firm specializing in brand development, marketing and public relations.

Kim Bowman, president and CEO of K. Hope, said she began the firm about a year ago after a successful career in marketing and business development.

“I find a creative way to get where we need to go,” Bowman said. “If a client has a problem with sales, visibility, brand development or whatever it is, we’re going to find a creative way to do just that. I love working with people who need somebody to come in, or an outside objective look, to solve problems through that creative touch and approach.”

Bowman most recently served as the CEO of the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics Foundation, where she was responsible for strategic direction, marketing, fundraising, outreach, and recruiting.

She has also held marketing and leadership roles with EdVenture Children’s Museum, Lake Murray Magazine, University of South Carolina, Policy Management Systems Corporation, and AT&T.

K. Hope works with several organizations, including business, education, lifestyle and nonprofit groups. The firm offers marketing, strategy, brand development, public relations, community relations, business development, project management and execution fundraising, campaigns and content, help with new ventures and events, and more.

“I don’t think ‘important’ is a powerful enough word,” Bowman said about the importance of business marketing. “If you can’t get your message out effectively, you’re not in business. It’s something that is done differently with every single different organization.”

For more information or to contact K. Hope Creative, visit or contact it at 803-240-6642 or by email

Leadership Florence participates in October session

The Leadership Florence journey continues, as the class had their October session on Oct. 9, Visual Arts and Media Day.

The 38 member class of 2018-2019 visited Adam’s Outdoor, iHeart Media, Morning News, FMU PAC, Florence Museum and Florence Little Theater.


Florence Chamber hosts annual golf tournament

The Greater Florence Chamber held their annual Fall Golf Classic at Traces Golf Club last Thursday, Oct. 4. The event was sponsored by Raldex Hospitality.

Local community leaders and business friends joined together as more than 100 players enjoyed great food and beverages during a great day on the links. Lunch was served at 11:00 a.m. and golfers hit the tees at 12:10 p.m. Everyone appreciated a course full of food and various hospitality hole vendors.

The first-place winning team was Cradles to Crayons with players Shane Grainger, Joel Oliver, Rick Reed and Bree Kullenburg. The second-place team was HopeHealth made up of Clay Oliver, David Ellis, Jamie Stanley and Noah Mims. Closest to the pin winners were Lisa Lee, Andy Haigler, Tim Bell and Trey Brown. Longest drive was Keith Young.