TEDx offers new viewpoints at Florence event

By: Shamira McCray

FLORENCE, S.C. – TEDx Evans Street producer Darian Bethea said events such as the one held Thursday are important because it gets people out of their personal bubble and viewpoint and gives them a look through the eyes of others.

Eight performers and speakers presented at TEDx Evans Street on Thursday. The event was held at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology. Topics ranged from jazz music and fake news to cultural mindset and health care.

“You have doctors, you have students,” Bethea said. “Like today, we had bluegrass people and we had cloggers. We had (a) jazz band. All of these people sharing one stage, where in another arena, you might not get all these people in the same building on the same stage.”

Wilson High School student Rebecca Liu spoke Thursday about cultural mindset learning. She said in today’s society, everything is black and white and everyone must choose a side.

“You have to be for this political party or that political party,” Liu said. “Or you have to identify as belonging to one culture or another. There is no gray area. But what if we could compromise? What if we could take the best of both sides rather than having to choose?” Liu was born and raised in Florence. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan.

In America, Liu said, she is seen as Asian. But when she visits her grandparents in Taiwan, she sticks out as American.

“So who am I? Am I Asian or am I American?” Lieu said in her speech Thursday.

For many second-generation immigrants, creating a new cultural paradigm is their change agent.

“In my everyday life, I experience what I consider the best of both worlds,” Liu said. “I take the best of both cultures around me and use it to create my own personalized culture.”

Lake City Mayor Lovith Anderson Jr. was another one of the Pee Dee-area speakers at TEDx Evans Street. He spoke about how Lake City is now recognized on a world stage due to its change and remaining ageless.

Decades ago, Anderson said, Lake City was an agricultural community and grew crops such as tobacco, cotton, soybeans and green beans. In the early 1900s, Lake City was the “green bean capital of the world,” he said. But people began to leave the city as manufacturing and textile plants left.

Anderson even moved away from Lake City. He later returned, as many other are doing, he said. But in other to get more people into the city, Anderson said, people had to look at Lake City and figure out how they could get it back in shape.

“You’ve got to look at some basic things to make that happen,” Anderson said. “One is you need to have a vision. Second is you need to have some resources. Third is you need to have some faith and fourth is its going to take some hard work.”

Through vision and hard work, Lake City has transformed into what USA Today readers voted this year as the best small town cultural scene. Thousands of people from around the world visit Lake City each year for ArtFields, a nine-day art competition and festival. The city offers recreational activities for children, a senior center for senior citizens and Anderson said a new educational center is being built for students.

Other presenters and speakers at Thursday’s TEDx Evans Street included:

>> Capital City Clogging Company

>> Don Kausler Jr. – regional editor of the Morning News

>> Dr. Veeral Oza – advanced endoscopic gastroenterologist

>> Jennifer Ransaw Smith – Personal Elevation architech

>> Southern Bluegrass Band

>> South Carolina State University Jazz Band

Bethea said TEDx Evans Street will be held every year. He said several people apply to perform or speak at TED events.

TEDx is an international platform, Bethea said. Thursday’s event, the video being made from it and the performers and speakers will be watched by millions of people worldwide, he said.


Financing set to build Florence hotel

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Spirides Hospitality Finance Company has arranged a $5 million construction mortgage loan to finance the development of a new Radisson Park Inn in Florence, officials told the Morning News.

The Radisson Park Inn will be a limited-service hotel featuring 60 guest rooms and suites in a three-story interior corridor building situated on 1.5 acres of land, according to an announcement.

The hotel will feature a breakfast area, business center, indoor swimming poll, fitness center, guest laundry room, meeting room, market and vending area. The hotel will be off Interstate 95 at the West Lucas Street (U.S. 52) exit in the Fairfield Festival business and retail development off Mandeville Road and will be less than three miles from Florence city center.

“The city of Florence, South Carolina, which was founded as a railroad hub, today remains vitally linked with the U.S. transportation system by being the midway point between New York City and Miami, Florida on Interstate 95,” said Harry G. Spirides, president of Spirides Hospitality Finance Company. “This geographic fact has led to strong demand for hotel accommodations at Interstate 95’s exits in the metropolitan Florence area. Additionally, Florence’s good interstate access, which also includes Interstate 20, has allowed it to be the home of a QVC Distribution Center, an Otis Elevator manufacturing plant, and a Honda manufacturing plant among numerous other businesses.”

The hotel will be operated by Radisson Hotel Group, which is one of the world’s largest hotel groups with eight distinctive hotel brands and more than 1,400 hotels in operation and under development around the world.

The terms of the financing arranged by Spirides for the new development include a “favorable” interest rate, a 25-year term, an 80 percent loan-to-cost ratio, interest-only monthly mortgage payments for the first 12 months of the loan through the construction period, followed by principal and interest payments based on a 24-year amortization for the remainder of the loan.

The concept of Park Inn by Radisson features all necessary modern hotel services and amenities, a guest service philosophy called “Adding Color to Life” and a cost-effective building design which includes colorful and contemporary interiors.

Based in Tampa, Florida, Spirides Hospitality Finance Company arranges mortgages and loans for hotel owners across the United States for new ground-up construction, acquisition, debt refinancing, renovation, and other types of hotel capital projects. Members of the Spirides family have owned, operated, developed, and advised hotels and restaurants since the 1920s.


Fellows in Education hear plans for new classes at West Florence

By: Lauren Owens

FLORENCE, S.C. – During the Fellows in Education’s visit to West Florence High School, Principal Matt Dowdell shared the school’s plans for implementing more STEM classes and Advanced Placement (AP) courses starting next fall.

“We are trying to give our students the best education that they can get within these four walls,” Dowdell said. “We are trying to teach them how to collaborate, how to be creative and how to problem solve.”

The addition of the classes will allow students to graduate with a STEM or AP Capstone diplomas.

Dowdell, who’s in his first year as principal, said one of his focuses this year is increasing academic rigor, which will create new AP classes, such as government, economics, computer science and psychology, and STEM courses, such as biology, English, geometry and world history.

The additions to the AP program will also give students to take part in research.

In addition to increasing the academic rigor at West Florence, Dowdell said, the administration has begun to take a more hands-on approach with students and build relationships with them, to better support them and teachers.

During the fellows’ visit, they viewed classes across different subjects, including English, journalism and three science-based Project Lead The Way classes, where they got to see students performing lab activities and creating the school newspaper, Knight Life.

Joe Edick, who is a fellow, saw the need for funding the newspaper and decided to offer free printing through his company, M&M Graphics.

“It’s a small price to give,” Edick said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about – giving back.”

Tiffany Straus, the director of community relations at HopeHealth, also volunteered to help through purchasing advertising with the newspaper. Straus said she thinks it is important to invest in the school district.

The next Fellows in Education meeting will take place at Savannah Grove Elementary School on Tuesday, Jan. 8.


Florence Chamber leader feted at holiday reception

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. – Dozens of business leaders and government officials gathered at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday evening for the Chairman’s Holiday Reception.

The night was a chance for members of the chamber and other guests to meet the Chamber’s 2018-19 chairwoman, Mindy Taylor.

Mike Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said the idea came from Florence City Councilwoman Pat Gibson-Hye Moore.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of great people through the chamber board,” Miller said. “I know what’s required of the chairperson much of the success of the chamber has been a direct correlation of what Mindy has done. For her to become the chairperson of the chamber this coming year, I was delighted.”

Gibson-Hye Moore said Taylor, who is district manager for government community relations for Duke Energy, had always been a helpful servant in the Florence community.

“I’m really proud to have Mindy Taylor as the chairman for this coming year,” she said. “I often call Mindy in certain decisions and not one time has she turned me away.”

Attendees were able to network and enjoy light refreshments in a “drop-in” setting.

Taylor said she was excited about the progress and future of the chamber of commerce.

“I’m really excited to see everyone here tonight, in particular in support of the chamber of commerce,” Taylor said. “For things going on in the Florence community, the chamber is at the heart of it. I’m just one person who’s part of this team and it’s an honor to be a part of the team.”

Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said that had also been helpful to him during his time in office.

“You find out about people under stress,” Wukela said. “The reality is, you deal with Mindy when you’re stressed. She has done a great job and continues to work in our community.”