Florence Chamber Hosts Ribbon Cutting for Event Planner

by Ardie Arvidson

Jamey Kirby, owner of The Last Detail Wedding and Event Planning, joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday to celebrate her new chamber status with a ribbon cutting at the chamber office.

Born and raised in Myrtle Beach, Kirby has been in Florence for approximately three years. She said her business started out as a hobby and was part time but has grown into a full-time business.

She specializes in weddings, birthday parties, holiday events, bridal showers, baby showers, corporate events, engagement celebrations, dinner parties and other events.

She said she has different levels of packages available to fit most everyone’s budget, from partial to full service planning, including catering and bar service.

“I understand that brides are on tight budget, and I will work with them,” she said, “to make their day special within their budget.”

She said the most popular wedding venues with her clients are outdoor locations that are rustic, in fields and barns, in the country.

She said she is in the process of building or acquiring a venue for her business.

She said she joined the chamber to get recognized in the Florence area. She travels from North Carolina and South Carolina to Tennessee to plan events.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time to join the chamber,” she said. It’s finally came together, she said. Kirby is looking forward to working with the chamber.

She currently works from home and is also the director of marketing for S.C. Troopers Association.

For more information contact Kirby at 843-385-3840 or thelastdetailplanning@gmail.com.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Ground Broken for Community Center in Timmonsville

by Matthew Christian

Florence County Council Secretary/Chaplain Mitchell Kirby had a message to deliver Friday morning: The wait for a community center in Timmonsville is over.

Kirby, along with state Rep. Robert Williams, Timmonsville Mayor Darrick Jackson, County Council Chairman Waymon Mumford and County Councilman Alphonso “Al” Bradley were among the officials to break ceremonial ground Friday morning for the construction of the community center just off of Main Street in Timmonsville.

“Today, I’d like to tell you that the day has finally come,” Kirby said. “I know y’all have heard for three years now that, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a community center.’ The journey takes a little bit longer. After we announced at the beginning of the referendum, people were saying, ‘When you going to get it done?’ The journey takes a while from the time that its put on a referendum to the time it takes to collect the money, then get the architects and put it out for bid. And now today, we’re having groundbreaking.”

The Timmonsville Community Center was one of the projects listed in the 2013 edition of the capital project sales tax program for Florence County.

“This is a proud day for myself, county council and city council,” Kirby added. “We’re improving the downtown area, and there’s much things to come.”

Kirby added that the new community center would be around 3,500 square feet and have an auditorium, a gym and a kitchen. The community center can host family reunions and town meetings and will be a permanent home for senior activities in the community, he said.

Williams said it was a great day in Timmonsville and he added that when local governments work together, a lot can be accomplished. He said the local governments need to continue to work together.

Jackson said it was a very inspiring day in the town of Timmonsville. He thanked the county council and the residents for working to provide a community center for the town.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Florence City and Business Leaders Discuss Area’s Growth at Annual Community Breakfast

by Nia Watson

Creating a better community was the focus for city and business leaders in Florence at the annual Florence Chamber of Commerce community breakfast Friday morning.

With the rapid growth in the area this year, the chamber brought in City Manager Drew Griffin to discuss how the city continues to move forward.

“I think that we are reaching into areas of our community that historically we have not,” Griffin said.

Griffin opened the meeting with a picture of a junkyard he said represented a time of division and turmoil in the community, several years ago. Hope Health now stands in its place.

Griffin said the day that the junkyard was removed was the day the transformation began.

“There was a real feeling of accomplishment cause what they were seeing was change and that was exciting for them,” he said.

Planning, commitment and advocacy are the three key attributes Griffin said helped revitalize the community and continue to move it forward.

During the breakfast, Griffin talked about six areas of the city’s comprehensive plan: community health, economic development, community livability, financial stability, organizational stress/development and cultural change throughout the community.

He also shared projects of investment to those areas, showcasing neighborhood and downtown redevelopment.

It’s change Cecilia Meggs, executive director of Lighthouse Ministries, has seen first-hand.

“It’s grown, it’s become vibrant… great businesses downtown,” Meggs said.

Griffin said one of the things he’s most proud of is downtown revitalization, with up to $200 million invested over the past ten years.

As for challenges the city deals with, Griffin said they’re trying to figure out a way to solve the constant flooding issues that the current storm water system is not equipped to handle.

Looking ahead, Griffin said he hopes to grow the food and tourism culture in the area along with furthering neighborhood redevelopment and bringing in more businesses.

“The city is committed to not just helping businesses downtown, but helping people that live in those areas downtown,” Meggs said.

“That they see reinvestment and they see hope, much of our neighborhoods lack that and we need to create a better opportunity for them,” Griffin said.

To see the full article and video on WMBF News, click here.

Echols Named to Furman Class of Diversity Leaders

Staff Reports

 Les Echols of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has been chosen to participate in the Riley Institute at Furman’s 12th class of Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI), joining others from across the Midlands and surrounding area.

Echols is the director of community and minority enterprise for the chamber.

“Discovering ways in which differences can strengthen our organizations is of utmost importance as we seek to grow and support a thriving economy and rich culture,” said Dr. Donald Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including nominations from existing Riley Fellows, application, and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to affect their organizations and communities.

Over the course of five months, Echols will take part in a highly interactive curriculum consisting of case studies, scenario analyses and other experiential learning tools that maximize interaction and discussion among classmates and facilitate productive relationships.

Florence Chamber President Michael Miller said, “This is a great honor for Les, the chamber and our region as we work toward common goals in business and community building.”

Echols will also work with other class members in one of five Capstone project groups formed to respond to real issues in the community.

The DLI classes are facilitated by Juan Johnson, an independent consultant and former Coca-Cola vice president.

“DLI is unique among South Carolina’s leadership programs,” Johnson said. “In addition to the opportunity to develop new relationships and take part in positive action in their communities, participants gain deep knowledge of how to effectively manage and lead diverse workers, clients and constituents.”

DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful, cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors, and community leaders. In addition to the Midlands, DLI classes are selected annually in the Upstate and Lowcountry.

“We now have more than 2,000 Riley Fellows statewide,” Gordon said. “Each new class further extends the reach and impact of leaders willing to work together to make South Carolina a better place to live and work for all its residents.”

To see a full list of participants and for more information about the Diversity Leaders Initiative, visit riley.furman.edu/diversity.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

MUSC to Build New Hospital for Lake City, Kingstree; Close Current Facilities

Staff Reports

Lake City and Kingstree will both lose their hospitals under a plan announced Friday by the Medical University of South Carolina which will build a new facility somewhere between the two communities.

The Charleston-based medical school has signed a letter of intent with Lake City Community Hospital and Williamsburg Regional Hospital that calls for MUSC to build, own and operate a $50 million replacement hospital that will be a 25-bed critical access facility that will deliver on-site care as well as virtual care through the MUSC Teleheatlth Network.

According to hostpial-data.com, Lake City Community Hospital is currently certified for 48 beds while Williamsburg Regional Hospital is certified for 25 beds. The two facilities are located 16 miles and 23 minutes apart, according to Google Maps.

The new facility will offer emergency room services, said Heather Woolwine, MUSC spokesperson.

It will also offer inpatient and outpatient surgery, radiology, lab, respiratory, physical therapy and pharmacy services, Woolwine said.

Whether it will offer labor and delivery services has yet to be decided, she said.

According to Wikipedia, “to receive federal funding, Critical Access Hospitals must adhere to several guidelines. They may have no more than 25 beds and must have an average duration of hospital stay under 96 hours. They must also be more than 35 miles from another hospital, with exceptions allowed for areas with poor roads or difficult terrain. CAHs have more flexibility than other hospitals in staffing requirements. They must offer 24/7 emergency care and have a physician on-call available to be on-site within 60 minutes. They are required to have a Registered Nurse on site at all times when acutely ill patients are in the hospital. At other times, an LPN may fill in.

“The new MUSC Health facility will serve the health care needs of the Lower Florence County Hospital District, other areas of Florence, residents of Williamsburg County, as well as neighbors from adjacent counties,” according to the release. “When the new MUSC facility opens, both Lake City Community Hospital and Williamsburg Regional Hospital will transfer all operations for inpatient and outpatient services to the new MUSC hospital.”

Williamsburg Regional Hospital was damaged beyond repair by the storms of 2015 and has operated out of temporary facilities since April 2016.

“Our hospital has always maintained a focus on delivering the best care available to our patients and families,” said Scotty Campbell, chairman of the Lake City Community Hospital board, said through the MUSC release. “To extend that focus we must recognize the added value that MUSC Health brings to the equation. Collaborating on a new hospital to serve our friends and neighbors in the most logical, productive and fiscally responsible solution possible.”

“Critical access hospitals serve small, rural populations and receive cost-based adjusted reimbursements for Medicare services,” according to a release issued by MUSC. “These cost adjustments help to stabilize rural hospital, making them less vulnerable to financial issues. The cost-based reimbursements also improve access to much-needed health care, ensuring that essential services are available and sustainable in rural communities.”

A location for the new hospital has not yet been set and funding options are being reviewed, according to the release. Construction on the new facility is forecast to take from 24-36 months and the goal is to have the new facility open by 2022 and to keep the current facilities operating until that time.

“MUSC Health is proceeding with the due diligence necessary to determine the location for the replacement facility and we will provide more information as decisions are made and the information becomes available,” Woolwine said.

The fate of the currently hospital buildings has not yet been decided, according to the release.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Chicago style: The Second City Brings its Comedy to Florence for the First Time

by Rebecca Cross

Ever wonder what it would be like to know celebrities before they got their claim to fame? You could get that chance by attending The Second City production at the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center.

Comedians including Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell got their start at The Second City. The Second City is a comedy group that started in Chicago in 1959.

A six-member traveling troupe of comedians will perform a satirical stage show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the FMU PAC.

As the sketches change, so do the characters that the actors and actresses portray. Each actor and actress will portray several characters while on stage as the troupe performs a mixture of improv and sketch comedy. Comedy sketches are brief, 5-10 minute segments that keep audiences engaged with a breadth of themes ranging from politics to current events.

“We haven’t recently done very much comedy on our stage,” said Bud Simmons, director of the PAC. “We’re trying to help expose the audience to something new and different.”

Simmons said he wants to bring a variety of performances to the PAC to show attendees that there is something for everyone. Once attendees experience a performance at the center, the beauty of the space and the caliber of the show will inspire attendees to come back time and time again.

Whether seeing The Second City is your first performance or you are a recurring attendee, it will be a must-see performance for the Florence area, suited to a variety of ages. The Second City will celebrate 60 years as a comedy troupe in 2019.

“It’s kind of an opportunity to connect generations with that sort of sketch humor,” Simmons said. “Who knows, you might see the next Tina Fey on stage at the FMU Performing Arts Center.”

Catch The Second City for the first time in this city by buying your tickets today. Attendees can purchase tickets through the PAC’s website, over the phone or in person at the ticket office. Tickets start at $25.

The Second City performance may contain adult themes throughout. The show will be about two hours long, including an intermission.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Carolina’s Electronic Repair Service Joins Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Carolina’s Electronic Repair service joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday to celebrate its new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting at the chamber office.

Brandon Summers and his sister, Mary Summers, opened the electronic repair service on the first day of January this year.

They repair laptops, tablets and cellphone, including cracked screens, water damage, and other technical problems.

“I learned the trade from working with others,” said Brandon.

He said they can fix most anything with a microchip.

Mary said she is certified in computer repair work and also works on software.

She has worked at several electronic repair shops.

“I can fix most anything,” she said. “I love to repair devices. It is interesting to me. When you love it you are good at it. It is not just a job, which is what separates us from other repair shops.”

Brandon said it is her passion.

Both said they thought joining the chamber was a great business opportunity and would help them build their brand.

They are originally from Florence.

Brandon recently moved back to his hometown from Irmo.

Their hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mary’s office is at 612 S. Irby St. Suite B. She can be reached at 843-472-6625.

To view the full article on SC Now, click here.

Leadership Florence Accepting Applications for the Class of 2020

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has started accepting applications for its 2019-20 Leadership Florence class, one of South Carolina’s longest and most recognized leadership programs. The curricula include a comprehensive nine-month program designed to identify, cultivate and motivate new leadership for our communities and businesses.

Participants increase their knowledge of the Florence area, and enhance their involvement in community activities while further developing their leadership skills.

Much of the Leadership Florence Program centers on developing leaders through hands-on processes, behind-the-scenes business and government visits and informational sessions with key industries as well as cultural and municipal activities. More than 1,000 individuals from area businesses have participated in this program and is more popular today than ever before. This 2018-2019 class consists of 38 participants, one of the largest to date.

For more information on how you or your company can participate in this signature program, contact Les Echols or Michael Miller at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce at 843-665-0515.

Inland Port Bringing Growth to Pee Dee

by Matthew Christian

Inland Port Dillon is already paying off for the Pee Dee region.

S.C. Sen. Kent Williams, whose district includes the inland port, said Friday afternoon that already two industrial businesses have moved to Marion County because of its proximity to the inland port near Dillon.

“We’re very fortunate in the Pee Dee region, not just Dillon County but in the Pee Dee region — and I underscore the region — to have an inland port in our region, more specifically located in Dillon County,” Williams said. “We were just discussing the impact already of this inland port. I know for sure that Marion County has already attracted two industries that said to us, the leadership of the county, the reason why they chose Marion County to locate and do business was because of the inland port being in proximity.”

S.C. Rep. Jackie “Coach” Hayes of Dillon added that industrial development would expand to allow the tax bases of Dillon and other surrounding counties to expand, providing better facilities for schools and other governmental functions.

Williams added that the port had exceeded its goals for the first year of operation.

S.C. Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. of Florence said the facility has surpassed anyone’s expectations and is being used tremendously. He added that the facility’s location just off exit 190 on Interstate 95 made it a convenient location.

Since opening on April 16, 2018, the inland port handled 13,222 rail lifts, or an average of 50.85 per day, including each day between April 16 and Dec. 31. Rail lifts are the number of total containers moved from a tractor-trailer to a train or vice versa.

Erin Dhand, the corporate communications and community affairs manager for the South Carolina Ports Authority, added that the SCPA expects the volume of containers handled at the facility would steadily grow for the first year or two.

“The facility directly employs 14 people, but the true benefit in terms of job creation is the port-related business that will be drawn to locate or expand in the area,” Dhand said. “We believe the facility will be a catalyst for growth and positive economic development in the future.”

She added that there were notable opportunities for the inland port to grow in terms of agriculture.

Already, C&M Hog Farm has added a transload facility at Inland Port Dillon. A transload facility transfers method of shipment from one to another, like from a truck to rail.

“Inland Port Dillon is an important complement to the investments in capacity and infrastructure underway at our marine facilities in Charleston,” Dhand said. “The facility provides new intermodal capabilities that will support the port’s overall growth by expanding our reach into markets throughout the Carolinas, Northeast and Midwest. We look forward to the job creation and economic development opportunities it brings to the region well into the future.”

The South Carolina Ports Authority was established by the state’s General Assembly in 1942. It owns and operates public seaport and intermodal facilities in Charleston, Dillon, Georgetown and Greer. As an economic development engine for the state, SCPA operations facilitate 187,200 statewide jobs and generate nearly $53 billion annual economic activity.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

SPC Credit Union Opens New Facility in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

SPC Credit Union of Hartsville held a ribbon cutting at its new facility in Florence at 1312 Celebration Blvd. on Thursday.

Checks were presented to West Florence High School, Wilson High School and South Florence High School and the McLeod Foundation as part of the celebration.

SPC operates in Darlington, Florence and Marlboro counties.

“We are so excited to be here,” said Linda H. Weatherford, president and CEO of SPC, “and to bring a new approach with a hometown, local feel.”

“We have been in banking for almost 80 years,” said Weatherford. “We are rooted in history but embracing our future.”

She said the newest facility and its services represent a good collaboration of the two.

Weatherford said this branch has an open retail space concept, which is new for the credit union. There are no teller lines and no drive-through window, she said.

This branch is connected by a video center to the main office in Hartsville where customers have access to all of the services and can have one-on-one conversations. The credit union also has a computer station where associates can help customers set up all of the online needs.

Florence employees are all universal sales associates, Weatherford said.

Jenny Morrell, vice president of branch operations, said they took elements from the main office and a branch office and incorporated them in the design of the Florence building. The fireplace and portico are also found in main office, which was originally the Arcade Hotel, built in 1913.

The exterior brick is similar to that of the branch in Bennettsville, she said.

The artwork is local and depicts local businesses and people. Written on one wall are three key words that depict their focus on compassion, connections and community.

To show support for the community, SPC presented a check for $25,000 to the McLeod Foundation and $500 checks to each of the three high schools.

The schools will also receive $1 from customers’ $10 purchase of debit cards depicting th credit union’s logo and colors, said Sabre Knight of the Florence office.

SPC Credit Union was organized in 1941 by Sonoco Products Company, Weatherford said.

In 2004, SPC expanded its charter to include anyone living or working in Darlington, Florence or Marlboro counties.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.