Class of 2019 Graduates After Completing Nine-Month Leadership Florence Program

by Ardie Arvidson

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Florence Class of 2019 held its graduation on Wednesday night at Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc. in Timmonsville.

Kristin Nesmith of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce was presented the Outstanding Participant Award. All graduates received plaques.

The nine-month course began with a trip to Myrtle Beach on Sept. 10 for one of two retreats. The two-day beach retreat was cut short because of the approach of Hurricane Florence. On Nov. 15, the group participated in a team-building attraction called Locked-Inn.

During Wednesday night’s program, four Leadership graduates gave an overview of the “year at a glance.” They talked about the retreat days, the “Ride-a-Mile in My Shoes” Day, Media Day, Legislative Day, Law Enforcement Day and other sessions of the Leadership Class. Each one told how he or she had been affected by the class. They were Deanna Hayne, Jessica Morris, Anita Taylor and Tavorous Collins.

Four members of the class, Brian Davison, Kristin Nesmith, Stephanie Bosch and Ania Dixon talked about the class project and the class plans for the proceeds.

The 36-member graduating class held a ” Poppin’ Shells for A Good Cause” oyster roast in April to raise money for local charities, and on Wednesday night, they presented three nonprofits with $5,873.60 each. Empowered to Heal, Harvest Hope Food Bank and Mercy Medicine were the chosen charities.

About $28,000 was raised through sponsorships, ticket sales to the event and a silent auction.

The keynote speaker was Aaron Robinson of Honda.

The class also heard remarks from Chamber board Chairwoman Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy.

Members of the 2019 Leadership Florence were Allen Abernethy-, MUSC Health Florence Medical Center; Sheri Ard, McLeod Health; Tony Berry, Honda of South Carolina Mfg., Inc.; Stephanie Bosch, Francis Marion University; Ashley W. Bunn, Wilcox Office Mart; Jordan Burns, Pee Dee Nephrology; Michelle Byers, Florence Morning News/SC Now; William Calcutt, Jr., Florence Morning News; Tavorous Collins, Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority; Brian Davison, Florence Center; Ania Dixon, First Bank; Joette Dukes, Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments; Matthew Ethridge, Hodge Ethridge Agency; Deanna Hayne, Honda of South Carolina Mfg., Inc.; Alger Holloman, Sharonview Federal Credit Union; Rufus Jackson, HopeHealth, Inc.; Brenda Kennedy, Keystone healthcare and Wellness; Thomas Kennedy, Signature Wealth Strategies; Jennifer Massey, Pepsi Cola of Florence; Clint Moore, City of Florence; Jessica Morris, ADP Tax Credits; David Mullins, First Reliance Bank; Steve Mumford, Florence County Sheriff’s Office; Kristin Nesmith, Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce; Cameron Packett, Florence County Economic Development Partnership; Kelley Prevatte, HopeHealth; Sara Ashley Richardson; Jennifer Robinson, Empowered to Heal; Chris Rogers, Florence One Schools; Kyle Srimoungchanh, Duke Energy Progress; Daniel St. Pierre, GE Healthcare; Lauren Stafford, Carolina Bank & Trust; Anita Taylor, Florence County; Caroline Toniolo, Edward Jones; Sarah Travis, The Manor and Maria West, GE Healthcare.

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

Last Leadership Session for the 2018-2019 Class

Tuesday, May 14th, the Chambers Leadership Florence class had their last session of the year, Business and Industry Day.

The class visited and toured Honda, McCall Farms and GE, and had a great breakfast and lunch, courtesy of Honda and GE respectively.

The Leadership Florence class of 2019 is set to graduate May 22nd at Honda.

2018-2019 Fellows In Education Graduate & Reflect

Thirty community and area business leaders received certificates for completing the Fellows in Education Program at the Review and Graduation luncheon hosted by Duke Energy on Wednesday May 15, 2019.

The program was designed to give leaders a behind-the-scenes look into Florence One Schools. It’s a partnership program between Florence One Schools, The School Foundation and the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Participants of the Fellows program met eight times throughout the year to tour different Florence 1 Schools and learn about student needs and the state and federal requirements placed on schools, teachers and administrators in district. The goal is for current and past participants can share firsthand knowledge in the community about the education system and help collaborate with policymakers and the business community on educational concerns.

To commemorate the completion of the program, participants received a framed certificate as they were congratulated by Florence 1 Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley, Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce President Michael Miller and The School Foundation Executive Director Debbie Hyler.

Food Truck Rodeo Draws Vendors to Florence Center

by Lauren Owens

 More than a score of food trucks lined the Florence Center parking lot for the first Carolina Food Truck Rodeo.

Festival attendees could purchase a wide variety of foods from Filipino to wood-fired pizzas. Food trucks from all over South Carolina and even some trucks from other Southeastern states came to the festival, including The Donut Hut from Rose Hill, N.C., and Blackjack Grill from Lake Park, Ga.

Some food trucks from the Pee Dee area came to the festival, including Mullins-based food truck Freckles and Giggles Homemade Ice Cream.

“I love it,” said Ricky Ford, the owner of Freckles and Giggles. “Just the interaction with the people and stuff like that I like it a lot.”

Ford said he normally serves at the farmers market on Saturdays.

Donavon Smith, the owner of Sweet Spice Food Truck, said serving food in Florence has been an awesome opportunity.

“They’re open to the culture so it’s been a pleasant experience,” Smith said.

The recipes Smith serves are from ones he learned from his mother.

Chris Count, his wife and two children came to the food truck festival and tried the Fish and Chips and Fried Shrimp.

“My wife saw it online, and we thought we’d sample some of the food. It’s been great,” Count said.

This is the first time the Florence Center has hosted a food truck festival, according to Nick Hooker, director of marketing at the Florence Center.

“We know that food truck festivals are really popular right now and have been for a little while, and we wanted to try and capitalize on that,” Hooker said. “We wanted to see if it was something Florence would support and look forward to, and we have been thrilled… It was better than expected.”

Hooker said this is something the Center wants to continue to host.

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

Business After Hours held at The Citizens Bank

From Staff Reports

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce hosted a Business After Hours last Thursday, May 9 at The Citizens Bank, 1600 W. Palmetto St. in Florence.

Guests enjoyed fellowship, food and prizes. Almost 100 area business representatives were in attendance as The Citizens Bank shared their new office space.

Tommy Bouchette, President of the bank, pulled winning business cards for prizes at the event.

To see all of the pictures on SC Now, click here.

Swamp Fox Security Holds Ribbon Cutting in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Swamp Fox Security LLC held a ribbon cutting on Thursday with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce ambassadors participating.

Swamp Fox Security is in the Charles Gould Manufacturing and Business Incubator, 1951 Pisgah Road in Florence.

The business is owned by Annette Davis-Cantey. She has been in operation for about two years.

“I was in the incubator on Dargan Street,” she said.

She said there was an opening at the Gould incubator, and she took it.

Davis-Cantey said there are lots of advantages to being at this location. She said the business has seminars, networking and other opportunities.

Ashley Deaza, director of the Gould Incubator, said 21 companies are working out of the incubator.

She said the goal is to provide the space and tools needed to help a business get started on a path to success.

She said some of the benefits include being located next to the technologies of the SiMT center such as virtual reality, 3-D printing, events facility, manufacturing center, social media services.

Davis-Cantey said Swamp Fox Security is a private armed security company with five employees.

“I have been doing security since 2002,” Davis-Cantey said. She is also a private investigator.

“I am the first African-American-female-owned security company in the state,” she said.

She said her company provides security for businesses, industry, events such as graduations, reunions and parties and sporting events.

Davis-Cantey, who lives in Mullins, said she was unemployed and went seeking a job. She was hired to do security and loved it. She sought training in the field.

“I went to school and will soon complete my master’s degree in criminal justice,” she said.

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

Couple Start Design-Build Service After Retiring to Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Owners Tommie N. and Gloria “Jackie” Thomas of TNT Rehab Consulting Services were joined by ambassadors of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon cutting on Wednesday at a home they built on Sumter Street.

Tommie Thomas, president/architect, said this is the first home they have built in Florence.

Thomas said he has more than 35 years of experience in the industry. He spent about 32 years as an architect for the government and retired from U.S. Customs and Border Protection as an architect project manager.

Before coming to Florence, he also worked in the private industry sector in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

His wife, Jackie, is senior vice president/operations. She is also retired after 38 years as an IT project manager with Verizon.

Tommie said they are part of the city of Florence revitalization efforts.

He said they built the modular home, and the city will find a buyer.

“We designed and built it from the ground up,” he said.

Jackie said the house took about 90 days to build.

He said they are working on other project in the Pee Dee region, but are waiting on the go-ahead from the city of Florence to start another home.

Jackie has joined her husband in the design-build business. On visits back to her hometown, Tommie was impressed with the revitalization taking place in Florence, according to their website..

Jackie grew up in Florence and moved to Maryland to attend college. Once retired, the couple decided to move to Florence, where Jackie’s mother is still living.

To find out more about TNT Rehab Consulting Services, visit tommie@tntrcs.com.

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

2019 Chamber Spring Classic

The Chamber Staff wants to thank all of our sponsors and players who helped make our 2019 Spring Classic a huge success! Especially Raldex Hospitality for being our overall sponsor.

And congratulations to our winners:


Coming in 1st Place was Cintas – Ready for the Workday!

And in 2nd Place, Synovus!

Industry Plans $75M Expansion in Darlington County

by Jim Faile

A Darlington County industry plans to invest at least $75 million over five years to expand its manufacturing operations in the county.

The investment will include the acquisition of land, a building, improvements to land and building, construction and primarily acquisitions of equipment and machinery, according to a proposed ordinance presented to the Darlington County Council for first reading during Monday’s regular council meeting.

The ordinance states the acquisitions and improvements are estimated to cost at least $75 million over five years. No new jobs are associated with the project, according to supporting information from the county. But the project is “critical to the company’s continuing presence in Darlington County,” the supporting information states.

County officials have not identified the company. The measure, which will provide for a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between the county and the industry, identifies the company only as “Project Heat Wave.”

A proposed fee agreement between the county and the company will provide for a fee to be paid by the company to the county in lieu of property taxes at an annual assessment rate of 6 percent for a term of 30 years as well as the issuance of a special source revenue credit equal to $25,000 a year for the company for the first 10 years.

The ordinance states that the project and the fee in lieu of taxes will benefit the county.

“The Project is anticipated to benefit the general public welfare of the County by providing services, employment, recreation or other public benefits not otherwise adequately provided locally,” the measure states.

“The purposes to be accomplished by the Project, i.e., economic development, creation of jobs, and addition to the tax base of the County, are proper governmental and public purposes,” the ordinance continues.

“The inducement of the location or expansion of the Project within the County and State is of paramount importance,” the ordinance states, adding that the benefits of the project to the county will exceed the costs.

No vote is taken on an ordinance when it is presented for the first reading. A preliminary vote will come when the measure is presented for second reading. Typically, a public hearing on the measure will precede the second reading. A final vote will follow on the third reading.

Darlington County Economic Development Partnership Director Frank Willis said an official announcement about the expansion could come in July after final approval of the ordinance.

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