Seminole 6 Sports Holds Ribbon Cutting in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Seminole 6 Sports held a ribbon cutting on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Chamber. Chamber ambassadors were there to help celebrate.

Michael “Mike” Goodman, coach, cut the ribbon while team members, cheerleaders and other coaches watched.

Seminole 6 Sports is a member of the AAU football program and the first in Florence County, Goodman said.

They have about 100 children participating this first year of the program. There are 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U age brackets, he said.

“We haven’t had any games yet,” Goodman said.

The travelling football team’s first game will be on Sept. 7 in West Columbia.

Goodman said he wanted to give the kids a choice. He said there are traveling baseball and basketball teams in the area, but there were no traveling football teams.

“I wanted the kids to see this as an option,” he said.

He said he wanted to thank Beedy Waddell, state coordinator of the AAU program, for making this possible.

He said the middle-school-age children have a choice to play on the traveling team and or their school’s junior varsity team.

“They can do both,” he said. “There is still time to join.”

The players are in training Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8:15 at West Florence High School.

Head coaches include Jackie Foxe, Doug Gamble, Steven Thayer, Candace Hampton and Kelvin Burnette.

“I want to thank Ben Oates, principal of Sneed Middle School, because his was the only school that allowed us to use their field for our kids to practice and for our games,” Goodman said.

He said Walt Parker, whose son is on the team, has been indispensable thus far with helping the team get started. He said he also has to thank his wife, Samantha Goodman, who has been a tremendous help.

For more information about the football program, visit or visit its Facebook page.

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Chamber’s Emerging Leaders Program Meets for Second Session

The Florence Chamber held our second Emerging Leaders Summer Institute session, with Technology, Industry and Innovation as the theme. The group visited local businesses and meeting community leaders throughout the day.

Thank you to HillSouth, ACS Technologies, SIMT – Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing & Technology , Gould Business Incubator, The Manor and ADP for taking time out to host and present to the group on July 17th.

Inland Port Dillon’s First Year a Big Success

by Matthew Christian

Inland Port Dillon handled 29,580 rail moves in its first year of business.

The South Carolina State Ports Authority announced Inland Port Dillon’s first year statistics in a news release this week.

“SCPA’s container business had a record-setting fiscal year, and our inland ports in Greer and Dillon continue to see record growth year-over-year,” Ports Authority president and chief executive officer Jim Newsome said. “This accomplishment is the result of the entire South Carolina maritime community’s dedication to providing a great product to our customers.”

Inland Port Dillon opened on April 16, 2018 with a ceremonial ribbon-tearing by the two cargo container moving cranes at the site.

South Carolina Ports handled nearly 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) from July 2018 through June, an 8.8 percent increase in annual TEU container volume. The ports moved 200,406 TEUs across the Wando Welch and North Charleston container terminals last month. As measured by the total number of boxes handled, the moved 112,988 pier containers in June for a total of 1.36 million pier containers annually, up 9.1 percent.

“The Southeast remains the best place to be in the port business with a growing population to support imports and a strong manufacturing and automotive presence to boost exports,” Newsome said. “While we expect more modest growth in fiscal 2020, we are optimistic about the future and continue to invest in our infrastructure.”

The ports also handled a total of 213,081 cruise passengers in fiscal 2019, and they reported more than 330,000 rail moves in fiscal 2019 through its RapidRail program, which provides a seamless connection between rail yards and marine terminals.

The port now handles 24% of containerized volumes by intermodal container rail — the highest annual percentage in Port history. It also handled 18,307 vehicles at Columbus Street Terminal in June for a total of 194,771 vehicles in fiscal 2019.

Inland Port Greer, now in its sixth year of operation, reported its busiest fiscal year yet with 143,204 rail moves in fiscal 2019, up nearly 22 percent from the prior year. Inland Port Greer reported 14,689 rail moves last month.

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

The Charleston port is soon to be home to the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet.

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

Sopakco Expanding its Marion County Operation

Staff Reports

A processed foods company is expanding its Marion County operations.

Sopakco is expanding its Marion County operations, according to a news release issued by the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Sopakco’s expansion, which includes constructing a new facility to house its corporate offices, is designed to increase manufacturing capacity and flexibility.

The company is investing more than $12.5 million on a three-phase expansion that is expected to create 25 new jobs.

“Sopakco has experienced great success in South Carolina,” Sopakco President Lonnie Thompson said. “This is the third expansion in Marion County in the past five years. The value that Marion County brings through its business-friendly climate and quality workforce has allowed us to thrive here, and we look forward to continuing our partnership.”

Sopakco has been a job creator in Marion County for several decades, Marion County Council Chairman Buddy Collins said.

“It is a great thing that they will expand and remain in our county,” Collins said. “We are here to help and assist Sopakco in any way that they need.”

This latest expansion by Sopakco proves that South Carolina is a perfect place to do business, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said.

“Congratulations to Sopakco for all of its success, and we look forward to watching the company grow and thrive here for many years to come,” McMaster said.

The ongoing success of Sopakco in Marion County is a testament to South Carolina’s status as a leader in food processing, S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said.

“We applaud Sopakco on this latest expansion and look forward to their continued success,” Hitt said.

Sopakco’s continued investment in rural South Carolina is another great example of the potential of the state’s value-added agricultural sector and its contribution to agribusiness, S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said.

“I am thrilled with their growth and the additional 25 jobs this expansion will create for rural South Carolina,” Weathers said.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved a $250,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant to Marion County to assist with the costs of site preparation and infrastructure improvements.

In 1943, Sopakco was founded out of the need for military food rations. More than 70 years later, the company remains one of the top providers of meals ready to eat, commonly known as MREs, to the U.S. military. In addition to emergency meal rations, Sopakco has evolved to become a cutting-edge food processing company for major national and international brands. The company is headquartered at 118 S. Cypress Street in Marion County.

Individuals interested in careers at Sopakco can visit

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FMU Plans Series of Construction Projects

FMU Release

Francis Marion University soon will begin a series of major construction projects.

At its quarterly meeting on June 20, the university’s board of trustees unanimously approved two separate resolutions to facilitate the planned work. FMU President Fred Carter outlined the strategic vision behind the plans during his remarks at the meeting.

“These projects are an integral part of FMU’s future,” Carter said. “They’ll enhance existing programs, provide the capacity for new ones and accelerate the university’s momentum. It’s an exciting time to be at FMU.”

The resolutions involved a property transfer relating to the university’s planned freshwater ecology laboratory and conference center, and a bond refinancing.

The projects in the pipeline include the refurbishing of the old post office in downtown Florence, the construction of an Honors Center on FMU’s main campus, construction of the freshwater ecology laboratory and conference center just north the main campus, a final-phase addition to the Griffin Athletic Complex field house, a remodeling of the Smith University Center’s athletic facilities, residence hall renovations and the nearly completed new Dargan Street facility in the L.S. Rainwater Building.

That facility, the former L.S. Rainwater Building at 143 N. Dargan St., will soon be home to Francis Marion’s Kelley Center for Economic Development and its business incubator, some university offices, office space for the North Eastern Strategic Alliance regional economic development organization and a new, first-floor art gallery, curated by FMU’s fine arts faculty.

Perhaps the most complex project is the $8 million renovation of the old post office and federal building on West Evans Street in downtown Florence. The 38,000-square foot building, across the street from FMU’s Carter Center for Health Sciences, will host classroom, lab and office space for FMU’s growing collection of Health Science programs. Work there is in the planning stage.

The Honors Center, a $4.1 million facility located in the heart of FMU’s main campus, will serve the university’s burgeoning Honors Program, the McNair Center for Research and Service and FMU’s International Studies Program. Initial work on the 15,000-square-foot building is scheduled to begin late this year.

A 146-acre tract donated to FMU by the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation this spring, will be the site of the new freshwater ecology laboratory and conference center. The land, which includes 20-acre lake, is north of the intersection of I-95 and S.C. 327. The laboratory will serve as a learning site for FMU’s natural sciences and will allow for expansion of programs in that area. The planned conference center will be available for both university and community events.

FMU has been renovating its Village Apartments, the oldest university residential housing units, since the end of the spring semester. That project is nearing completion and will be ready for occupancy this fall.

A major makeover of the Griffin Athletic Complex and the Smith University Center is also in the works. These improvements will add or enhance facilities for FMU’s student athletes and introduce new capacities in the area of athletic training and student-athlete health.

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Specialty Finance Company Joins Florence Chamber, Cuts Ribbon

by Ardie Arvidson

AG Resource Management (ARM) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday morning to celebrate its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Chamber. Chamber ambassadors were there to help celebrate.

AG Resource Management is located at 205 N. Irby St. Suite C, in Florence

Dr. Cy F. Boyer is the market leader at ARM, a specialty finance company focusing on “bringing financial and risk management solutions to agribusiness.”

The company opened in October 2018 in Florence.

Boyer said their lending is based on the crop, crop insurance and government payments.

He said the company’s background is primarily in agriculture.

“We help farmers stay in business,” Boyer said.

He said they also write crop insurance.

The company was founded 11 years ago by Brad Terrell and has 36 branches, with 10-12 slated to open this year and another 10-12 next year.

Boyer said the company now has $1 billion in assets and 7.5 million loans.

“People are beginning to ask who we are,” Boyer said. “It is a great company with a great culture.”

Boyer is a staff of one at the moment but says plans are to hire five to seven staffers.

He said business has been mostly by referrals and word of mouth from farmers.

Boyer said he has 27 years of experience in all areas of banking. He obtained his Ph.D. in applied science from Regis University in Denver, and he attended the University of South Carolina in the 1970s. He is from Georgia.

Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 843-676-5623.

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Revival Burger Cuts Ribbon as New Chamber Member

by Ardie Arvidson

Revival Burger, at 846 S. Irby St. in Florence, joined the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and celebrated with chamber ambassadors on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting.

Although the restaurant has been open since November 2018, Kyle Hardee, one of three owners in the Downcountry Dining Group, said this was the first opportunity they have had to orchestrate a ribbon cutting for the restaurant.

In the partnership with Hardee are Travis Miller and Steve Toniolo. The trio also owns Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish Co on Second Loop Road., King Jefe Taco Bar on South Irby Street and Sweet Café & Bakery inside McLeod Regional Medical Center.

A fifth collaboration is in the works in partnership with Stefano’s called Pizza Mio, Hardee said. The pizza restaurant is scheduled to open the first of September in the shopping center near the Walmart Supercenter on Beltline Drive in Florence.

Hardee said they have been members of the chamber with their other restaurants, but when the chamber reached out to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Revival Burger, he said that was something they wanted to do.

The restaurant offers a variety of burgers from the Swamp Burger with chili, slaw and pickled jalapenos to Mr. Fungi burger with Swiss cheese, mushrooms and truffle aioli. There is also the Jam Burger with tomato bacon jam and aioli and the Magic City Burger with pimento, bacon, fried green tomatoes and their special in-house “revival sauce.”

Hardee said there is a lettuce wrap option and Gluten-free bun.

“We have the impossible meat-less burger, too,” he said.

Hardee said their burgers are hand patted, made from scratch, and fresh, never frozen.

“There are no shortcuts,” Hardee said. “This is a labor of love for us.”

“Business is good, but it can always be better,” Hardee said. “We are committed to getting better.”

He said their customers have come to know what to expect from them, which is a high quality burger with a twist.

“We appreciate all the business and support from the community,” he said.

The restaurant is open seven days a week and now includes breakfast Monday through Saturday.

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

Chamber Welcomes The Venue with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

by Ardie Arvidson

The Venue, a place to hold events, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday with Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce ambassadors participating.

The Venue is located at 1210 W. Evans St. in Florence.

The business is owned by Susan Missy Gillespie. Monday was her first day of business, and following the ribbon cutting, she catered a dinner at the location.

She said she is excited to offer people in the area another place to hold events.

“I also own Missy’s Café at 257 N. Coit St.,” she said.

She has been in the restaurant/catering business for approximately 16 years.

“I’ve been catering so much lately and having to travel to other places that I thought it was time to have my own place,” Gillespie said.

She said now her customers can rent the space, and she can provide the catering or the customer can bring it in.

Gillespie said she can provide space and catering for wedding receptions, office parties, anniversaries and other types of events. She also provides table decorations.

“I want to cater dinner parties,” she said.

She said she wants to be able to provide a nice place for the events with elegant table decorations.

Originally from Mullins, Gillespie lives in Darlington. She said her family will be helping her with the business.

Gillespie said she hadn’t joined the chamber before and thought this would be a good time to do so. She hopes to be an active member.

To contact Gillespie for rental of The Venue or for catering, call 843-304-1866.

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