Rescue, Fire Station Dedicated at Florence Regional Airport

A dedication and ribbon cutting for the new Aircraft Rescue and Firefight Station at the Florence Regional Airport was held on Wednesday afternoon. The event was hosted by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and FBI Construction.

Chamber ambassadors, elected officials, community leaders and staff at the station joined in the celebration of their joining the chamber and dedicating the building.

Florence Regional Airport executive director Connie Anderson welcomed visitors at the dedication. She said the station was a long time in coming and the idea was started with the men and women in the public safety office. She said it was first a dream. Then it was envisioned as the facility that became a reality.

Anderson said it took roughly two and half years to build at a cost of $4.75 million.

The facility opened last October.

“A lot of people stepped up and went to bat for us” to make this possible, Anderson said.

Anderson said the airport didn’t have the money but had the resources to obtain that amount of money. She said approximately 90 percent of the funds came from the FAA, 5 percent from the state and 5 percent from the airport.

The building was constructed by FBI Construction.

She said some people have questioned why the airport needed such a large facility.

“We don’t plan to stay small,” she said. “We plan to grow.”

She said the new facility will allow the airport to purchase and house larger equipment needed for growth.

“We want to be able to help meet the needs of our surrounding communities,” she said. “We are a regional airport.”

Anderson said the new facility is a tremendous asset to the airport.

“It opens a lot of opportunities for us,” she said.

The station at full capacity has eight employees.

Public Safety Chief Robert Norton said his department is responsible for the police and fire protection at the airport. He has been with the department for about 15 years.

He said they answer a lot more calls on the police side than the fire side.

“We don’t want calls from the fire side,” he said, because that would mean “there was something bad wrong.”

Coming from the cramped facility of the past, Norton said, “It feels great to be here.”

“We are glad that we can be a whole lot safer for our traveling public,” he said. “And we are at a level where we need to be.”

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

G&W Equipment Joins Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

G&W Equipment Inc. celebrated its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday morning.

Chamber ambassadors joined the staff of G&W for the event.

The business, located at 2530 Melon St. in Florence, joined the chamber to become more involved in the community, said Lisa Whitney, the corporate ambassador for G&W.

“We have found that in our smaller communities, the chamber is very involved,” she said.

She said that is evident in Florence by the support shown for their ribbon-cutting ceremony.

G&W is a family-owned full service lift trucks and material handling dealer.

“We service, sell, rent and lease fork lifts,” Whitney said.

She said they also sell parts.

The company was started in 1963 as a “mom-and-pop” operation in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, Whitney said. It has been a part of the Florence business community for three years.

G&W now has 10 locations: four in South Carolina, four in North Carolina and two in Georgia.

The company services all makes and models of lift trucks and is an exclusive Cat lift truck distributor.

“We do rentals and have our own delivery trucks,” Whitney said. “We go out and fix equipment on site.”

She said they have eight technicians in the Florence location and 160 overall.

She said they do on-site technician training and operator safety training. She said the company is getting ready to connect with Florence-Darlington Technical College.

The Florence location has 12 employees, and the company overall has about 300 employees. Tim Thurston is the branch manager in Florence, and Blake Butler is the territory manager.

Whitney said they are growing fast and would like to say they care about their employees, customers and the community.

Chamber ambassadors were given a tour of the Florence facility.

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

Chamber Ambassadors Hold Meet & Greet

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce hosted a meet-and-greet social for its ambassadors Wednesday, September 4 at the Hyatt Place Florence Downtown. Ambassadors socialized while enjoying beverages and appetizers on the second-floor meeting space and outside veranda. Yes, this was pre-Hurricane Dorian.

Thanks to SCNOW.COM for the photo and coverage.

September Quarterly CEO Breakfast

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce held its quarterly CEO Breakfast meeting on Thursday, September 12 with 32 area business leaders in attendance. The regional business information session is held quarterly for the mutual exchange of business updates by our business and industry leaders in the Pee Dee Region.

This chamber member business meeting is sponsored by Willcox, Buyck & Williams and held at HopeHealth’s main offices on Irby Street each quarter.

For more details on the invitation only event, please contact the Greater Florence Chamber at (843) 665-0515.

Fellows In Education Hold First Meeting of 2019-2020 Class

The 2019 Fellows In Education class held their first meeting Tuesday, September 10 at the Hyatt in Downtown Florence.

The Fellows program is designed to give local leaders a unique, behind-the-scenes look into several schools within Florence One schools district.

Over the course of about eight months, leaders will see firsthand some of the daily struggles and constraints educators face in the classroom. Leaders will hear about seismic shifts in student needs and the additional state and federal requirements now placed on schools, teachers and administrators in Florence One Schools.

Each month’s program will center on a different educational experience that is unique to the classroom. The Fellows in Education program will offer opportunities for community leaders to contribute to the development of better education policies in the communities in which they live and work.

The eight-month partnership program is made possible by The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, The School Foundation and Florence One Schools. This years participants are listed below.

Kirby Anderson
Ron Black
Hugh Blanton
Modestine Brody
Ashley Christenbury
Adam Crosson
Scotty Davis
John DeBerry
Les Echols
Clamentine Elmore
Brian Fast
Mary Finklea
Joyce Ford
Lucinda Fountain
Derek Hemmingsen
Robby Hill
Paige Hollis
Twana McRae
Deborah Moses
Cameron Packett
Heather Page
Charisse Reichenbach
Joshua Smalls
Rev. Thomas Smith
Les Ward
Timothy Wimbush
Jennifer Yacoubian

Leadership Florence Class of 2020 Held Retreat in Myrtle Beach

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce kicked off the Leadership Florence Class of 2020 Retreat on Monday, September 9, at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach, SC.

Gina Trimarco of Pivot 10 Results facilitated a wide-ranging discussion of leadership principles and strategies on Monday, followed by a dinner and reception.

Tuesday, September 10, the class participated in a scavenger hunt/team building exercise at Wonderworks in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Grassroots Tour: SC Chamber’s Top Issues Include Tax Reform and Workforce Development

by Ardie Arvidson

The annual South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Grassroots Tour came Monday to Florence, bringing community leaders together to provide an overview of 2019’s state legislative accomplishments and to seek feedback on issues local businesses and manufactures think are important and need addressing in the coming legislative session.

The Greater Florence and Greater Hartsville chambers of commerce partnered to bring the event to the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center on the Florence-Darlington Technical College campus.

“I’m here to get your feedback,” said Ted Pitts, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive.

Each year, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and regional chambers of commerce in South Carolina come together for the Grassroots meeting. Pitts said they will be conducting 23 meetings around the state. The tour gives businesses from all areas of the state, large and small, the opportunity to weigh in on issues they are facing and would like addressed in the upcoming legislative session.

The feedback received collectively from those attending the meetings will help shape the state chamber’s 2020 Competitiveness Agenda and set chamber priorities for the next legislative session.

Pitts said the Competitiveness Agenda is the “South Carolina business community’s top legislative priorities that address issues generally affecting all types of business in all parts of the state.”

“This is a perfect opportunity for our area industry and manufacturing leaders, along with regional and local business representatives, to offer valuable input for our state representatives to hear and our state chamber to incorporate in their 2020 agenda,” Mike Miller, the president of the Greater Florence Chamber, said in a news release prior to the meeting.

Looking back at the Competitiveness Agenda, Pitts said comprehensive tax reform and workforce development were two top priorities.

Pitts said South Carolina is facing an aging population. He said 23 percent of the South Carolina workforce is 55 years old or older, and the number was only 11 percent in 1998. He said the average age in South Carolina is 40 years old.

Pitts said tax reform is a complicated issue.

“We need to change the tax code,” he said.

Pitt said it is not an easy task but is something that needs to be done for the state.

The South Carolina property tax system is one of extremes – very low homestead rates and very high industrial rates, he said. South Carolina ranks 13th highest for industrial property taxes, Pitts said.

Pitts said the Business License Tax Reform (H.4431) provides uniformity, changes tax base from gross revenue to net income, does not stop a local government’s ability to raise revenue and does not remove any local agreements.

On the issue of business license tax reform, Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela had concerns and spoke up during the question and answers session. He said Florence runs a tight ship, and services would have to be cut if that revenue couldn’t be counted on.

Pitts said in many areas of the state, housing for working people is an issue of concern. In the interactive polling, the group agreed there is not enough “workforce housing” in this area also.

Another topic Pitts said that is concerning people in South Carolina is the lack of internet access in rural areas of the state.

He said more than half a million South Carolinians lack access to reliable broadband internet. He said H3780 would create a state fund for rural internet projects.

Pitts said the education omnibus bill addresses many of the key concerns of education reform in South Carolina, including teacher pay, school consolidation and strong measures to improve chronically underperforming school districts and providing K-4 reading programs.

One question asked of the group during interactive polling was if they support strong measures to hold chronically underperforming schools accountable. Ninety-two percent of those polled said yes. Six percent said no, and 1% was not sure.

Approximately 140 people attended the breakfast made possible by SiMT and Sonoco.

“I came as part of the chamber,” said Sherry Grant, the Florence Work Training Center manager for S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation. “I represent the South Carolina Vocational Rehab department. We like to connect with our employers in the area and find out what their needs are in this area. It is also a networking opportunity.”

Roger Schrum, the corporate vice president of investor relations and corporate affairs with Sonoco Products Company, introduced the program’s priorities. Bobby McGee gave the invocation. Miller welcomed guess, and Murphy Monk, the president of the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, adjourned the meeting.

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

Young Professionals of Florence Set Up a Booth at the August Florence After Five

The Young Professionals of Florence Held a spot at the Florence After Five, On August 30,2019. An array of folks stopped in to grab more information about the YPF program and how they can get involved.

The YPF has had a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and this year there has been a complete revamp to the program. Several new activities have been enhanced and new things are on the horizon. Through socials,philanthropic events,lunch and learns and volunteering,the YPF’s are making their way through the area.

This program is designed to reach the Young Professionals ranging in age from 21-40 who would like to support,enhance leadership,civic responsibility and business growth in the Florence area.

Leadership Florence is Back for the Class of 2020

The Leadership Florence journey for the Class of 2020 started on August 29th, 2019, as the class members met one another for the first time at the annual Meet and Greet event.

With over 40 people in the class, this is the largest Leadership Florence cohort in the history of the program.