Wild Birds Unlimited in Florence Brings People and Nature Together

by Ardie Arvidson

Wild Birds Unlimited celebrated joining the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning with a ribbon cutting. Chamber ambassadors were on hand to help celebrate.

The Florence franchise is owned by Art and Lisa Martin and opened in November 2018.

The couple said they never set out to become part of the immensely popular bird-feeding and bird-watching population. Lisa said bird-watching is second only to gardening in the United States in popularity as a hobby.

Lisa, a pharmacist by trade, was making candles, soaps and lotions under their Carolina Wren label when the couple attended a gift trade show in Atlanta, trying to grow their Carolina Wren business.

Lisa said she was trying to turn a hobby into a business for her retirement.

While at the show, Lisa said, they were approached by several retailers who owned Wild Birds Unlimited franchises.

Lisa said the more they worked with Wild Birds Unlimited franchise owners with their Carolina Wren products the more they noticed how happy the owners all were and how much they loved their work.

Art and Lisa decided they wanted to open a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in the Florence area. In talking with Wild Birds Unlimited, Lisa said, they were told the company had been trying to get in the Florence market for about 12 years but hadn’t found the right fit.

It took less than a year for the couple to get their shop up and running.

Wild Birds Unlimited carries a variety of seeds and seed blends that have been specially formulated to attract birds in this region. Customers receive only the freshest bird food possible.

“Our food is extremely clean and extremely fresh,” Art said. “It is bagged when ordered.”

They order about every two weeks.

He said there are no fillers in the bird food they sell. He said every seed is edible by the birds.

They also carry bird feeders, bird houses, wind chimes and specialty garden and gift items, along with their Carolina Wren products.

Art said his favorite part of the business is going to people’s homes and setting up the feeders and establishing their bird-watching stations.

“We are all about bringing joy to your life,” Lisa said.

“We bring people and nature together,” Art said.

Wild Birds Unlimited is at 2151 W. Evans St., Suite E, in the West Gate Square.

The store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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

18 Leaders Emerge from Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Summer Institute

From Staff Reports

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders Summer Institute held its fourth annual graduation ceremony on Aug. 28 at Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc.

The Emerging Leaders Summer Institute is a program designed to generate professional training and development, mentorship, community engagement and recruitment opportunities.

The purpose is to identify, develop, mentor and empower “Emerging Leaders,” specifically minorities, small business owners and innovative professionals poised to move into the next level of community and business leadership.

The 18 members of the 2019 Emerging Leaders Summer Institute Graduating Class:

>> Sharon Ackerman, Edward Jones.

>> Faith Akins, The Care House of the Pee Dee.

>> Brenda Bradley, Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc.

>> Veyounder Brown, Lighthouse Ministries.

>> Barbara Bryant, Assurant Inc.

>> Dojibria Casey, Florence County E-911.

>> Vicki Dixon, Pro Business & Tax Service.

>> Adalia Ellis, Aroha Arts Collective.

>> Nanaefua Eshun, Future Entrepreneurs Foundation.

>> Leondra Fields, Harvest Hope Food Bank.

>> Emily Griffin, Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc.

>> Tabitha Hanna, Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc.

>> Arthenius Jackson, One Touch Transformation.

>> Alex Law, QVC Inc.

>> Robin Mack, Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union.

>> Martha McCall, Pee Dee Coalition.

>> Chasity McClam, Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc.

>> Floria Porter, Family Promise of Florence.

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

New Board Elected by Young Professionals

by Ardie Arvidson

The Young Professionals of Florence held a social Thursday night at Citizens Bank on Palmetto Street.

Young Professionals is a program under the direction of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Kristin Nesmith serves as chamber representative on the board. She is the Director of Marketing and Sales for the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

“Our mission is to mobilize the Young Professionals of Florence to support and enhance leadership, civic responsibility, and business growth,” Nesmith said. “Young Professionals of Florence is a civic organization for working young adults between the ages of 21 to 40 in and around the Florence community.”

She said the organization has been completely revamped with a new board and new events in place as of January 2019.

The board consists of 10 people from different businesses in Florence.

Members of the board are Sheri Brockington, Chair; Cameron Packett, Vice Chair; Kyle Srimoungchanh, Secretary; Stephanie Bosch, Treasurer; Kristy Fowler, Andrew Chaplin, Kristin Nesmith, Caroline Toniolo, Leroy Gibson and Brian Davis, Board Members.

“The organization provides networking and social opportunities to those involved that will allow them to expand community understanding and involvement while broadening professional horizons,” Nesmith said.

The YPF hosts an event each month ranging from networking, philanthropic, social to volunteer work, Nesmith said. The socials are on the third Thursday of the month. Members and first time guests get in free. Membership runs from January to December and is $35 per person.

The next social will be on Oct. 17. It will be “Yappy Hour” at Seminar Brewing from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

YPF will have a table set up at the Pecan Festival on Nov 2 for those seeking additional information.

There will be a Lunch and Learn at the Hyatt Place Nov. 21.

“We hope that as this organization continues to grow that it will be able to provide an increasing array of business and social services to all area young professionals looking for a network to help them reach out to the community,” Nesmith said.

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

Jr Leadership Also Learns About Florence Area Healthcare

Friday, September 20 Junior Leadership of Florence County had their first 2019 session with Healthcare Day. The class started at MUSC where Kyle Baxter and other key staff spoke of their daily roles at the facility. The hospital hosted lunch for the class before heading to McLeod Regional Hospital.

Matthew Peak from McLeod Health gave the class a tour on the different areas in the hospital and shared all the different roles the hospital employs. That included areas such as the orthopedic floor, the NICU, and the ER.

We are thankful for this partnership program between the Florence Chamber of Commerce,Francis Marion University and the Florence County 4-H Extension making this program possible. Along with our partnership we are grateful for all of our sponsors that help provide the funding for this program to continue.

At Florence Chamber Breakfast, Leaders Give Update on Healthcare

by Ardie Arvidson

Three leaders in health care community spoke to an audience Friday morning at the Florence Center about the trends in area health services.

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Breakfast focused on health care instead of government this year.

Kyle Baxter of  MUSC – Florence Medical Center, Carl Humphries of HopeHealth, and Donna Isgett of McLeod Health, spoke about what each of their health care facilities has to offer and what’s new on the horizon for health care in this area.

Humphries, chief executive officer with HopeHealth, said HopeHealth is a community owned and operated nonprofit business that provides access to quality primary and preventive health care that is affordable to everyone. He said HopeHealth serves those with limited access to health care, which could be the result of lack of health insurance or lack of a primary care physicians.

“We take anyone who walks through the door,” he said.

Humphries said HopeHealth served more than 41,000 patients in 2018 with primary and preventive care, specialty services, women’s health services, infectious disease, diabetes and nutrition services, laboratory and pharmacy services and dental care.

“We get grant dollars, but they total less than 10 percent of our funding,” he said.

Humphries said all donations to HopeHealth go directly to patient care.

He also talked briefly about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), its goals and how effectively those goals have been accomplished. He said ACA was signed into law in 2010 with the goal of protecting people with pre-existing conditions, expanding Medicaid to people at 133 percent of the poverty level, allowing children to remain on parent’s insurance longer and requiring Americans to purchase insurance.

Humphries said the ACA did reduce the number of uninsured Americans. He said the majority of those still uninsured are eligible for some type of assistance. Under the Trump administration, Humphries said, the individual mandate for health insurance has been eliminated.

He also commented on a 2018 Texas lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ACA. He said it would not likely go to the Supreme Court until next year, and those currently insured will likely retain their insurance through 2020.

Looking to the future, Humphries said, “In the next five years we strive to improve the health outcomes of 100,000 people and prevent at least 5,000 hospitalizations – saving hospitals, governments and insurers in excess of $50 million.”

Baxter, chief operation officer with MUSC Health – Florence Medical Center, said health care is rapidly changing. He said there is a lot of consolidation going on in the industry.

MUSC Health acquired Carolinas Hospital on March 1.

MUSC Health – Florence Medical Center provides 396 beds with two campuses. It provides the community with open heart surgery, a chest pain center with PCI, a Level 3 trauma unit, acute inpatient rehab, and a medical detox facility.

Baxter said that 25 years ago there were no urgent care facilities. He said now everyone wants immediate access to health care.

He said it is about consumerism.

Baxter said patients want lower cost, convenient care delivery and better management of chronic illness and outcomes.

He said they want “quick and easy access to any and all services.” He said this includes both physical and virtual services. Consumers expect the convenience of online self-scheduling, extended and walk-in hours, and urgent care. They want automated appointment reminders, centralized call routing, electronic messaging and same-day communication with provider.

He said one size does not fill all. He said those in the 18-29 age bracket are more digitally fluent. They read reviews, compare prices, and seek providers offering maximum convenience at the lowest cost, and they will post reviews online, while on the other end of the spectrum those 65 and over seek more traditional care. They are the most loyal age group and are less likely to travel for care, he said.

He said MUSC Health is a national Tele-Health leader, and is engaging in innovative partnerships with others.

He said MUSC patients want access to online scheduling, after-hours and urgent care, E-visits, FastPass, CareLink and Telehealth.

He said MUSC Health – Florence Medical Center’s future will include such things as a weekly transplant clinic for kidney, lung and liver patients, Charleston Specialty and Subspecialty clinic office in Florence, more opportunities for community partners to collaborate in research and more business health and wellness sites for the convenience of employees and clinical trials in Charleston available in Florence.

Isgett, chief operating officer at McLeod Health, applauded the fact that all three hospitals represented at the breakfast are not-for-profit entities.

She said McLeod Regional Medical Center is the top employer in Florence County and it contributes much to the area.

Isgett said McLeod wants to be not a choice but “the” choice for excellent health care.

She said McLeod has built a new emergency department to better service its customers.

She said their vision is to be the region’s choice for medical excellence. Their mission is to “improve the overall health and wellbeing of people living within South Carolina and eastern North Carolina by providing excellence in health care.”

“We are local people taking care of local people,” she said.

Isgett said McLeod is committed to providing quality care.

McLeod represents 18 counties in seven hospitals, 8,500 employees and 90 medical practices.

She said McLeod is committed to the rural areas of the Pee Dee and discussed the services McLeod currently provides in Dillon and Darlington and at McLeod Health Cheraw and McLeod Health Clarendon.

Isgett said the future vision is a focus on service excellence, enhanced access, recruitment of medical specialists and improved cost efficiencies.

She said McLeod is thrilled to partner with MUSC Health Florence Medical Center for transplants that McLeod doesn’t do.

“We feel the future is very bright,” she said.

She said all three facilities are committed to serving this region with quality, cost-effective care.

After the presentations a question was directed to all three speakers from the audience on the opioid crisis in this area.

Isgett said McLeod Health has looked at its ordering patterns and at how much is really needed among other things.

Humphries said HopeHealth is growing its pain-management program and helping people focus on the root cause of their pain.

Baxter said MUSC Health Florence Medical Center has a detox program and is working in other areas to combat the problem.

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

Young Professionals Co-Host Networking Event with The Citizens Bank

The Young Professionals of Florence held their September networking social at The Citizens Bank on Thursday, September 19. Special thanks to The Citizens Bank Branch Manager, Adam Gamble, and his staff for hosting the YPF event.

The Young Professionals enjoyed conversation, networking and special door prizes. The food and beverages were provided by Notch8. Wine and beer were served by Micky Finns. It was a fun evening full of laughter, introductions and mingling. Thanks to all who came out and networked with the fellow YPF members.

If you are interested in becoming part of The Young Professionals,email us at ypflorencesc@gmail.com or call Kristin Nesmith at the Chamber at (843) 519-0933.

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.