SC business leaders propose policies favoring small businesses

By: Nia Watson

COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) – Business leaders from across the state joined members of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce at the State House in Columbia Monday afternoon to announce the policies in their 2018 Competitiveness Agenda they will propose to lawmakers for the upcoming legislative session.

This year’s agenda focuses on tax reform and workforce development.

“We are hopeful that the business community is speaking loudly and clearly with one voice on the need for tax reform and additional efforts to try and train South Carolinians to do these jobs that we need filled here in South Carolina,” S.C. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ted Pitts said.

Business leaders said South Carolina has some of the highest business and personal income tax rates in the nation.

They’re asking lawmakers to reduce income tax burden on the state’s workforce that currently taxes workers’ income over $14,000 dollars at 7 percent.

“By lowering taxes, that’s going to enable us to have an opportunity to invest more capital into our business to grow our businesses,” S.C. Chamber of Commerce member Tim Norwood said.

Norwood, the former chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said a competitive workforce through taxes and workforce development as a state means better business for the Pee Dee.

“Those things will help not only small businesses, but it will help us attract the large industries, manufacturing industries that we want to have in Florence and the Grand Strand,” Norwood said.

Norwood has deep ties in the Pee Dee, owning a few businesses in Florence, including the downtown restaurant Victors. He said finding qualified workers is a constant problem he faces.

“At my work, Victors, we are constantly looking for employees that have soft skills, as well as technical skills, to be able to work with us,” Norwood said. “It’s always a challenge.”

Increasing trainee programs, introducing putting ex-offenders back into the workforce, and fighting the current opioid crisis are just some ways business leaders plan to grow the state’s workforce development.

Norwood said while business in Florence is booming, there’s always room for more.

“All the Hondas that are made in the whole world, made in Florence. All the Tamiflu made in the world, made in Florence. All the GE magnets made in the world, made in Florence. So Florence is doing good, but we just want to do better,” Norwood said.

The South Carolina legislative session starts Tuesday.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

WMBF Web Article – SC business leaders propose policies favoring small businesses

Big dollars pumping into big business for Pee Dee

Joshua Lloyd, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – The past year proved to be huge for business investment across the Pee Dee region with more than $750 million in capital investment in announcements in 2017.

Many of these capital investments entail expansions of existing industry and come with a guarantee of local job creation – more than 1,600 over the next half decade.

Some of the largest projects announced this year in Florence County include a $40 million GE Healthcare expansion, a $79 million Ruiz Foods expansion and a $35 million McCall Farms expansion.

The largest investment announcement by far in 2017 was the $470 million upgrade to WestRock, which will preserve about 400 jobs at the Florence paper-mill.

Harbor Freight Tools announced a 1 million square-foot expansion to its East Coast distribution center in Dillon County. That expansion will bring more than 500 new jobs to the area and raise the company’s total investment in South Carolina to more than $200 million.

Fiber Industries is revamping an old Darlington County textile plant with a $30 million investment at the Palmetto facility off of McIver Road that is expected to create at least 135 new jobs.

Joe W. King , executive director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, said 2017 was a good year for the area and bodes well for the future of the local economy.

“At the end of 2016, we felt 2017 would be good just by all the projects we had working through the pipelines, and it was a good year,” he said. “Most announcements were expansions. There’s a lot of glamor to bring in someone new, but it’s equally important to take care of those already here doing business. We don’t overlook their value.”

King added that 2018 will also be a great year for economic development in Florence County, as several projects are lined up to be announced in the first and second quarters of the year.

Another considerable note for the Pee Dee’s business community is the beginnings of the Dillon Inland Port, a 3,400-acre industrial park situated between Dillon and Latta near the North Carolina border.

The port will operate much like a marine port, except containers will be loaded onto trains rather than ships. CSX will serve the Dillon site, running overnight service to the Port of Charleston.

SCNow Web Article – Big dollars pumping into big business for Pee Dee 

Coming back to SC soon: American Pickers!

Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and their team are excited to return to South Carolina! They plan to film episodes of the hit series AMERICAN PICKERS throughout the region in February 2018!

AMERICAN PICKERS is looking for leads and would love to explore your hidden treasure. If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to: or call 855-OLD-RUST.

Florence Center brings governments together

By: Joshua Lloyd, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence Center, formerly known as the Florence Civic Center, is growing both figuratively and literally.

In 2017, construction of a 28,000-square-foot expansion with a price tag of $16 million got underway. That project is nearly complete and is expected to be ready for use before the end of January.

What it took to get here, however, was no small feat: a multi-government cooperation for a publically funded project during a time when Florence city and county council weren’t seeing eye-to-eye.

Tensions rose between Florence’s city and county councils throughout 2016 and into 2017 over downtown parking woes, peaking with a disagreement on funding paths for a joint deck and a “going of separate ways” on the matter.

At this point, the two governmental bodies had already approved $15 million in funding for the civic center expansion, but construction officials needed another million to complete the project in a feasible way.

Neither entity hesitated to work with their counterpart to get the job done. The decision to find the extra funds was unanimous from both sides.

“We might not always like the other’s approach, but more often than not we all agree on why the things we’re doing need to be done,” Florence Mayor Pro Tempore Buddy Brand said at the time.

Officials agree the center has led to massive investment in hotels, retail and food, and this addition will increase the center’s profile for more convention-style events.

A major driver behind this decision is a universal, bipartisan desire for continued economic development.

“Our philosophy is we don’t want to give anybody an excuse not to come here,” County Council Chairman Kent Caudle said. “We don’t want to deter the wheels of commerce, and we know the city is the same way.”

The new expansion adds 28,000 square feet to the center – which includes 8,000 square feet of sub-dividable space, 5,000 square feet of new kitchen space and 12,000 square feet of lobby and meeting room space.

Anyone driving by the center will see a new paint job and color scheme, along with a new logo that sports the rebranded name.

Beyond that, the center is under new leadership in General Manager Paul Beard – a veteran in that market with fresh ideas on how to make the center thrive in this new chapter of its existence.

The new motto to match this new chapter is, “We’re at the Center.” Web Article – Florence Center brings governments together

AT&T donates $5k to Jr. Leadership Florence

Thank you AT&T for your support!

Junior Leadership Florence County is modeled after the Florence Chamber’s Leadership Florence program, and is designed for public and private high school sophomores and juniors. It enables students to be able to develop leadership skills while also increasing their awareness of the community. Junior Leadership Florence County consists of an opening retreat, followed by eight monthly sessions, and seeks to provide an investment in the community’s future leadership by fostering interest in the county and inspiring students to become the leaders of tomorrow. The program is made possible through a joint partnership with Florence County 4-H, The greater Florence Chamber and Francis Marion University with grants and funding from various community organizations.

Parade makes Christmas in Florence official


FLORENCE, S.C. – Hundreds of people lined Evans Street from Edisto Drive into downtown Florence for the annual Christmas parade on Saturday.

Fifty-two float entries made up the parade, under the theme “Love and Peace.”

One of those entries was The Little Gym of Florence. Soha Patel said the gym is geared toward teaching gymnastics to children 4 months to 12 years old, and it entered the parade as a way to reach out to the community.

“We just want to increase awareness about what’s out there,” she said. “I think all these businesses that’s our intention to let our community know we’re here.”

The group from The Little Gym consisted of around 20 students and parents.

“The little ones are super excited,” said Patel. “Some of them will probably do cartwheels and handstands.”

Another group hoping to get its name out to the community in Florence was the city of Florence Junior Allstars, part of the Florence Junior Football League. The team was coming off a state championship win last weekend in Beaufort.

“I want everybody to let them get their recognition,” said coach Darryl Mitchell, “They’re the best team in the state so they should be recognized.”

The team, made up of 7- and 8-year-olds, filled up two truck beds and a limousine for the parade.

“Everybody’s excited because they want to get in the limo,” said Mitchell. “They’re a good group, out of the six years they’re the best group I’ve had.”

First doctoral class at Francis Marion University set to begin matriculation


FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University’s first class of doctoral students is nearly complete and will begin their studies in January when FMU’s spring semester begins.

Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price, dean of the university’s School of Health Science, said in a news release the initial class in the new Doctor of Nursing Practice program will include 15 students, slightly more than originally forecast.

She said the new degree meets a significant need in this region and beyond, and follows a national trend in advanced practice nursing education.

“Recently, it’s become the recommendation that family nurse practitioners should be educated at a doctoral level,” Wittmann-Price said. “This is where we need to go with our nursing program.”

The program recently received its final regulatory approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The launch of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program is a landmark in the 47-year history of Francis Marion and an addition to the University’s fast-growing offerings in health care education.

This doctoral degree will allow graduates to attain the highest possible standing within the field of nursing practice. The program requires 27 credit hours of classroom work for candidates who enter the program with a Masters-level degree already in hand.

Francis Marion has operated its own undergraduate nursing program for more than a decade. It added the Masters level degree for Nurse Educators and Family Nurse Practitioner in 2012, and graduated its first FNP class in 2014.

More information on the Doctor of Nursing Practice program is available at

Bailey Dabney welcomed as new Morning News publisher

By: Don Kaulser, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – South Carolina native Bailey Dabney is the new regional publisher of the Morning News and its affiliated publications.

Dabney, 52, has served for the past 1½ years in Warrenton, Virginia, as the publisher of the Fauquier Times and two affiliated newspapers.

The Fort Mill native was introduced Thursday to the Morning News staff.

Dabney replaces Joe Craig, who has served two-plus years as regional publisher of the Morning News.

“I’m a product of South Carolina. This is to a degree a homecoming for me,” said Dabney, who has some family in the Pee Dee area. An uncle once served as the superintendent of Florence schools.

“I’ve been in, around and through Florence at least once a year for almost all of my life,” Dabney said. “We would go through there on our way to or from Myrtle Beach or on our way to Florida on I-95. I’ve always loved Florence.

“I love the idea of living in Florence. I love the idea of working for the Morning News and the affiliated papers. The Morning News is one of the historically significant papers in the South. It’s an incredible opportunity to be in that building every day.”

After spending two years at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Dabney graduated from Erskine College in Due West, where he attended on a tennis scholarship. He returns to his home state with nearly 30 years of experience as a newspaper executive. He started in 1988 as a district manager at the News and Courier in Charleston, where he met his future wife, Kim.

“I intended to be a sportswriter,” Dabney said. “I wrote sports at Erskine. I just couldn’t find anybody who would hire me as a sportswriter when I graduated from college, so I took a job in circulation just to get in the building. I got a promotion and a raise, and after a certain point when the first job came open in Sports, it would have been a backward step pay wise. I didn’t look back.”

Dabney has worked for big newspapers, such as the Miami Herald and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and smaller ones, such as the Claremore (Oklahoma) Daily Progress. That was his first experience as a publisher. During his seven years there, the Daily Progress was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in two categories in 2013. He also spent four years as vice president of a technology company in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dabney has a long history of community involvement. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards and has chaired a number of them. Most recently he has served as the board chair for the Main Street USA affiliate in Warrenton.

“I can’t wait to see downtown Florence after reading all about the renaissance,” he said. “I’m quite the fan of old downtowns.”

Dabney enjoys tennis and golf but says he hasn’t had time for either sport in recent years.

“My wife says the other woman in our house is a newspaper,” he said.

He describes himself as a technophile.

“I’m kind of addicted to gadgets,” he said.

 He also loves to read.

“I read fiction only,” Dabney said. “I can’t stay awake for nonfiction. Most of the fiction I read involves people get shot, stabbed or blown up.”

Dabney has been married for 25 years. He and Kim have three daughters and a son.

Craig will remain at the Morning News through the end of the year.

“I have really enjoyed working with the Florence community and all of our Morning News employees,” he said. “As of today I’ve really not made any decision on what I’m going to do in the next chapter of my life. I’m going to take some time off in the next few months and give that plenty of thought before making a decision. Let’s think semi-retired as opposed to retired. I’d like to ease into the fully retired status.”

Craig said he and his wife, Kathy, have really enjoyed Florence and the wonderful people they have met.

“I expect that we will seriously consider settling here permanently, so you might still see me around but just wearing another hat. We’ll see,” he said.

Craig is grateful to BH Media for bringing him to Florence.

“I want to reiterate what I have said several times to local community leaders,” he said. “BH is a great company, and the Morning News is lucky to be a BH newspaper. I encourage everyone to support the Morning News. It is your newspaper!”

Ribbon Cutting: Goodwill


FLORENCE, S.C. — A rain-soaked Thursday morning was unable to dampen the excitement of Palmetto Goodwill employees and shoppers as they celebrated the grand opening of the store’s second location in Florence, at 260 N. Beltline Drive.

Goodwill officials and employees joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to hold a ribbon cutting at 9:45 a.m. before officially opening the store to customers.

Rick Shelley, director for workforce development for Goodwill in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions, said the goal of constructing the new store is to help with missions and services in the community.

“We’re very excited to be opening our second location,” Shelley said. “This is going to help us expand our footprint in the Pee Dee and give folks another opportunity to promote the mission of Goodwill in the Florence area.”

Shopper Katrienne Ham was one of the first to enter the new store on Thursday and came away impressed with the selection and price.

“I love the Goodwill and the mission they have,” Ham said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing. Nowadays, people don’t have a lot of money and they have things in the Goodwill store that are just as nice for a reasonable price.”

The mission of Goodwill is “to help people achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work.”

Palmetto Goodwill CEO Robert Smith said the organization assists people in finding jobs, trains them in resume building and helps adults who haven’t received a high school diploma get their education and obtain certifications to get back out in the workforce.

Over 90 cents of every dollar made through retail is given back to the community through those education, training and employment programs.

“We bring them in, train them and help them become successful in the workplace,” Smith said. “This store not only serves as an opportunity to employ people, but also an opportunity to train them and place them back out in the community.”

In addition to store manager Ruth Cain and assistant manager Lamar Meyers, 15 store associates were hired in conjunction with the new store opening, according to Palmetto Goodwill.

“We’re really excited to have the Florence community and their support,” Smith said.

People can register all weekend long for a free 60-second Goodwill shopping spree by visiting the store location.

Last year, Palmetto Goodwill placed more than 1,596 people into new jobs and provided services for more than 57,981 in South Carolina.

For more information about its programs and services or to donate, visit