Florence Chamber wins South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Diversity Award.

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce was given The Excellence in Workplace Diversity Award this week at a South Carolina Chamber meeting.

The recognition is for companies making significant contributions to the advancement of South Carolina through diversity initiatives and inclusion efforts.

Criteria considered in selecting the winners include diversity initiatives, effectiveness and applicability/replicability.

The award was given at the South Carolina Chamber’s annual Summit meeting at the Sanctuary in Kiawah Island. On Tuesday night, the Business Leader of the Year was awarded at the Summit dinner. At a luncheon on Wednesday, the Diversity Awards, Business Week scholarships, the Sgt. William Jasper Freedom Award and the Public Servant of the Year Award were presented.

Les Echols, the Director of Community and Minority Enterprise for the Florence Chamber, accepted the Diversity Award for the Chamber.

“Diversity and inclusion is not just about programs or initiatives,” Echols said. “It’s about helping make an effective way of life for community and businesses to thrive.”

Mike Miller, the president of the Florence chamber, said Echols and the Chamber staff, have been focused heavily on helping to build diversity elements into all of business and community efforts.

“This focus will continue as we move forward,” Miller said. “I’m delighted Les was able to attend and accept the award.”

Looking ahead to the future of the Florence Center

Fellows in Education attendees visit Williams Middle School

The Fellows in Education attendees had the opportunity to visit with educators and students at Williams Middle School yesterday. The program is designed to give local leaders a unique, behind-the-scenes look at several schools within Florence School District One. It is a joint education effort between The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, Florence School District One and the Florence School Foundation.

Williams Middle School sits on the north edge of downtown Florence and serves approximately 630 students in grades 7 and 8. Since 2002, Williams has been home to the Middle Years Program, which allows students the opportunity to pursue an IB diploma at Wilson High School. Mrs. Pamela Johnson is the principal at Williams Middle School.

Sonoco partners with Clemson on packaging initiative

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Sonoco, one of the largest global diversified packaging companies, has announced a new research partnership with Clemson University.

The Sonoco FRESH (Food Research Excellence for Safety and Health) initiative will develop new technologies and new forms of packaging to optimize the fresh food lifecycle.

“Sonoco is committed to serving fresh brands, using packaging to tackle the challenges they face,” Sonoco President and CEO Jack Sanders said in a news release. “Optimizing fresh food packaging to extend shelf life and maintain quality makes fresh produce more accessible to communities and helps brands and retailers extend sales opportunities and eliminate food waste.

“Each year, the food industry loses $15.6 billion due to food spoilage at retail. Modifying packaging design to extend shelf life by even one day can recover $1.8 billion of that loss – while feeding more people and reducing waste to landfills.”

 To establish the multidisciplinary hub for innovation and research to advance fresh food packaging and distribution, Sonoco will contribute $1.725 million over five years. The company also will sponsor business-driven research projects totaling $1 million over that period. Sonoco FRESH is an extension of the partnership that created the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics at Clemson.

“Working with outstanding industry partners like Sonoco allows us to do more to develop solutions for the grand challenges facing the world, and it helps us to prepare our students to become future leaders,” Clemson University President James P. Clements said in a news release.

“Leveraging the expertise of our (more) faculty, Sonoco FRESH will play a key role in exposing our undergraduate and graduate students to issues related to the crisis of food waste and sustainability so that they will be informed and responsible decision makers as they enter the workforce.”

An electricity provider is gearing up to invest at least $22 million in solar energy

An electricity provider is gearing up to invest at least $22 million in solar energy to meet electric needs in Florence County.

According to county documents, the company is considering 17 different projects that include conversion of solar electricity at a site in Florence County. A tax agreement was introduced by Florence County Council on Thursday for the group of investments, collectively known as “Project Fig.”

Sources familiar with the project told the Morning News the company behind this project is Duke Energy. Officials with Duke Energy declined to comment on the project.

The county’s resolution lists nine of the projects included in Project Fig, all under code name. Each of these projects holds an investment on no less than $2.5 million, according to the document.

The projects listed are Projects Bani, Bass, Blacktip, Goldenrod, McCormick, Rutledge, Sapphire, South and Willis.

Other council business

County council members also unanimously approved tax incentives for “Project Veg 3,” which is actually a $35 million expansion of McCall Farms. This project will create 150 new jobs.

The council unanimously finalized a measure that will refinance debt on an existing facility and use that refinanced bond to build a parking garage adjacent to the county complex on Irby Street.

According to county documents, the bond amount may ultimately be less than $12 million “depending if and how much of” penny sales tax dollars are used – but will not surpass $15 million.

Officials said construction on a parking facility could begin in the early months of 2018.


Sharonview Federal Credit Union celebrates office relocation in Florence

By: Jessica Imbimbo, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – Sharonview Federal Credit Union held a ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon to celebrate the relocation of its Florence branch to 1921 W. Palmetto St.

Ambassadors with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce held the ribbon cutting and congratulated Sharonview executives and employees on their grand opening. The branch also held its “Cocktail & Conversations” event at 3:45 p.m. just before the ribbon cutting. Attendees mingled with Sharonview staff while enjoying light refreshments.

Sharonview Federal Credit Union is a full-service financial institution that offers a variety of services from banking to loan education and financial planning. The branch has been serving the Florence community since the 1970s and Bill Partin, president and CEO, said the company is thrilled to be opening the new branch.

“Achieving an enhanced member experience holds great value to Sharonview, and this new location will bring current members and new members the resources they need to meet their financial goals,” Partin said.

Alger Holloman, Florence branch manager, said the new location with allow for even more growth within the “Sharonview family.”

“Our team in Florence looks forward to building new and maintaining current relationships with our members in the area,” Holloman said.

Members of Sharonview Federal Credit Union have a say in credit union procedures because members are owners. Because it is a community charter branch, anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Florence County can become a member. To learn more about membership, call 800-462-4421.

The Florence hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit sharonview.org.

SCNow Web Article – Sharonview Federal Credit Union celebrates office relocation in Florence 

WestRock to upgrade Florence County operations with a $470 million total Investment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – WestRock Company, a leading provider of differentiated paper and packaging solutions, announced today a planned investment in its Florence County kraft linerboard mill. This new investment will increase the mill’s efficiency, quality and service levels.

Taking place over the next two years, a $410 million investment will include installing a 330” state-of-the-art kraft linerboard machine and related infrastructure that will replace three older, narrow-width paper machines. The company expects the new machine to produce 710,000 tons of kraft linerboard annually. In addition, the company plans to invest approximately $60 million over the next five years to support the new machine and other mill projects.

When coupled with the recently-completed modern woodyard, the Florence mill will become one of the lowest cost kraft linerboard mills in North America.

The new linerboard machine will be housed in a building adjacent to the existing complex, and the company expects production on the new equipment, along with the shutdown of the three existing machines to occur in the first half of 2020.

Annual Membership Luncheon Recap

More than 500 community leaders attended The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Annual Membership Luncheon held at the Florence Civic Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. This year’s keynote speaker was Lynn Good, president, chairman and CEO of Duke Energy. The 2017 Business Person of the Year award was presented to Frank M. “Buzz” Rogers IV of WebsterRogers, LLP.. Congrats to “Buzz”.

Thrift shop holds ribbon cutting at new location in Florence

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence County Disabilities Foundation’s Pee Dee Thrift Shop held a ribbon cutting Tuesday morning to celebrate the opening of its new location at 1524 S. Irby St. in Florence.

Ambassadors with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce joined foundation board members and executives as well as local customers for the ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. The thrift shop moved to the new location from 1723 S. Irby St.

The public was invited to the ribbon cutting as well as to the shop’s grand opening set for Friday. During the grand opening, customers can look forward to special deals and sales throughout the day to help get a head start on holiday shopping.

The foundation operates other thrift shops in Scranton, Lake City and Johnsonville as well as a second location at 1650 E. Palmetto St. in Florence. The stores are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Florence County Disabilities Foundation was established to provide funding for the Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs Board. The foundation seeks support from sources such as corporate donations, fundraising activities and grants, as well as volunteer assistance for the agency. For more information, call 843-662-4021 or visit fcdfoundation.org.

SCNow Web Article – Thrift shop holds ribbon cutting at new location in Florence