FMU students honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By: Patrick Lloyd

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Students at Francis Marion University in Florence gathered Thursday night to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This was the 20th annual event honoring the late civil rights leader’s life. FMU teams up with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce every year to put the event on.

A candlelight walk started the night. A celebration of the arts followed. A dance crew and gospel choir performed. A student also performed spoken word. The key note speaker was Florence City Councilwoman Teresa Myers-Ervin.

Les Echols with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce says it’s important to do this event every year to keep younger people aware of what Dr. King did for so many people.

“Of course that was Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy – diversity and inclusion,” Les Echols said. “It’s very important that the current generation as well as future generations know the legacy that he left so that we can carry on that legacy.”

Echols also says with the racial tension going on lately, it’s good to do stuff like this.

“I think something like this is vital right now,” Echols said. “We’re in an environment where diversity and inclusion is being looked at with a very close eye. So we have to be mindful of the things Dr. King fought for. He fought for the right thing to do. He didn’t fight for his opinion. He fought for the right thing to do, so it’s very important that we be mindful of that.”

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

SCNow Web Article – FMU students honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Greater Pee Dee Realtor Association holds ribbon cutting

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Greater Pee Dee Realtor Association’s motto for 2018 is “it’s a new day.”

The association kicked off the new year by joining ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to hold a ribbon cutting on Wednesday morning.

Keon Jordan-Aldrich, president of the realtor association at 1375 Celebration Blvd, said joining the chamber is something the association needed to do.

“Today is a great day for real estate,” Jordan-Aldrich said. “It’s been a long time coming, but we are very excited to join the chamber. We’re making sure that we stay in the community and that we continue to have our voice for the community, which is a great thing to be a part of.”

Jordan-Aldrich was elected the 2018 association president by her colleagues, and she said she is looking forward to seeing what the new year holds.

“I’ve been an agent for about 16 years,” Jordan-Aldrich said. “I just enjoy being able to meet new people and make their dream a reality. Now that I’m board president, I enjoy being able to help make the decisions and hopefully assist in taking our association to another level.”

Jennifer King, the chief executive officer of the Greater Pee Dee Realtor Association, said the partnership with the chamber will enable the association to continue to service the community.

“We are glad to be a part of the chamber,” King said. “We are excited to be able to support our community. We are the Greater Pee Dee Realtor Association and they are the Greater Florence Chamber. We both believe in bringing growth to the area, so I think it’s a great fit.”

The association helps link realtors together, provides education and looks to give back in the community.

“We are a trade association for all realtor members in the nine-county area of the Pee Dee region,” King said. “Anyone who is a licensed realtor can be part of the association, and that means the buyer and seller will be dealing with some who abides by our code of ethics and standards. We run the MLS service, which shows all current listings, and put on several community events, as well.”

For King, the realtor association has given her a chance to work with new people and meet realtors from across the Pee Dee region.

“I don’t come out of the real estate world,” King said. “My favorite thing is working with all the people. Everyone is really nice and passionate about what they do. It’s a lot of fun getting to work with people from all corners of the Pee Dee and watching them work with others to achieve their dream of homeownership.”

SCNow Web Article – Greater Pee Dee Realtor Association holds ribbon cutting

Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School cuts ribbon for a new building

By: Rebecca Cross

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Construction is complete for a new academic building and dining hall at Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School.

Representatives from the school’s board of trustees, First Reliance Bank, Hunter Builders and Munnerlyn Architects participated in a ribbon cutting on Wednesday evening at the school.

Dr. William Naso, chairman of the Trinity-Byrnes Board of Trustees, said it is an exciting time to be a part of the school.

“We are the fastest growing independent school in the Pee Dee region,” Naso said.

The school has 273 students.

“We’re really busting at the seams, and that’s why we’re here today,” Naso said.

Students are from throughout the region. Naso listed Hartsville, Darlington, Florence, Lamar and Cheraw as cities that students are from.

“We have built a school that is second to none in this region,” Naso said.

The 12,000-square-foot building features seven classrooms, two seminar rooms and one multipurpose room to also be used as a dining hall. Two of the seven classrooms are science labs. The building is designed to support advanced math and science teaching and technology for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

A reception was held in the new building after the ribbon cutting, and attendees toured the building.

SCNow Web Article – Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School cuts ribbon for a new building

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

Fourth annual Small Works Competition in Florence now taking entries

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence Regional Arts Alliance is now accepting submissions for its fourth annual Small Works Competition.

Underwritten by The Citizens Bank, South State Bank, and Marshal’s Marine, this competition is open to two-dimensional and three-dimensional artists working in all mediums in the Carolinas, ages 18 and older. Final artwork may not be larger than 12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches to be considered.

The competition is billed as a way to “provide opportunity and exposure for emerging and professional artists alike, while also highlighting local art spaces throughout Florence County.”

 This year’s competition pieces will be hosted at NDC Photography Studio in Lake City.

The prizes for the competition are $500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third place and honorable mention.

Entries must be submitted through the Florence Regional Arts Alliance’s website — at florenceartsalliance.org/smallworks — by midnight on Jan. 8.

 The Small Works exhibition will be on display at NDC Photography from Feb. 1 through 24 with an opening reception on Feb. 1. Competition winners will be announced at the opening.

For more information, contact executive director Sandy Cook at director@florenceartsalliance.org or 843-407-3092.

SCNow Web Article – Fourth annual Small Works Competition in Florence now taking entries

Dominion Energy announced plans Wednesday to buy SCANA Corp.

RICHMOND, VA — Dominion Energy announced plans Wednesday to buy SCANA Corp., a South Carolina utility holding company that has been struggling under big cost overruns for a pair of canceled nuclear reactor projects, in a deal valued at $14.6 billion including debt.

As part of the deal, the Richmond-based utility giant is offering rebates for South Carolina utility customers who have been paying for the aborted nuclear projects and is also a shortened time frame to pay off the cost incurred before work stopped. Dominion has until recently fought to preserve legislation in Virginia that shields the company from having to issue refunds to customers if it “overearns” on base rates.

Customers of SCANA’s subsidiary, South Carolina Electric and Gas or SCE&G, will get a cash payment worth about $1,000 and what Dominion says will be a 5 percent rate reduction from current levels, about $7 a month for the typical residential customer. The cash payments to SCE&G customers will total about $1.3 billion and will be made within 90 days of the close of the deal.

Also, customer costs for the nuclear projects will be paid off in 20 years instead of the previously proposed 50-60 year timeframe.

In the merger, which still needs shareholder and federal and state regulatory approvals, SCANA shareholders would get about 0.67 shares of Dominion Energy common stock for each share of SCANA common stock, the equivalent of about $55.35 per share and a total value of nearly $8 billion.

The offer represents a premium of 42.4 percent to SCANA’s closing price of $38.87 on Tuesday. As of 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, SCANA shares are up more than 22 percent to $47.60.

“Dominion Energy is a strong, well-regarded company in the utility industry and its commitment to customers and communities aligns well with our values,” Jimmy Addison, CEO of SCANA, said in a statement. “Joining with Dominion Energy strengthens our company and provides resources that will enable us to once again focus on our core operations and best serve our customers.”

The combined company would serve 6.5 million electric and natural gas distribution customers in eight states, Dominion says.

Asked about his level of confidence that South Carolina officials would let the deal go through, Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion’s CEO, chairman and president, said in a conference call with investors Wednesday that he had “lengthy and fulsome” conversations with South Carolina’s governor and leaders in the legislature about the merger.

“I’m not going to characterize their reactions,” Farrell said. “I’m pleased with where things stand right now. Very pleased.”

SCANA’s companies have a workforce of about 6,000, more than 500,000 electric customers in 25 South Carolina counties and more than 1.3 million gas customers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

In December, SCANA filed a formal request with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw its operating licenses for a pair of nuclear units at the V.C. Summer Generating Station near Jenkinsville, S.C. That came after construction on the units was halted this summer by SCE&G and Santee Cooper, another South Carolina utility, amid about $9 billion in cost overruns. Though canceling of the projects saved customers future expenses, they were still on the hook for money already spent.

Dominion says its deal to merge with SCANA will write-off about $1.7 billion in V.C. Summer costs that will never be collected from customers and completion of the $180 million purchase of the Columbia Energy Center natural gas power plant at no cost to customers. Dominion also says it will provide $1 million a year in money for charitable contributions in SCANA’s communities for at least five years and give “employment protections” for SCANA employees until 2020.

“We believe this merger will provide significant benefits to SCE&G’s customers, SCANA’s shareholders and the communities SCANA serves. It would lock in significant and immediate savings for SCE&G customers – including what we believe is the largest utility customer cash refund in history – and guarantee a rapidly declining impact from the V.C. Summer project,” Farrell said in a statement.

“There also are potential benefits to natural gas customers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia and to their communities. And, this agreement protects employees and treats fairly SCANA shareholders, many of whom are working families and retirees in SCANA’s communities. The combined resources of our two companies make all this possible,” Farrell said.

But the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper reports that the sale hinges on keeping a South Carolina law that allows SCANA to keep collecting customer payments for the unfinished reactors. The newspaper reported that South Carolina regulators are considering whether customers of SCE&G should continue paying $37 million a month for the canceled projects.

South Carolina legislators also were to begin considering legislation next week that would cut off payments for the nuclear project, which account for 18 percent of customers’ electric bills, the newspaper reported.

“Had the state of South Carolina and its legislature punished both utilities any more for what they’d done, you’d be looking at potential bankruptcy, which mean customers get nothing,” said C. Ryan Frazier, a Dominion spokesman. “We’re proposing a way for customers to start getting their money back.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called the announcement “progress” in a statement Wednesday morning, but not a resolution, since it leaves out Santee Cooper, the other South Carolina utility that had a major stake in the Summer project.

“Under the proposed agreement between SCANA and Dominion Energy, SCE&G ratepayers will get most of the money back they paid for the nuclear reactors and will no longer face paying billions for this nuclear collapse,” McMaster said.

“But this doesn’t resolve the issue,” he said. “Over 700,000 electric cooperative customers face the prospect of having their power bills sky rocket for decades to pay off Santee Cooper’s $4 billion in debt from this. The only way to resolve this travesty is to sell Santee Cooper. There is more work to be done, but today, we are headed in the right direction.”

On a conference call with investors Wednesday morning, Farrell said there is reportedly “a lot of interest” at Santee Cooper in a sale.

“And hopefully those people will pursue it,” Farrell said.

Dominion has been among the companies approached to buy Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility that is South Carolina’s largest power producer, providing electricity to more than two million people in the state, but Frazier would not say whether a merger is on the table.

A spokeswoman for Santee Cooper could not immediately be reached.

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:
americanpickers@cineflix.com 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.”

SCNow.com 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.