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Calhoun and Bamberg counties might be among the smallest counties in the state but they carry a big economic punch.

Calhoun County boasts globally recognized businesses such as Starbucks, one of only a half dozen roasting plants worldwide and Devro Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturers of casings.

Agriculture has been a key component in Calhoun County's economy as well through the years.

The county's location between the state capital of Columbia and the Port of Charleston, as well as the ease of interstate travel, make it a competitor when attracting big business.

Bamberg County also carries a big stick when it comes to manufacturers.

Worldwide manufacturers as diverse as Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies and UTC Aerospace have located large manufacturers in the county.

In addition, Bamberg County is home to many small manufacturers in the forest products, agribusiness and other manufacturing sectors.

Both counties are a testament to the importance of manufacturing within their respective borders.

Calhoun County

Calhoun County’s March unemployment rate was 4 percent, up from 3.9 percent the month before.

Manufacturing employs a large sector of the county's population.

According to the Central South Carolina Alliance, more than 32 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing.

The CSCA, which recruits economic development, consists of Orangeburg, Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Richland counties and the City of Orangeburg.

According to the CSCA, the county's major employers are:

  • DAK Americas LLC, plastics and resins, 430 employees.
  • Devro Inc., edible casing for meat packaging, 300.
  • Zeus Industrial Products Inc., high-performance polymer tubing for aerospace, automotive, medical and other industries, 125.
  • Starbucks Roasting Plant, roasts and distributes coffee, 101.
  • Alaglass Pools, fiberglass pool construction, 100.

Calhoun County Development Commission Executive Director Pat Black expressed his appreciation to all the county industries and businesses for their contributions to economic prosperity, wealth creation and contributions to the production and manufacture of goods.

"With the recognition and celebration of Industry Appreciation Week, which is really every week, we have the opportunity to acknowledge the many contributions our economic and industrial neighbors make to our economy, our communities, our state, our county, and, in fact, our well-being," Black said.

Black noted the importance of business and industry to the stability of the tax base in the county. He also praised the support of Calhoun County leadership for industrial and business growth.

Black was quick to point out that agriculture remains important to Calhoun County and beyond.

"It is the largest industry in the South Carolina economy," Black said. "This year we have worked with the South Carolina ports to open worldwide markets for many of our agricultural products grown and produced in Calhoun County."

Black said the county has taken steps to maintain its positive economic trend.

"Calhoun County has identified opportunity zones that can contribute to attracting economic development opportunities to areas that need them the most," Black said.

The new federal opportunity zone program provides tax incentives to encourage long-term, private investment in low-income communities.

Black said another challenge will be to keep workforce development at the front and center of economic development, as there is a greater demand for skilled labor.

"All of us, including our education sector, must work with and listen to our businesses and industries to provide them with employees that possess the skills that they want and need," Black said. "Of course, those workers and employees that want to participate in a robust economy must avail themselves of the opportunities that are afforded to them. That is, they must prepare for the opportunities of a twenty-first century economy and the challenges it will present."

Industries making announcements in the county in the past year were:

  • Zeus Industrial Products Inc. announced in February 2018 it would build a new 148,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the county and invest $76 million, creating an additional 350 jobs over the next several years.

The new facility will be located at the county’s Eastman Industrial Site.

The new manufacturing facility is being built off Interstate 26 near Exit 119. It is located about two miles from the company’s existing Gaston facility on property purchased from Eastman Chemical Co. The facility is projected to be completed in 2019.

The expansion also included the purchase of an existing, 80,000-square-foot warehouse in St. Matthews at 2759 Old Belleville Road.

The warehouse was operational by the middle of April 2018. An additional 10 to 20 jobs will be added for the facility.

* Community Energy Solar of Pennsylvania promised to invest $80 million on the Midlands Solar LLC Solar Farm in March 2018. The farm will be located on about 900 acres on Kennerly Road near Providence Road.

The 72-megawatt solar farm is not expected to create many new permanent jobs but will employ between 200 and 300 during the nine-month construction phase.

  • Southern Current LLC in May announced its plans to construct two solar farms: Lone Star Solar LLC and WSW Solar LLC. Lone Star is a 66-megawatt project that will sell energy to Dominion Energy. WSW is a 30-megawatt project.

Unlike previous years, the South Carolina Department of Commerce will not have a special event in honor of industries, deferring any celebratory events for industries to be done on the county level.

Black says like the state, Calhoun County will "take a breather" from hosting an industry appreciation event but does hope the SCDOC will return to its tradition of honoring local industry ambassadors in future years.

Bamberg County

Bamberg County, which is a part of the Southern Carolina Alliance, honors industries quarterly.

The SCA had its spring industry appreciation golf tournament at Berkeley Hall Golf Club in Beaufort County with about 100 golfers participating. A dinner reception was also held.

An industry appreciation event also was held at the RBC Heritage skybox on Hilton Head Island in April.

An annual dinner to recognize industries will also be held at the University of South Carolina's Salkehatchie campus in Allendale June 13.

Also, a marksmanship and golf event will be held in recognition of industries in October.

Southern Carolina Economic Development Alliance Vice President of Marketing Kay Maxwell said Bamberg County is home to three aerospace-certified companies: Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (Tobul Accumulators); Phoenix Specialty and Collins Aerospace (formerly United Technologies).

"Industry is very important in Bamberg County and across our region," Maxwell said.

Maxwell also cited Advanced Tabco/Kinsouth, a supplier of stainless steel sinks, tables and restaurant equipment. It was the first project the SCA recruited upon its inception 20 years ago. The company is located in Denmark.

Maxwell also recognized Olar poultry farmer Chad Brubaker of Innovative Poultry Products LLC, who received the South Carolina Department of Commerce's 2019 Outreach Enrichment Award for his successful use of SCDC's services to expand and grow his business.

The 2019 Outreach Enrichment Award recognizes a small business for its participation in the S.C. Department of Commerce’s supplier development outreach opportunities.

Brubaker specifically received the services of S.C. Commerce's International Strategy and Trade Division in an effort to diversify his business through exports.

The SCA also includes Hampton, Barnwell, Allendale, Colleton and Jasper counties.

During March, Bamberg’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, up from 5.5 percent in February.

According to the SCA, major employers in Bamberg County include:

  • Masonite, doors, 110 employees (the company announced it is closing the Denmark plant July 31).
  • Rockland Industries, textiles, 170.
  • Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (Tobul Accumulators), accumulators, 115.
  • Phoenix Specialty, washers, shims and stampings, 115.
  • Collins Aerospace, heating nozzles, 107.

Industries making investment announcements or beginning operations in Bamberg County in the past year include:

  • OPDE Group in April said it was going to invest approximately $63 million in a new solar farm operation.

Solar farms typically do not result in the creation of any new jobs, but do require on average between 200 and 300 workers during the construction phase.

The OPDE Group solar farm will be the first to locate in Bamberg County.

  • The Bamberg Barnwell Emergency Medical Center in Denmark officially opened April 8.

The $8.63 million, 20,500-square foot facility, will provide emergency care for residents in the area.

The BBEMC employs about 50 and at least five physicians. The new facility features nine private treatment rooms, the diagnostic imaging modalities, laboratory services, an ambulance bay and a helicopter pad for Life Net’s air transportation.

"This is critical to industry in that area," Maxwell said, noting the emergency medical center provides a much-needed service to residents and industry all within a 15-minute drive.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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