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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Marlboro Medical Complex holds open house, ribbon cutting

Hundreds of people turned out on Saturday, January 9, for an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at Scotland Health Care System’s new Marlboro Medical Complex in Bennettsville.

It was standing room only at the complex, located at 957 Cheraw Street, as officials talked about the project and its importance to the community, then cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the new facility.

“What a blessing this is today,” said Jane Rogers of Bennettsville, who serves as vice-chair of the Scotland Health Care System Board of Trustees.
Rogers was one of a handful of speakers, along with Scotland Health Care System President and

CEO Greg Wood, Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Vinson, Dr. David Howell of Marlboro Family Practice and Urgent Care, Bennettsville Mayor Heath Harpe, Marlboro County Council Chairman Ron Munnerlyn and the Hon. Patricia Henegan of S.C. House of Representatives District 54.

According to Vinson, Scotland Health Care System got its start nearly 70 years ago, in 1946, when local community leaders recognized the need for healthcare and worked to establish the original hospital in Laurinburg.

From there, the health care system grew to include a network of physicians’ offices in five counties, including Marlboro. Local OB/GYN Dr. John Nobles joined the system in the mid-1990s, and Scotland opened its first Marlboro County primary care practice in McColl in 1998, followed in 2000 by a practice on the U.S. 15-401 By-pass in Bennettsville.

Vinson described the NC/SC line not as a border but as “a seam that binds two like-minded communities together.”

As Scotland’s presence here grew, Marlboro County residents were added to the board of trustees; Rogers first, in 2010, followed by Dr. John Nobles, Bobby Hinson and Cam Stone over the next few years.

In 2010-11, Scotland Health Care System purchased the land on Cheraw Street with the intention of moving its primary care practice from the by-pass to that location. But regulatory and licensing issues caused the project to be put on hold for several years.
During that time, changes occurred, including the bombshell announcement a little over a year ago that Marlboro Park Hospital would be closing.

Wood said Scotland officials and board members spent many months agonizing over the best way to bring needed medical services to Marlboro County.

The result is the 9,000 square foot Marlboro Medical Complex which opened in mid-December 2015. This complex represents a $2.5 million investment by Scotland Health Care System, according to Wood.

Marlboro Family Practice and Urgent Care brings together five providers, Drs. David Howell, Jadene Lowry and Haynes Cain, and Nurse Practitioners Gye Mitchell and Gail Cain.

The Urgent Care is an experimental project, according to Wood, that is currently open to walk-ins between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, with the potential for weekend hours in the future.

Open only since December 15, the complex has already 600 patients, including appointments with the family practice and urgent care walk-ins, and officials anticipate serving more than 12,000 patients per year.

In addition to the family practice and urgent care, the complex also houses surgical and orthopedic specialities (Marlboro Surgical Associates and Ortho-Carolina Scotland),  Scotland Regional Hospice and Carolinas Laboratories, which provides on-site laboratory and X-ray services. Howell said the hope is to add other specialities and mobile mammography in the future

“This is an exciting new chapter in health care for Marlboro County,” said Howell, who has practiced here since 2002.

It is especially exciting, according to local leaders, because the closure of Marlboro Park Hospital in April 2015 left this as one of few communities in the state without a hospital.

“There were some dark days before and after the hospital closed,” said Harpe. “Now we have a new partner committed to healthcare in Marlboro County…Scotland has stepped up to the plate and made a significant investment in our community.”

Adding to that, Munnerlyn reflected that, while other providers chose to leave the county, “Scotland stayed with us…Thank you for what you’ve done for the county.”

Henegan cited Marlboro County’s high rates of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers,

illustrating why access to health care is so important here.

“This facility is critical to Marlboro County,” she said. “It is a treasure and a safety net…Today’s open house is a celebration of leadership, foresight, careful planning and philanthropy.”

Brittany Jones named Marlboro Chamber of Commerce president

The Marlboro Chamber of Commerce welcomes Brittany M. Jones as the new Chamber Pesident.   Brittany has been a resident of Bennettsville for most of her life and attended Bennettsville Middle School and Marlboro County High School, where she graduated as a 2003 honors graduate.

She received her bachelor of arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, Visual Communications from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  While at the University of South Carolina, Brittany worked at the Carolina Alumni Association serving as the public relations officer for the Student Alumni Program.

She also served as the campus President of Habitat for Humanity, Carolina Alumni Student Advisory Board, Student Advertising Federation, Senior Class Advisory Board, Student Gamecock Club, and the Carolina Service Council.

Since graduating, she has worked as an administrator and communications director for Marlboro Adult Day Health Care in Bennettsville.

Brittany later went on to receive her master of business administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. While there she was a member of the 2014 Social Entrepreneurship Conference Business Plan Competition Graduate Team.

Jones is an active member of the Marlboro County community serving as a member of several boards and organizations.  She currently serves as the president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Upsilon Sigma Omega Chapter in Bennettsville. She was appointed to the Lake Paul A. Wallace Authority in 2015, where she serves as the board secretary.  She has also served on the Friends of the Library for the Marian Wright Edelman Public Library and the Marlboro Arts Council.

Jones believes that the Chamber’s work is vital to the county’s business community and looks forward to working with the board and volunteers to grow the organization and represent the interests of local businesses.

Increasing the visibility of the Chamber and encouraging more businesses and individuals to join and become active participants is of utmost importance to her. She is looking forward to hearing from residents on how the Chamber can better support their business, whether they are considering starting up a new business or already own a business in town, the Chamber is here to assist them.

NESA strengthening the region with job growth

Jeff McKay is the executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA). NESA is a nine county regional economic development alliance that works with county allies – Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, Florence, Dillon, Williamsburg, Marion, Horry and Georgetown Counties – and potential clients to facilitate the creation of jobs and capital investment in the northeast region of South Carolina.

Over the past five years, the NESA (North Eastern Strategic Alliance) region of South Carolina has changed dramatically. It’s not just the fact that we’ve added new industries, more jobs and more capital investment, though.

It’s the way our region has undertaken this growth.

Since 2011, we’ve added 8,944 jobs along with $1.5 in new capital investments to our part of the state. From one year to another, we’re continually trending upwards. Though our region is not unfamiliar with the grindstone, we’re also trying to apply our efforts in a more efficient manner.

From refocusing on one of our region’s most historically important industries – agribusiness – to extending our region’s reach across the world through face-to-face meetings with international companies, we’re showing the fruits of a more comprehensive approach to economic development.

With the resurgence of agribusiness throughout our state, our region has been at the forefront of some of the most important advancements pertaining to farming and agribusiness over the past five years.

Five years ago, our region became the first to reevaluate the importance of agribusiness and how we approach the industry with not only our marketing, but with how we generate sites and buildings to house industries dealing with agribusiness.

Now, our region contains more than 12,600 agribusiness and food processing workers and claims annual sales of more than $4 billion, accounting for 21 percent of the state’s total agriculture revenue.

A focus on food processing has led to a number of success stories in Florence County specifically. McCall Farms and Ruiz Foods, two family-owned companies, have both made a tremendous impact on Florence County with both expansions and new projects respectively.

Our region possesses the only two certified “Shovel Ready” sites for the food processing industry – in Florence and Marion counties – giving our region a leg up in providing adequate sites for potential agribusiness projects.

Though we’ve embraced our historical standing as an agribusiness hub, we’re not forgoing our future.

Over the past five years, we’ve increased our global standing by carrying our region’s brand throughout the world to places such as Hanover, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Brussels, Farnborough and Nagoya.

As foreign economies expand, they are able to take advantage of new markets to grow into, providing our region with a valuable opportunity to meet the needs of growing international companies.

With a workforce possessing proud history of manufacturing some of the world’s most high quality goods, international companies from around the globe have found they can be successful in our region.

From Nan Ya Plastics, Honda Manufacturing, BauschLinnemann, Accent Stainless, Beneteau, Shaeffler – INA Bearing to DSM Nutritional Products, our region is home to numerous international companies that have found prosperity in our part of the state.

While we continue to develop our international marketing efforts, we are also improving our existing industry focus, preserving relationships with companies and ensuring their success. In 2015, NESA continued its existing industry outreach visits to companies in our region, providing economic development assistance to further their growth.

Considering our region’s success over the past five years, it’s hard to argue that we haven’t been making progress both in terms of putting our region back to work, as well as helping introduce large capital investments to our local communities.

As our state continues to improve economically, our region has mirrored that success. Over the past five years, we’ve seen our region’s unemployment rate drop precipitously from 15.1 percent to its current standing of 6.7 percent.

Though our region has been a part of some major success stories, there’s still more work to be done. In the first quarter of 2016, our region’s counties have made headway on number of projects and estimate the upward trend set over the past five years will continue into this year.

As we progress into the future, the NESA region will continue to reinforce our standing as an agribusiness hub and we will continue to seek foreign direct investment, but our region will also explore need ideas and methods in order to stay on the cutting edge of economic development, to the betterment of the entire northeastern region of South Carolina.


In South Carolina, A Program That Makes Apprenticeships Work

NPR Photo by Mike Belleme

Several years ago, South Carolina had a problem: a shortage of skilled workers and no good way to train young people for the workforce. So at a time when apprenticeship programs were in decline in the U.S., the state started a program called Apprenticeship Carolina.

“We were really, really squarely well-positioned at the bottom,” says Brad Neese, the program’s director.

From the beginning, South Carolina took apprenticeship beyond the building trades — that’s the traditional route for apprentices — to fields like nursing, pharmacy and IT. As the number of apprenticeship programs has fallen nationwide, it has taken off in South Carolina.

“When we started this back in 2007, we only had 90 companies that had apprenticeship programs,” Neese says. “We’ve hit 670, which, by the way, we only had 777 apprentices in 2007. And we’ve now serviced nearly 11,000 apprentices. So it’s been a phenomenal growth.”

What’s the secret sauce? A state tax credit for companies doesn’t hurt — but at $1,000 per year per apprentice for four years, it’s pretty modest. A big factor is Germany. Companies like BMW and Bosch have plants in the state and brought with them the German system of apprenticeships.

“I think that the German influence has been great,” Neese says. “But we also have seen that it’s just a process that makes sense.”

You can see the process unfold at companies like Cooper Standard in upstate Spartanburg, S.C. The company makes sealing systems that keep wind and noise out of cars and trucks.

John Harris is a new apprentice there, fresh out of the Air Force. In the military, he dealt with his share of challenging situations, some of them in Afghanistan. But when he left the Air Force last summer it was pretty scary. He and his wife were moving to a new state, and he had no job prospects. Civilian life was a giant unknown.

“I’m an adult, I’m disciplined, I have leadership skills,” he says. “I knew I had all these skills to offer. But I didn’t know if anybody would want me. Everybody says they’ll hire veterans, but that doesn’t mean they can hire you if there’s no jobs open.”
At Cooper Standard, Harris is using his Air Force background as an electrician to learn an occupation called mechatronics. It’s a fairly new kind of job in manufacturing — a utility player on the factory floor with myriad skills.

“They know a little about programming, they can work with automation,” says Warren Snead, Harris’ boss. “They know the basics of wiring, hydraulics, pneumatics — so really a Superman or Superwoman who can do everything.”

In other words, it’s someone who’s able to fix just about anything at a plant — and the kind of job that can’t be sent to a faraway country. Recently, Harris installed sensors for an alarm system. Four nights a week he attends a welding class. And he’s feeling pretty good about the direction his life has taken since leaving the Air Force.

“You only have a short amount of time on this planet; you better make the best of it,” Harris says. “And that’s what I’m going to do. So, yes, I do feel confident that I’m going to make the best that I can for my family.”

Starting Early
Many manufacturing companies are at a crossroads. They have converging needs. For example, there are the machining skills of veteran employees — think tool and die making — and there’s the Information Age know-how of workers who can operate complicated computer-operated equipment. That’s the case at United Tool and Mold in Easley, S.C. The company repairs and re-engineers molds that stamp out plastic parts for cars, trucks and refrigerators.

So why does the company have an apprenticeship program?

“Because every day, your workforce gets older,” says United Tool and Mold manager Jeromy Arnett. “We’ve been walking around here for 20 minutes, and our workforce aged 20 minutes. We can’t go back and get the time from the employees that are growing older.”

So the company followed the German system of starting apprentices off early. They start here after their junior year in high school, combining classwork with on-the-job training. “We didn’t go over and take verbatim what their model is, but a lot of how we set up our apprenticeship is based on that German model,” Arnett says.

Brandon Richards is a youth apprentice at the company who just started at the local technical college. In class he studies computer-aided design. “I get paid for my hours at work when I’m here, and I get paid while I’m in class, so I stay on the clock even at school,” he says.
Graduates of the company’s apprenticeship program make around $16 an hour and can earn up to $24 as they get more experience.

Arnett says in this area that’s enough to live pretty well.

“These folks in here are making a living so they can buy a house for their family, they put food on the table, they take that family vacation,” he says. “They get the car that they want. Take care of their kids. To me, that’s middle class.”

‘Apprenticeships Are Win-Win’
An apprenticeship isn’t a cure-all. Companies can still make the wrong hire and squander their investment. Apprentices can wind up in a field they don’t like and find it hard to switch. But everyone interviewed for this story — regardless of ideology or geography — from employers in the red state of South Carolina to economists to a Cabinet member in the Obama administration — all say the same thing: The apprenticeship system is an economic plus.

“Apprenticeships are win-win,” says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “Apprentices are opportunities for young people to punch their ticket to the middle class and for employers to get that critical pipeline of skilled labor.”

Given all that, you’d think they would be commonplace. Far from it. In 2003, there were about 489,000 registered apprentices in the U.S., according to the Labor Department. Last year, there were only around 288,000. Some of that can be chalked up to the recession and companies investing less in training. But people involved in apprenticeships see something else going on: the belief that somehow it’s a failure when a young person doesn’t go from high school to a four-year college.

“It’s a stigma that we’re trying to get over, especially in our schools,” Arnett says. “Just because they don’t have a sheet of paper hanging on the wall saying they went to school for four years doesn’t mean that they’re any less important to our country and the economy of our country than anyone else.”

Perez says apprenticeships can be a sleeping giant for the U.S. economy. But some of the toughest converts are parents. “When you talk to people in the manufacturing context and you say, ‘Hey, your son or daughter should be an apprentice manufacturer,’ too many parents look at me and say, ‘Tom, my kid’s going to college.’ ”

Perez says apprentices can always get four-year degrees while they work — and employers will often foot the bill.