S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0930.simt.htm

Pee Dee manufacturing center is employment gem
By Andy Brack, Publisher

SEPT. 30, 2007 - - For the Pee Dee, a region sometimes looked down upon by the big economies of Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, a just-opened manufacturing technology center may be its jobs manna from heaven.

With much fanfare, the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SIMT) opened this week at Florence-Darlington Technical College with officials showcasing robotic assembly tools and 3-D virtual reality training resources in the 177,000 square foot, multi-purpose facility built in just 16 months.

US Rep. Jim Clyburn uses hand movements to manipulates a 3D computer interface at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology. Florence-Darlington Technical College President Charles Gould is at left. (Photo provided.)

And while the Institute has a bunch of gizmos that look neat on TV, these tools are the Pee Dee's ticket to reinvigorating manufacturing jobs in the region, says Florence-Darlington Tech President Charles Gould.

"The potential is jobs," Gould said. "If we don't have this kind of support center, we're not going to be able to attract jobs."

And then he says something more interesting, particularly in an area in which every county has a jobless rate that's higher than the state's already high 5.6 percent: "If this thing develops the way we think it is, in the next five years, we will not have an unemployment issue here," Gould said.

Joe W. King, head of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership now located in the SIMT facility, is equally enthusiastic.

"This facility is going to change the landscape of eastern South Carolina more than any other thing," he said. "The SIMT will provide opportunities for the workforce to acquire the skills that manufactures desire to compete in a global economy. If companies are confident a community or region has a workforce with the skills that will make their operation successful and competitive, they are much more inclined to locate there. Having said that, yes, it (SIMT) will be the catalyst that decreases the region's unemployment figures."

Pretty strong talk. But, as Gould points out, global manufacturers are becoming frustrated with some outsourcing opportunities. If manufacturing were merely assembly, China would have it all. But manufacturing includes research, development, rapid prototyping, training skilled workers, using high-tech equipment and more. In China, Gould notes, manufacturers are having problems with consistency of assembly - - something also that doesn't occur here.

"As manufacturers compete in a global economy, two key components to their future success are the availability of a skilled workforce and the ability to capitalize on technologies that will help their business improve quality, productivity and profitability," King adds. "The sole focus of the SIMT is to address these two critical issues, and it is one of only a handful of facilities in the world with the capabilities to do so.

"The customized training programs in a variety of manufacturing areas and the ability to assist companies in developing advanced manufacturing processes will benefit not only the companies utilizing SIMT, but the people who live and work in the region."


We encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:


So, there's a real opportunity in the Pee Dee for the SIMT to provide a panoply of tools for manufacturers to use to develop their wares in an environment that provides more security for their investment than some foreign countries. Development officials are also hoping that once they're impressed with the work ethic and quality at the Institute, they'll stick around and locate a facility nearby.

"We're never going to be a Charleston, Greenville or Columbia," Gould notes. "They all have their own business environments. What we're trying to do here is create a different environment.

"We present a different package as an economic development carrot. This is a different twist on it."

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Old Sheldon Church was beautiful building

Moss-draped live oak trees shade the quiet burial ground that surrounds the ruined Sheldon Church of Prince William's Parish. Its molded brick columns support a nonexistent portico and continue between arched openings along the side walls to lend a sense of enclosure to the unroofed building. Even in ruins, Sheldon Church symbolizes Beaufort County's prosperity during South Carolina's early years as a royal colony. Sophisticated in its architecture and craftsmanship, this isolated brick edifice was among the first examples of the temple design in the English-speaking world.

Ruins of the old Sheldon Church.

In the 1730s, influential planters began moving to the former Indian lands, bringing their slaves and creating wealth, and in 1745, the Commons House of Assembly established Prince William's Parish. No longer was it necessary to travel to St. Helena's Parish for worship or voting. So that a church could be built, Elizabeth Bellinger donated a 50-acre tract of Tomotley Barony, next to William Bull's Sheldon Plantation. Construction was funded largely by the Bulls, supplemented by legislative appropriations. The result, completed in 1757, was "esteem'd a more beautiful Building than St. Philip's. It is far more elegant than St. Michael's.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

This emblem of English political and religious organization was burned in 1779 by a band of Beaufort Tories. Not until 1825 did commissioners advertise for estimates "to cover the Ruins of the Sheldon Church ... with a plain strong wooded Roof, putting Doors, Windows, Benches, and a Floor to do the same." The rebuilt church was consecrated in 1826, but in 1865 both the church and its summer chapel in McPhersonville were burned. A replacement chapel was constructed in 1898. Sheldon Church has never been rebuilt. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

-- Entry by Sarah Fick, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Blast from the past

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

Recent feedback

9/18: State needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Some good points in sex ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston, SC
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.
7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.

How you can subscribe to the full edition of the report

The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge. There's a new limited paid version for individuals that costs about $30 per month. More on subscribing.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:

  • Hot news -- an early peek on something really big that will happen at the Statehouse. We continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.
  • Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda
  • Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
  • Palmetto Politics -- Tidbits from the world of South Carolina politics.
  • McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
  • Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language
  • Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.
  • Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
  • Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com


South Carolina Statehouse Report

Publisher: Andy Brack
Editor: Bill Davis | Assistant Editor: Betsy Brack
Phone: 843.670.3996

Subscription or sponsorship Inquiries: info@statehousereport.com

Have an event for the SC Statehouse Report calendar? E-mail details to: news@statehousereport.com or fax to above number.

For additional information, including subscription prices, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.

Immigration to forefront
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

SEPT. 28, 2007 -- Immigration, like a nighttime border crosser, slipped into next year's state legislative agenda by taking a back alley well-worn by the national debate on the subject.

  • If you subscribed to the full edition of Statehouse Report, you'd get more information on this and much more. Contact us today to learn more.

Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NEWS: Immigration sneaks to the front
  • AGENDA: The beast stirs
  • RADAR SCREEN:Education trods uphill
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Dems shaking in boots
  • BLOGROLL: Return of the Blogroll
  • KEEPING TRACK: Ahead on Drummond retirement
  • SCORECARD: Who's up and down for the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: Infidel alert

For more information, contact us today about our affordable paid subscriptions for businesses and organizations that need the inside scoop at the Statehouse.

AVAILABLE NOW: Furman University's Don Gordon has great things to say about Andy Brack's book of commentaries, "Bugging the Palmettos." Click here to learn more and buy the book -- only $15.00!

Visit Statehouse Report




Copyright 2007, Statehouse Report LLC, which is affiliated with The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.
Reproduction is prohibited without express permission of the publisher. For additional information, including subscription prices, go to

Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.