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Sims Bark brings family tradition to Bowman

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson, left, and Chairperson Jeannine Kees present a South Carolina state flag to Sims Bark Company Project Manager Doug Nelson. Sims Bark officially announced plans Thursday  to establish a plant in the Bowman area. (LARRY HARDY/T&D)

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson, left, and Chairperson Jeannine Kees present a South Carolina state flag to Sims Bark Company Project Manager Doug Nelson. Sims Bark officially announced plans Thursday to establish a plant in the Bowman area. (LARRY HARDY/T&D)

About 35 years ago, Charlotte Sims and her son, David, found the bark from their local Alabama saw mill useful in potting for their family nursery.

Now the company the Sims founded has plants in Alabama and Mississippi., with a new one on the way in Bowman.

“We are very happy to be here,” Sims Bark Company Project Manager Doug Nelson said during a Thursday ceremony.

“We looked at a couple of areas around the state, but this was a central location in the state. It was the proximity of raw materials and everyone has been really cooperative in helping us locate here,” he said.

Sims Bark announced it will invest $8.5 million in its new plant in the Bowman area.

The company owns about 138 acres and is currently developing 70 acres

at the corner of Arista Road and Landsdowne Road.

Operations are expected to begin in three months.

The company expects to create 50 jobs over five years. Company officials say estimates are conservative and average wages will be at the county’s average wage rate of $12.50 an hour.

The company also looked at Greenwood and Abbeville counties before deciding to locate in Orangeburg County, which wooed the company for more than a year. Sims Bark will receive the traditional incentives given to companies, including a fee-in-leiu-of-taxes arrangement.

Sims Bark Company makes soil, mulch and bagged rocks. The company, which also manufactures concrete pavers, will not be manufacturing the pavers at its Bowman plant immediately, but hopes to expand into concrete operations in the near future, Nelson said.

The company’s customers include Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot, as well as independent chains like Ace Hardware and Fred’s.

Its current building is about 14,000-square feet, but Nelson said much of the operation will be conducted outdoors.

Nelson said the company uses raw materials like bark from saw mills such as Dempsey Wood Products. The company grades it into different sizes and packages it bulk. The company also does business with Collum Lumber Products in Allendale.

Sims Bark started in 1974. It has plants in Tuscumbia, Ala.; Brent, Ala. and Olive Branch, Miss. Four years ago, the company opened a facility about 60 miles south of Atlanta. The company employs approximately 250.

About eight years ago, the company’s plants went completely automated, helping it produce in excess of 150,000 bags of product daily. Automation has also helped Sims Bark bag mulch products at 20 bags per minute, soil products at 30 bags a minute and decorative blocks at 24 bags per minute.

“What we offer logistically is a great way to get their product to market,” Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said. “Sims Bark is a world-class landscaping company. Orangeburg has a number of family-owned quality manufacturing companies and we welcome you into the fabric of our community.”

State Sen. John Matthews expressed his gratitude that Sims Bark chose to locate not only in Orangeburg County but also in the Bowman area, where the senator resides.

“This plant can make money here,” Matthews said. “This county is pro-industry. We understand that we have to expand our industrial base if we are going to expand our economy and increase jobs for the people who live here.”

Matthews said Orangeburg County’s distribution potential makes it an attractive location for any industry.

“This county in my opinion has a very bright future in terms of economic expansion and economic opportunity,” he said.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Harry Wimberly said council is committed to economic development.

“We certainly appreciate you coming to Bowman,” Wimberly said. “I see it as the first of many that will start and grow in the I-95/I-26 corridor. I know it will be a big plus to the small community there in Bowman.”

Following a brief presentation, Robinson presented Nelson with a South Carolina state flag.

Quoting former South Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Charlie Way, Robinson said, “If you fly this flag above your facility, I guarandamntee you will make a profit.

Wilson praises Orangeburg County’s ‘pro-business’ climate

U.S. Second District Congressman Joe Wilson arrived at Orangeburg’s Okonite Co. Wednesday afternoon, praising the company and the Orangeburg community for their support of industry.

“I want to congratulate all of you here,” Wilson told about 20 people gathered in the Okonite board room Wednesday during a stop on his sixth annual, five-day district bus tour. “I am thrilled about the success of Okonite and the expansion. I am amazed at how positive the Orangeburg community is. It is so true right here, the pro-business climate of Orangeburg County.”

Earlier this month, Okonite announced it added $18 million in new capital investment and 40 new jobs at the plant. On Wednesday, Sims Bark Company Inc., an Alabama-based landscape product manufacturer, announced it is investing $8.5 million in the Bowman area.

“Everywhere I look, there is a positive story and it reflects on the people,” Wilson said. He made particular note of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s role training young people “so we can compete with anyone in the world.”

Prior to sharing a few comments, Wilson presented all in attendance, except his wife, Roxanne, with a brochure about how to contact him and the traditional key chain with the Congressional emblem and “With best wishes, Joe Wilson.”

Following the brief comments and introductions, Wilson took a tour of the Okonite facility. After his visit to Okonite, Wilson was to stop at Cox Wood Preserving Company.

“People come by and say, ‘Hey, come on and visit during the year.’ They really mean it, but they don’t think we will follow through, but they better be careful because we will make a note and put it in the file,” Wilson said.

Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper welcomed Wilson to the county.

“We solicit your help as far as economic development in any way,” she said. “As you tour Okonite, you will be invited into one of the premium manufacturers of cables. It is a large plant. You better have on some walking shoes. It is really overwhelming.”

After the meeting, the Republican said he has not yet endorsed a candidate for president.

“I am actually very impressed with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. Mitt Romney, Congressman Duncan Hunter and I am an admirer of U.S. Sen. John McCain,” Wilson said. “I am also looking forward toward the candidacy of U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, but I have not endorsed a candidate.”

Wilson said the key issues the next president will face are national security and defense.

“Protecting our country is the primary focus of our federal government and we learned from 9/11 that the continuing threat of terrorism is worldwide,” Wilson said. “It is really startling that the most loss of life in the last 96 hours was in Dhanbad, India. That is a chilling reminder that this is a worldwide threat.”

Quality Models adding 20 jobs, $4 million here


Quality Models Plastics, a plastic injection-molding company, plans to invest an additional $4 million in its Orangeburg plant and create 20 new jobs.

The additions will bring the company’s total investment at the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park to $10 million. It will employ 60 people once the expansion is complete.

“During the past four years since the original construction, we have enjoyed the opportunities for the growth that were available in this region. These include additional customers, suppliers and contractors as well as a willing and friendly workforce,” said Dave Meloche, operations manager of Quality Models.

The business climate in Orangeburg has allowed us to grow, resulting in this expansion to include warehousing, which will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007. With its completion, we will be able to better serve our current customers as well as continue to expand in new markets, he said.

Orangeburg County Development Commission Chair Jeannine Kees said “It is great that Quality Models has chosen Orangeburg County for their expansion. They are an excellent corporation and I look forward to their continued success.”

The Canadian company announced in 2004 that it would locate a molding facility in Orangeburg to manufacture plastic lawn mower tanks for then-Electrolux, now Husqvarna Outdoor Products Inc. Quality Models specializes in plastic-injection and vac-form production for lawn and garden equipment, as well as the power sports, industrial and automotive aftermarket.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Harry Wimberly said The future looks very bright with Quality Models expanding in South Carolina and the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park. Orangeburg County is continuing to create employment for its citizens.

And Mayor Paul Miller said “We are very pleased that Quality Models continues to expand in Orangeburg County. This confirms Quality Model’s commitment to South Carolina and Orangeburg.”

OCDC Executive Director Gregg Robinson said, This expansion is a prime example of the success of existing industry, which is the core of Orangeburg County’s economic future.

Okonite celebrates expansion, additional investment could follow

It was a day of pride and celebration for The Okonite Company Wednesday as it reaffirmed its commitment to Orangeburg by announcing $17.8 million in new capital investment.
The investment will bring 40 new jobs, bringing Okonite’s total employment in Orangeburg to 277.

“Okonite is very proud to be here in Orangeburg,” Plant Manager Sherill Newnam told the handful of community leaders gathered at the plant Wednesday. “Orangeburg is a great place to live and work. Our company continues to expand because our employees here show that our employees can handle the job and satisfy our customers.”

About $9.2 million will be invested in production machinery, $8.3 million will be spent on infrastructure related to buildings and about $300,000 of the investment is in support materials such as fork lifts. The floor size will increase by 85,600 square feet.

Newnam said when Okonite arrived in Orangeburg 14 years ago, it wanted to take state-of-the-art technology and put it on one campus to create a “world-class operation.”

“That is what we have here in South Carolina,” Newnam said, noting that Orangeburg’s compound plant is the only one Okonite has in the nation. “We have had to move the walls again this year. We had to add additional storage.”

As part of the expansion, the company will move its shipping and packaging operations into a new facility.

“This improves our capacity, our organization out in the plant,” said Tom Sanchez, Okonite facility manager. “It is really kind of tight out there with what we are doing right now. It will give us a little bit more breathing room in the plant for storage … as well as greater efficiency and more machinery to meet our customer needs.”

Sanchez said business is steady.

“We are holding our own right now,” he said.

Newnam said there are other expansion plans on the drawing board.

“Our management has certainly seen the competence in the people of Orangeburg and our employees,” Newnam said. “We have excellent employees here and they are well-trained at OCtech (Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College).”

George Dean, vice chairman of Orangeburg County Development Commission, said while Orangeburg has been referred to as a “sleeping giant,” Okonite has been anything but asleep.

“When you think of economic development, our first thoughts are on recruitment and retention. When it comes to expansion, that is icing on the cake,” Dean said. “This gives us more capital investment, which will lead to more jobs and more jobs leads to a better quality of life for all of us in Orangeburg County.”

OCDC Executive Director Gregg Robinson pointed to Okonite as a successful existing industry.

“It is a symbol of quality,” Robinson said. “We are very proud to have them here.”

Orangeburg County Council Vice Chairwoman Janie Cooper praised the company for the expansion.

“This is another cornerstone in the economic development of this county,” Cooper said. “Congratulations and we commend you.”

Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller said Okonite’s announcement makes for a “double doggone good day” in Orangeburg.

“During the years, they have been wonderful corporate partners and had outstanding involvement in our community,” Miller said. “We look forward to more expansions. All that just means is more jobs and more disposable income in the community. For that we are eternally grateful.”

Miller said Okonite showed it is a good corporate citizen when it provided the city with some property near its plant for a fire station.

“They deeded us this property … that belonged to Okonite so we could build a fire station,” Miller said. “That was a tremendous help to us and it helped reduce our cost.”

As part of the presentation, the OCDC and county presented Okonite with a state flag and the city of Orangeburg presented the company with a Community of Character flag.

The OCDC also presented the company with a drawing of the state tree, the Palmetto, for its lobby.

Jon Johnston, chief of programs and materials for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, praised Okonite for its commitment to being environmentally sound.

“This is the example,” Johnston said. “Nobody pushed them, it is not a requirement, but they have decided that they can take a good product and make it even better. There is no hazard in this product but they are just making this better.”

Johnston presented Sanchez and Newnam with plaques in recognition of their leadership in protecting the environment while also making a successful product.

Okonite began operations in 1993, bringing 150 new jobs to Orangeburg. It later added 174,000 square feet to its operations.

In 1996, the company doubled the size of the plant. In 2002, Okonite made a $7 million expansion of its Orangeburg operations with the purchase of a former Hughes Aircraft building.

The company announced a $15 million expansion with expectations to bring in 20 new jobs in October 2005.

Founded in 1878, Okonite is America’s oldest independent wire and cable manufacturer. Early customers included Samuel F.B. Morse for his telegraph network and Thomas Edison for the Pearl Street Generating Station, the nation’s first.

Other notable and recent projects done by Okonite include providing cable used in the Statue of Liberty.

“We power that cable and keep that torch lighting,” Newnam said.

The company also provided its materials to the Arthur Ravenel Bridge project connecting Charleston with Mount Pleasant. The company helped to provide the transmission cable for South Carolina Electric and Gas operations as part of the bridge project.

Okonite is a manufacturer of insulated electric wire and cable, specializing in high voltage cable.