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.