First In A Series
UNION COUNTY — The year 2015 is now history but stories of both hope and sorrow that began during that year are continuing into 2016.
Economic development, especially when it involves the location of a new industry into the community or the expansion of an existing one, is always front page news. In 2015, Union County got some very good economic news with the announcement in October that Haemonetics would invest $40 million in the expansion of its facility at 155 Medical Sciences Drive, Union. The expansion is projected to create 40 new jobs and quadruple production at the facility.
The announcement was made at Oct. 13 meeting of Union County Council after council voted unanimously to approve a resolution and first reading of an ordinance relating to a company initially identified as “Project Veruca Salt.” The resolution authorized the county to enter into a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement with the company. It stated that the county was recruiting an investment by Project Veruca Salt “for the expansion of its facility to be used for the manufacturing of medical devices in the county.” To do this, the county must “take certain actions and provide certain incentives including entering into a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement with the company.
It further stated that the company expects to create 40 new, full-time jobs in connection with the project on or before Dec. 31, 2021. It also stated that the company had requested the project be included in a multi-county industrial park created by Union County in collaboration with Spartanburg County.
Following council’s approval of the resolution and first reading of the related ordinance, Supervisor Frank Hart announced that Project Veruca Salt was Haemonetics and the project involved the expansion of the company’s Medical Sciences Drive facility. Hart also announced that the company would invest $40 million in the expansion and create 40 new jobs. He congratulated Haemonetics on its expansion and pointed out that it is a sign of what a great place Union County is to do business.
Also present for the announcement was Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker who said that when a company decides to “expand the footprint of its current location” like Haemonetics did, it “demonstrates that they are comfortable and confident doing business in your community.”
Union County Development Board Chairman Joe Nichols also praised Haemontics decision, pointing out the company has “been a staple in Union County with more than 20 years at its current location.”
Haemonetics Plant Manager Kelly Mason was also present for the announcement and discussed the reasons behind the company’s decision.
“To support the rapid growth within the market we are expanding our production capabilities and investing in state-of-the-art pharmaceutical equipment,” Mason said. “Our annual volume will go from 20 million units a year to roughly 80 million.”
At the time of the announcement, Mason said the expansion process was already under way and that plans called for the majority of the work to be completed by November 2016. He added that, just as the expansion process was already under way, so was the hiring to process to fill the 40 jobs that will be created.
“We are currently hiring and we have a dire need for technicians with the advanced background in automation and controls,” Mason said.
The economic development process of recruiting new industry and/or helping facilitate the expansion of new industry, involves incentives provided by local government and other local entities.
Just as the county provided incentives to help facilitate the Haemonetics expansion, so to did the City of Union.
During its Nov. 17 meeting, Union City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing the inclusion of the expansion project in a multi-county industrial park as requested by the company.
Union County and Spain
One of the realities of the 21st century is that even small communities like Union County are part of the globalized economy.
The county was given a reminder of that in April when a delegation of a representatives of the Spanish embassy and executives from the Spanish firms HIDRAL and INDRA USA visited Union County during a three-day tour of South Carolina.
During their visit to Union County, the delegation, accompanied by officials with the SC Department of Commerce, toured the Gestamp and Gonvauto plants, both of which are Spanish firms. They also met with local officials including Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker.
Union County was the first stop on the three-day tour Powell-Baker said it was chosen by the Spanish embassy because Gestamp and Gonvauto are located here.
“There are probably only seven or eight Spanish manufacturing companies in South Carolina and we have two of them,” Powell-Baker said. “The embassy of course knew this and their purpose in bringing these companies here was to tour Gestamp and Gonvauto. They were very impressed with what they saw.”
Powell-Baker pointed out that the visit was the latest sign of the growing interest of foreign businesses in Union County, a growing interest that she said is due in large part to the county’s commitment to attract, support, and promote economic development.
“Foreign direct investment in South Carolina is on the rise because of the success of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacture) like BMW and Boeing,” Powell-Baker said. “This includes a growing international interest by businesses around the world in Union County and we have made a strategic decision to be ready for it by developing industrial parks and spec buildings.”
In Union County, the economy has been compared to a three-legged stool. The three legs of the stool are industry, retail/service businesses, and tourism.
That second leg of the stool also made front page news in 2015 with the opening of new businesses in Buffalo and Union.
Apple Blossom Bakery & Cafe
In Buffalo, Carla Champion and her daughter, Rebekah, realized their dream of 15-year-old dream of owning and operating their own restaurant.
The Champions opened “Apple Blossom Bakery & Cafe” at 839 Main St., Suite D. Buffalo on Nov. 14, a little over two years after they began operating what became a very successful business out of their home.
Carla described the restaurant as “a 15-year-old bucket dream. I had cancer 15 years ago and I’ve always enjoyed cooking and Rebekah wanted to learn how to cook when she was five or six. So I just started teaching her and about three years ago we started talking about opening a restaurant. We talked about it for a while and prayed about it to be sure it was what we wanted to do.”
Once they were sure, Carla and Rebekah took the first step toward realizing their goal by starting their business in their home. They got a cottage license which allowed them to sell out of their home, and began their business which was built around their love of cooking. Carla said that their home business opened August 2013 “and we have not slowed down, we have stayed very, very busy.”
The success they enjoyed operating their business out of their home inspired Carla and Rebekah to take the next step and open a full-fledged restaurant.
Apple Blossom Bakery & Cafe is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The restaurant serves salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches, drinks and desserts, and also offers a Kids’ Menu.
All baked goods served at Apple Blossom according to Carla “are homemade and baked daily. It’s something we wanted to make sure was done. It was fresh and homemade.”
There’s also a Sunday menu which Carla said is different each week and both dine-in or take-out.
Carla and Rebekah also provide catering services.
The growth of the business has also resulted in Apple Blossom getting involved with Whistle 100 and Carla said in November that the restaurant will have commercials on Whistle 100 radio.
Fresh Seafood On Main
Another entrepreneur who realized a dream in 2015 was Stanley Clowney Jr. who opened “Fresh Seafood on Main” in November.
Clowney described his new business, located at 200 S. Gadberry St., Union, as “a small seafood market where you can purchase fresh seafood, but at the same time have it cooked. You can have it fried, steamed, or grilled here or you can take it home and prepare it yourself.”
Fresh Seafood on Main was the second seafood establishment Clowney, a Union native who lives in Columbia and is involved in the food truck service industry, has opened in the past decade. He is also part-owner of Carolina Seafood in Rock Hill, and said that the success of that venture is what lead him to open Fresh Seafood on Main.
“We’ve had the place in Rock Hill since 2006 and it is doing well and so I thought about how I could leave my mark and create jobs,” Clowney said. “We have people here in Union who go to Rock Hill and Spartanburg for fresh seafood so I saw the need here.”
Clowney said Fresh Seafood on Main would live up to its name by providing a wide selection of fresh seafood Monday-Saturday. He said there will also be a daily lunch special offered daily from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday with offered items varying from day to day.
That wide selection of fresh seafood includes Flounder, Salmon, Perch, Red Snapper, Florida Bream, Mullet, Black Bass, Croaker, Porgie, Spots, Dressed Catfish, and Gator Tail.
Fresh Seafood on Main is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
As for his goal of creating jobs locally, Clowney said he employs a total of four full-time and two part-time workers at the restaurant.
While it opened in November, Fresh Seafood on Main, had its official opening during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 11 attended by a number of local officials as well as the general public. After the ceremony, many of those attending the ceremony celebrating by lining up at the counter and purchasing fresh fish.