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Brand: Area benefits as Florence County grows

January 18, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence County’s capital investment for the 2018 fiscal year was approximately $89.17 million, and 521 jobs were created.

Those figures were announced Thursday by Buddy Brand, chairman of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, at the annual meeting of Florence County Progress, the private-sector arm of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership. The luncheon was held at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center on the Florence-Darlington Technicl College campus.

In his report, Brand said Florence is growing, and that is exciting. He said that is good for the entire area, because if Florence doesn’t grow, then the outlining areas won’t grow.

The speaker for the luncheon was Shea Tighe, chief engagement officer of STEM Premier.

STEM Premier is a technology company that originated in Charleston with Casey Welch, co-founder and CEO.

Tighe said that because Welch could kick a football, he was connected with the right schools and offered certain opportunities. He said Welch wanted to know why the same wasn’t true for those talented in other areas. Hence, the idea for STEM Premier was born to afford those students a way to connect with colleges and employers.

STEM Premier is a virtual hub that brings talent, resources and talent seekers together, Tighe said.

He said STEM Premier started with two schools in the Charleston area and has expanded to 400,000-plus users in 50 states and is represented in 20,000 high schools and colleges.

He said the company is a pipeline that brings students, colleges, companies and opportunities together.

“STEM Premier completes the cycle,” he said.

Some of the companies that partner with it to find students to fill their starter programs, entry level positions, internships and other programs are Toyota, Lockheed, BMW, NUCOR, Boeing and others.

STEM Premier’s focus is to bring the best talent together with opportunity, to connect regional talent with regional opportunities, he said.

The company growth will soon be reflected in a name change, Tighe said. The change will reflect the fact that it is no longer just a tool for STEM but for all types of talent. The new name, Tallo, will be launched on Feb. 4.

In the business portion of the meeting, it was reported that the budget for the coming year will remain the same as last year.

Joan Billheimer, vice chairman of Florence County Progress, reported on membership. She said FCP exists primarily to provide private money to the Economic Development Partnership, with 100 percent of that money coming from membership dues.

Pacesetter membership makes up 80 percent of the dues received with 88 pacesetter members, Jeff Payne reported in the financial report. Extra event privileges come with this membership.

General members make up the other 20 percent of dues from 141 general members.

Twenty-three new members were gained in 2018.

“Our success is entirely dependent upon membership,” Billheimer said.

She said the secondary purpose of FCP is to foster the participation of all Florence County businesses in an effort to develop and enhance local and regional economy.

Elections were held with only one board position open. Darryl Hall of Darryl Hall Homes was elected to that position.

Officers were also voted on by the board. They are Jill Lewis, chairman; Billheimer, vice chairman; and John Bankson, treasurer.

The next Florence County Legislative Day was announced for Feb. 13, a month earlier than usual.

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