Honda set to celebrate 20 years in Florence County
TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. — For two decades, the success of Honda of South Carolina has rested on the hard work, pride and passion of the company’s associates.
Honda of South Carolina will celebrate its 20-year-anniversary on Tuesday with a ceremony. The plant officially began production in July of 1998 in Timmonsville.
In July of 2018, the plant produced its 3 millionth ATV, marking a new milestone for the corporation.
Gary Mabrey, the president of Honda of South Carolina, said many things have made Honda successful over the years.
“There are three things that come to mind,” Mabrey said. “One is the great people, the great workforce that we have in the Pee Dee region. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of our workforce. Secondly, we have great access to I-95 and I-20, as well as the Charleston Port, to help with all of the logistics of moving our parts in and shipping our parts out. Lastly, the community, as well as the state and local government, have been very supportive of us.”
Michele Pridgen, an administration assistant manager for Honda of South Carolina, said the Honda plant in Timmonsville was a perfect location for the company to place one of its manufacturing facilities.
“When Honda looks for an area for a manufacturing, they want to be centrally located where the product is used,” Pridgen said. “East Coast, all the way up and down, is our strongest sales all the way west to mid-Texas. When you add that in with the logistics, it made for a smart decision.”
Pridgen said the Pee Dee community also was an important factor in the company’s decision to build in Florence County.
“The community was very strong in helping Honda make that decision in the earlier years,” Pridgen said. “Many people and leaders in the community made it very loud and clear that they wanted Honda in Florence County. Honda looks for a community that will embrace them so that they can embrace the community back.”
When the plant began production in 1998, it produced 50,000 units by the end of the year. By 2002, production reached 1,020 units per day. Honda of South Carolina has made more than $418 million in capital investments and employs 1,000 associates. The product is sold in 200 authorized dealerships.
Honda of South Carolina began producing the Honda Pioneer 1000 Side-by-Side (SXS) in 2015 and announced a $45 million expansion to its facility in 2016. The 115,000-square-foot-expansion was expected to bring 250 new jobs to the Pee Dee community.
The initial $30 million investment with a 200,000-square-foot plant that Honda opened in 1998 has now evolved into a 630,150-square-foot facility that represents more than $344 million invested.
Honda of South Carolina is the sole global producer of Honda ATVs and Side-by-Side utility vehicles.
Pridgen said the company is focused on much more than just efficient production. In 2006, Honda received its W.A.I.T. (Wildlife and Industry Together) certification and, in 2010, the plant achieved “land fill free” status.
The plant has partnered with several organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Timmonsville, to implement several wildlife projects on the property. Some of those projects have included installing a Carolina Fence and Butterfly Garden, installing bird feeders and houses, setting up food plots and stocking an onsite pond with fish.
“Very consciously, we coexist with wildlife,” Pridgen said. “We know that wildlife was here before the plant, and we want to make sure that they continue to live successful lives. At the end of the day, our associates take great pride in giving back to the community in which we exist in a variety of ways.”
From the top to the bottom, no matter the title, everyone at the Honda of South Carolina plant wears a white Honda coverall. Pridgen said the uniform is a way to signify that the company is “one team, unified together for the same purpose.”
“Our associates are the foundation of this company,” Pridgen said. “Without them, we’re not productive and we’re not successful. We want to make sure that we have a balance of manufacturing, as well as conscience of our workforce. There’s a great sense of pride when our associates are building the product, and they build it as if their own family member will be using it.”
Mike Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, said Honda of South Carolina has been a leader not only in industry but also in philanthropic efforts.
“Honda has a strong history of doing business here,” Miller said. “Their continued expansions speak volumes about a well-managed organization. Their impact on employment and livability has influenced other growth in the region. While Honda is mostly known for its solid product line and employment opportunities, they are also very heavily involved in community support efforts. We all have benefited from that commitment.”
Joe King, the executive director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, said the presence of Honda in Florence County has led other corporations to consider coming to the Pee Dee community.
“Honda is a name that is recognized worldwide,” King said. “When you tell site consultants about Honda, it creates a very strong attraction. They have helped a lot of the citizens of the Pee Dee find jobs, which creates stronger families, which creates a stronger economy. Honda has been a great corporate citizen, and we are blessed to have them in our community.”