Rural Leaders Accomplishments Recognized by the Department of Commerce

Earl Wilson (center) was presented with the Rural Entrepreneur Award by Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor (left) and Maceo Nance (right), director of Community and Rural Development at the S.C. Department of Commerce, during the 19th Annual Rural Summit in Clemson, S.C.

COLUMBIA , S.C. - March 31, 2009 - Five outstanding South Carolina individuals and organizations were honored last month, which was held at the Department of Commerce TMs Rural Summit in Clemson. The awards were presented at the 19th South Carolina Rural Summit, an annual event at which rural community leaders, economic developers, state officials and specialists share ideas, experiences and practical knowledge to improve rural South Carolina.

Individuals can truly make a difference and in rural areas where populations are smaller, individual involvement is even more important. These award winners are making a real impact in their communities by encouraging positive change. Whether through economic development, workforce training or giving back to their local community, the efforts of one individual or organization can help strengthen rural South Carolina, said Joe Taylor, Secretary of Commerce.

While many organizations, entrepreneurs and community leaders throughout the state work hard to build stronger, more prosperous communities, the award recipients have made particularly significant contributions to the economic development of South Carolina TMs rural communities.

Palmetto Partnership Award - The Lower Orangeburg-Upper Dorchester Community Development Corporation

The Palmetto Partnership Award recognizes models for effective teamwork that allow rural communities to function more efficiently and economically. The Lower Orangeburg-Upper Dorchester Community Development Corporation (LOUD) is a non-profit that promotes encourages economic growth and employee training courses for local citizens. The program has worked with area community colleges to offer courses in nursing, manufacturing and truck driving, as well as classes in rural entrepreneurship.

Rural Small Business Award - Michael & Patty Griffey, Abingdon Manor

The Rural Small Business Award recognizes an individual or company with less than 25 employees that has had a significant impact on a rural area TMs economy or community. This year TMs recipients, Michael & Patty Griffey, owners of Abingdon Manor in Dillon County, have built a successful hospitality business which has had a direct and indirect impact on the local economy of $5.25 million and 36.5 jobs created. Abingdon Manor has been awarded the prestigious four diamond rating for the inn for 12 consecutive years and the restaurant since its opening in 2003. The inn and restaurant have been featured in articles in numerous regional and national publications.

Individual Initiative Award " Brandon Grace

The Individual Initiative Award recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated a pioneering spirit, creativity and resourceful solutions that have challenged his or her community. This year TMs recipient is Brandon Grace, manager of the Anderson County Farmers Market and current president of the S.C. Farmers Market Association. Grace has used his passion to promote sustainable agriculture/best practices programs across the state. Grace has also been instrumental in developing and promoting Farm to School programs in order to educate young people about the cultivation of locally grown produce and their nutritional value, as well as economic impact on the local economy.

Rural Entrepreneur Award " Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson is president of The Orr Company, a partnership that owns and operates 10 KFC and Arby TMs restaurants in Florence and Sumter. Wilson is an extraordinary entrepreneur who rose from an entry-level cook to the leadership of his company. He manages a growing business that continues to be highly successful, even in these trying economic times. He genuinely cares about his employees in an industry that all too often treats workers as disposable. While the fast food industry averages a 200 to 400 percent turnover rate, the Orr Company has just a 40 percent turnover rate, with more than 75 of the company TMs 200 employees having been there for five or more years.

About S.C. Department of Commerce

As South Carolina TMs leading economic development agent, the Department of Commerce works closely with economic development professionals throughout the state to recruit new businesses and jobs and help existing businesses grow. In 2008 Commerce recruited a record 18,993 new jobs and $4.17 billion in capital investment. Many well-known names and world-class companies chose to invest in South Carolina during 2008, some of which include: Target Corp., Home Depot, Heinz, Monster, American Titanium Works, BMW, Michelin and URS Corp. Commerce also assists companies in locating buildings and sites in which to operate, offers grants for community development and infrastructure improvements and provides tools to enhance workforce skills. For more information, visit

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