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Olympic Steel breaks ground

October 09, 2008

Item Staff Writer

A bright spot of news was delivered Wednesday afternoon before a slow and steady rain fell on Black River Airport Industrial Park — Olympic Steel officials and various public and private sector dignitaries officially broke ground on Sumter’s first new industry in about 10 years. 

The Cleveland-based steel processor’s $13 million, 125,000-square-foot facility will employ 100 people when it’s operational in mid-2009. 

“Today’s a win for Sumter,” said Greg Thompson, Sumter Development Board chairman, “and today’s a win for South Carolina,” acknowledging that we all live in “trying times.” He called the groundbreaking the “beginning of a new era in Sumter,” while recognizing the local, state and national teamwork needed to bring in industry. 

Sumter native and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn Jr. joked that he was glad to be among people who were “very pleased with what we did last week,” referring to Congress’ $700 billion financial market bailout package, but noting it was “exactly what I think we should have done.” He also said while there was talk of how the package would affect Main Street and Wall Street, he was talking about how it would impact Broad, Liberty, and Walker streets, the latter being where the House Majority Whip grew up. 

In an analogy regarding Congress having to stabilize the financial markets, he said whenever a patient is brought into Tuomey Regional Medical Center following an accident, the patient must be stabilized first. 

“And then you start working on the cure,” he said. 

Clyburn said Olympic Steel’s investment showed “faith and confidence in the future,” noting he was very familiar with some of their products, such as parts for the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicle in use in Iraq, some of which are constructed by Force Protection in Charleston. He also defended the use of earmarks, and how the Defense Department resisted the MRAPs, until Congress intervened. 

“The MRAP was a good and acceptable investment in earmarking,” he said, before praising Sumter’s “visionary” leadership and telling everyone “I have Sumter on my mind.” 

South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor told the crowd the government is committed to growing business and industry. 

County Councilman Charles Edens called the day a “new chapter in Sumter’s economic history.” 

“Even in times of uncertainty, business must go on,” he said. 

“This marks, I think, a revival for Sumter,” said Mayor Joe McElveen, praising the development board for taking Sumter to the “next level.”  “We’re going to grow,” he said. “Things are going to be good. Things are going to be better.” 

After remarks by Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, and Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, Olympic Steel Chief Financial Officer Richard Marabito briefly described his publicly traded company that has over $1 billion in annual sales, 1,200 employees and 16 facilities across the nation. 

“We place a real, everyday value on developing our people,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be here. What else can I say?” 

Contact Staff Writer Joe Perry at (803) 774-1272.

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We’ve made great strides. But now it’s time to shift our focus inward and really zero in on our number one asset: our people.”
Greg Thompson
Chair, Sumter Development Board