Awards at Rural Summit recognize leaders making an impact in rural South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Commerce gathered leaders from across the state on Monday for the 24th annual South Carolina Rural Summit and challenged attendees to make a difference in their communities.

This year’s Rural Summit was held at the Opera House in Sumter, S.C., where rural community leaders, economic developers and state officials shared ideas, experiences and practical knowledge to improve rural South Carolina.

“We have all the ingredients for remarkable greatness in our state,” said Secretary Hitt. “All communities throughout South Carolina have attributes that make them candidates for growth. When we come together to celebrate the successes of our neighbors, a ripple effect is created.”

At the Rural Summit, Secretary Hitt presented awards to individuals and organizations that are making a difference in rural communities in South Carolina, including:

I.) Palmetto Partnership Award presented to the Chester Gateway Project.

The Partnership Award, which recognizes models of how rural communities efficiently and economically accomplish tasks through teamwork, was awarded to Chester County for its Chester Gateway Project.

In 2013, several partners in Chester County came together to purchase and convert a former automotive dealership into a state-of-the-art conference, visitors and economic development center known as the Gateway Conference Center, which consists of 31,744 square feet and includes multi-purposed conference space.

Three representatives of the Chester Gateway Project team received the award: William H. Bundy, president, Chester Healthcare Facility ; Michael E. Enoch, past chairman of Chester Development Association; and Michael Kozlarek, partner, Parker Poe.

II.) Director’s Award presented to Continental Tire the Americas.

The Director’s Award was established to recognize an individual or entity that has gone above and beyond in the rural communities of South Carolina. This year, Continental Tire the Americas was recognized for the company’s lasting commitment to help South Carolina businesses thrive and expand investment in rural communities.

Continental Tire the Americas began construction in Sumter in mid-2012. The plant, which hosted its grand opening in January, will bring 1,600 new jobs to Sumter County and $500 million in capital investment. To date, Continental has awarded more than $100 million in contracts to South Carolina companies.

III.) Rural Development Service Award presented to Tony Allen and Warren Darby.

This year, two members of the South Carolina Commerce Global Business Division received the award, which recognizes the Commerce project manager or managers who have helped generate the most investment and jobs for rural communities that year. Over the past year, Tony Allen and Warren Darby have recruited nearly 2,500 jobs and more than $375 million in investment to rural South Carolina.

IV.) Excellence in Education Award presented to Jasmine Callaham.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce presented Jasmine T. Callaham, a junior at McCormick High School, with the Excellence in Education Award and a $500 scholarship. Callaham currently holds the highest SAT score at McCormick High and her GPA is 4.66. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, through which Callaham has completed more than 40 hours of community service activities this year. Callaham will be the first person in her family to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and she intends to major in physical therapy or sports medicine.

Follow the link for pictures of award winners. Please contact S.C. Commerce for high resolution pictures.

About S.C. Department of Commerce As South Carolina’s leading economic development agency, the Department of Commerce works to recruit new businesses and help existing businesses grow. Commerce has recruited world-class companies to South Carolina such as Boeing, Bridgestone, Continental,, ZF Group, BMW and Google Inc. and also supports small and existing business, rural development initiatives and community development. Commerce partners with the S.C. Technical College System via readySC to support workforce training and recruiting, and with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, which provides worker training and employment opportunities within the state. South Carolina ranked first in the national for attracting jobs through foreign investment, according to IBM-Plant Location International reports in both 2012 and 2013. The state won the Gold Shovel Award and the Project of Year Award from Area Development magazine in 2012. For more information, visit