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Palmetto Synthetics: Part of the fabric of community

Palmetto Synthetics: Part of the fabric of community

Article was added on Thursday, March 15, 2018

By ADREL LANGLEY

Palmetto Synthetics CEO Henry Poston built his business one fiber at a time. He's out to improve the community where he located the same way.

"We could have gone anywhere in the world," says Poston, who is glad he chose Williamsburg County. Back in 1997, the picture was quite different.

Local development and county officials told him about a new industrial park on U.S. Hwy. 52 just north of Kingstree. When they drove to the site, the car came to a stop in a bean field, he recalls with a chuckle.

"There was part of an old house out there," says Poston, pointing out the window of his corner office. Behind the office today is the rest of a 350,000-square-foot facility - proof of how much has changed in 20 years.

Palmetto Synthetics is basically a recycling company, Poston explains. The business doesn't make any finished products, although the fiber they produce goes into many products we come in contact with every day. Palmetto Synthetics' fabric is used in military uniforms, in apparel by companies like Under Armor, and in automotive headliners and floor coverings, to name a few. With the capability to produce 3,000 different colors, the company can make fibers any color under the sun. Palmetto Synthetics has regional sales offices in China and the United Kingdom and sells fiber to companies all over the world.

As the first tenant in the industrial park, Poston got to choose what electric utility company would serve the park. "It was a no-brainer," he says. "The quality of power we have had from Santee Electric Co-op has been super."

"We are certainly honored that Mr. Poston put his faith in us two decades ago, and we still appreciate that partnership today," Rob Ardis, president and chief executive officer of Santee Electric Cooperative said.

And they use a lot of co-op power.

When plastic bottles come to the facility, they are chipped up into small flakes. Then they are melted into pellets, which are turned into fibers. All this heating and cooling of polyester requires constant, reliable electricity. Even a small interruption in the power supply can cause the molten plastic to harden and get stuck inside the machinery, he said. It can take up to eight hours to get the hardened material out and as much as 24 hours to get the plant going again.

"It causes all kinds of problems," Poston said. The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week except for a short break during the Christmas holidays. In the past 20 years, Poston said he can only remember the power going out unexpectedly three times.

"While power interruptions are inconvenient to all members, we understand the added costs associated with electrical disturbances for sensitive loads like Palmetto Synthetics," Ardis said.

"We're pleased to be here," Poston said. And because the company has prospered, they feel it necessary to lift up the community, too.

"Mr. Poston is a true community supporter. Just from the chamber standpoint, he supports the King's Tree Trials, the annual banquet, Keep Williamsburg Beautiful through litter pickups, the Felician Center and Williamsburg County Junior Youth Leadership program," Williamsburg HomeTown Executive Director Leslee Spivey says. "He provides good jobs for our residents. Mr. Poston is good man who truly cares about his community."

"We have some of the best employees in the world," he says. "I would put our workers up against any," Poston said.

Prior to Palmetto Synthetics beginning production in 1999, the company offered a special school. Some of the people who attended those classes are still employed there today.

Many of the 200 employees are also Santee Electric Cooperative members like Take Up Operator Brenda Miles from Cades, a 15-year veteran. Line Leader Chris Markwell, another co-op member, is a seven-year veteran. Another SEC member, Judy Coker, is a lab technician and has been there for 16 years.

To apply for a job at Palmetto Synthetics, visit visit careeers@palmsyn.com.


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