October 20, 2014

Kent International opens bike assembly facility in Manning

kentiKent International Inc., a global supplier of bicycles and accessories, held an opening ceremony Wednesday for the company’s first U.S. bike assembly facility, which is located in South Carolina.

Kent began production of its Bicycle Corporation of America (BCA) line at the Manning facility this week. The initial commitment will be to handle Walmart’s needs for their spring 2015 launch.

Governor Nikki Haley and representatives from across the region were present during the announcement and joined the celebration. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kent announced its plans to double the amount of production and assembly than it had originally projected, from a half-million to more than a million bikes over the next four years. The company also expects to hire more than 200 employees to work in the 200,000 sq. ft. facility.

“We are seeing the economics of domestic sourcing changing due to increased energy and transportation costs overseas,” said Arnold Kamler, Chairman and CEO of Kent International. “We have developed a long-term approach and are taking action to create our own manufacturing hub onsite by encouraging companies to move component part production here.”

Kent presently outsources all of its bicycle production overseas (approximately 3 million bikes last year) due to the lower costs of production and has no plans to cut back on their importation. Instead, the plan is to fuel their growth through bicycles which will be assembled and produced in South Carolina. The plan is to source as much as 60-70% of the components parts in the USA by 2018. At the present time, virtually all of the component parts are being imported from Taiwan and China. Kent’s new line produced in South Carolina will be called “BCA” – Bicycle Corporation of America and will be the first mass production of bicycles sold in the USA in more than 15 years.

Kamler told South Carolina Radio Network they chose South Carolina because the state had a lot to offer. “The real estate here was great. The utilities cost were great.”

In addition to Walmart, the Parsippany, NJ-based company is also a major supplier to Toys R’ Us, Amazon and Academy Sports & Outdoors.

Assault charge dismissed against Parris Island Marine who confronted protester

Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie (at right) confronts protester Ethan Arguello in a video posted to YouTube (YouTube screengrab)

Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie (at right) confronts protester Ethan Arguello in a video posted to YouTube (YouTube screengrab)

An assault charge has been dismissed against a former sergeant major at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island.

44-year-old Sgt. Maj. Paul Archie resigned his post and later retired from the Marines after he was charged with third-degree assault and battery following a June 5 incident outside the depot. During the incident, which was caught on film, Archie confronted a protester at the base gate. The video showed Archie and the retired Marine protestor Ethan Arguello going nose to nose in argument before a frustrated Archie grabs Arguello’s drill instructor hat (which Marines call a “campaign cover”), gets into his vehicle, and drives off. A Port Royal police officer can also be seen trying to intervene during the confrontation.

Arguello, a retired Marine drill instructor, had been protesting President Obama’s decision to exchange five high-ranking Taliban members in exchange for the safe return of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. According to reports at the time, Archie had previously asked Arguello to remove his drill instructor cover while protesting.

The website Triumph Business Communications reported Tuesday that the charges against Archie have been dismissed, with a Port Royal municipal judge agreeing with Archie’s attorneys on October 10 that the incident did not meet the definition of assault.

“I truly believe that all defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence from the beginning and am very disappointed that SgtMaj Archie did not receive that consideration from the Marine Corps, instead getting relieved prematurely,” Archie’s attorney Nick Stephens said, according to the release. “He is now vindicated.”

The Marine Corps had said at the time that Archie’s retirement was voluntary. “Understanding the Marine Corps has very high standards of personal and professional conduct for its most senior leaders, Sgt. Maj. Archie voluntarily stepped down as the depot sergeant major, and the commanding general regrettably accepted his retirement,” the statement said.

However, Archie said his superiors made it clear that he would be relieved from his duties if he did not resign. He officially retired from the service on September 30.

According to the Marine Corps Times, Arguello had said earlier this year that he would not pursue the charges.

SC State president says school needs additional $12 million loan to pay vendors

SC State logoThe president of South Carolina State University told a state financial panel that his school needs an additional $12 million loan over the next three years to successfully dig out from its budget woes.

President Thomas Elzey told members of the Budget & Control Board on Tuesday that a previous $6 million loan they approved this spring went towards payroll, debt service, and past-due vendor payments. But he noted the school still has an additional $6.5 million it must meet, even after trustees approved a balanced budget this summer.

“We are working with our vendors to try and make sure they will be paid,” he said. “But we do not have those resources at this point in time,” he said.

Elzey, who was hired by the school’s board of trustees last year to get S.C. State’s finances in shape, warned many vendors and suppliers are threatening to stop work if they don’t get paid. “When I have vendors who are telling me they may not provide services, I have entities that may suggest that they are not going to be there when we need them, that’s a real challenge,” he said.

The $12 million loan was proposed at the recommendation of a blue ribbon committee appointed by the state legislature. The new proposed three-year loan would include $6 million by summer 2015, $4 million during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and $2 million the third year. Elzey said spreading out the loan would also help ease the concerns of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accrediting group, which placed SC State on probation partly due to budget concerns.

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University of South Carolina-Beaufort to go tobacco free


USCBExactly one year after the University of South Carolina went tobacco-free, its Beaufort branch will follow suit.

Starting January 1, USCB no longer will allow the use of any tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, on either its Beaufort or Hilton Head Gateway campuses.

The news was first reported by the Beaufort Gazette.

The university’s current policy bans the use of tobacco products only in campus buildings and within 25 feet of building entrances, as well as at several designated outdoor seating areas.

“All of our buildings on campus already have a no smoking policy in effect. So really the only thing that changes is you can’t smoke on the grounds of our campus.” University spokeswoman Candace Brasseur told South Carolina Radio Network.

USCB joins at least 10 other schools in South Carolina — the nation’s fifth-largest tobacco-growing state — that already ban smoking or tobacco products. USC Sumter and USC Upstate also have gone tobacco-free. USC Aiken plans to do so in July 2015.

As of Oct. 1, 975 colleges and university around the country are tobacco-free, according to vice chancellor for student development Doug Oblander. USCB is following the national trend, he said, to protect students’ health and well-being.

SC gas prices at a near 4-year low

AAA Carolinas reports that the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in South Carolina has fallen below $3 for the first time in nearly four years. The average price for a gallon of gas was $2.97 in South Carolina, eight cents lower than a week ago and 16 cents lower over the past month. The last time the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fell below $3 was in February 2011.

Greenville-Spartanburg has the least expensive gas in the state at an average of $2.92 a gallon, while the service stations in the  Charleston area have the most expensive gasoline prices at an average of $3.02 a gallon.