Build it, and they will come (and buy)

krupon@thestate.comJune 22, 2013 

Here in the Midlands, we make things.

Lots of things.

Much of the food you eat, the tires on your car, the fishing rod you used last weekend – all likely were made by your neighbors in workplaces throughout the Columbia area. The data center that hosts your email could be right down on Main Street, and the tablet you ordered from Amazon might be coming from a major fulfillment center in Cayce.

Here, a sampling of what we make.

We make dinner

That chicken and pasta you had for dinner last night? Chances are it was made right here in the Midlands. The American Italian Pasta Co. runs around the clock, cranking out one-quarter of all the pasta consumed in the United States — some 33,000 pounds a day.

Louis Rich in Newberry, Pilgrim’s Pride in Sumter and Amick Farms in Batesburg-Leesville — all poultry producers — are the three top manufacturers in the area. That’s not to mention all of the chicken and turkey farms in the Midlands’ rural areas.

And when you’ve stuffed yourself and can’t eat any more, the Midlands also produces refrigerators to store the leftovers. Haier America located its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Camden 14 years ago.

We make you go

Whether you’re riding on Michelin, Continental or Bridgestone tires, they are probably made right down the street.

South Carolina is on the road to becoming the tire capital of the world as production ramps up at several new facilities being built here. The three tire makers produce millions of tires a year in the Midlands from passenger tires to large, industrial tires. But it doesn’t stop there. Husquvarna in Orangeburg is one the Midlands’ largest employers, making riding lawn mowers, among other products.

We make the cloud

You’ve heard of the cloud. It’s that place in the ether that hosts all of your emails, documents and other important data.

But a chunk of it is right here in Columbia.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has two massive data hosting centers on its Columbia campus that process nearly 1 billion insurance claims a year and serve as storage houses for data from other companies. And Earthlink recently bought a local company, Business Vitals, which has a data hosting center right on Main Street that can hold the equivalent of 50,000 laptops chock full of data.

We make nukes

The nuclear power renaissance is happening right in the Midlands’ back yard. Two of the first four new nuclear reactors approved in more than three decades are being built by Cayce-based power giant S.C. Electric & Gas at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Power Station in Fairfield County. Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel also employs more than 1,000 people at a plant in Richland County. And Savannah River Site in nearby Aiken County is home to 95 percent of the nation’s non-weapons plutonium and is positioning itself as the site where manufacturers will experiment with building mini-nuclear reactors, an emerging product.

We make you well, and then we pay for it

By far, the largest employers in the Midlands are related to health care.

Palmetto Health and Lexington Medical Center have more than 14,000 employees combined, and they’re still growing. The region also is home to a range of insurers, including BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Colonial Life and Aflac. BlueCross cuts checks amounting to $1 billion per day — about 10 percent of the total payout in the United States — and handles three-quarters of all claims for U.S. military personnel and retirees.

And, there’s more

The lists could go on.

In downtown Columbia, we make flour and grits at Adluh Flour Mills, circa 1900. In Northeast Richland, we make military machine guns at FN Manufacturing. And in Richland County, Pure Fishing makes fishing tackle.

But we know you might be tired by now. In that case, you could head to Best Mattress. In West Columbia since 1928, they make 10 to 25 custom mattresses a day in the factory behind the store. Sweet dreams.

 

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