FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2023 business outlook luncheon on Wednesday.

A crowd of more than 500 people packed into the Florence Center for the luncheon to hear about economic development in the Pee Dee and to recognize the chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year and Public Servant of the Year.

Michael Hemingway, the city’s utilities director, was named the Public Servant of the Year, while Jarrod Tippins, who owns a pharmacy on Hoffmeyer Road, was named the Small Business Person of the Year.

The South Carolina Ports Authority owns and operates several ports, including the inland port in Dillon located just north of Florence.

CEO and President Barbara Melvin — who was the keynote speaker — said South Carolina experiences $63 billion in economic growth because of the ports, and the Pee Dee region contributes $7 billion to that economic impact.

“We look forward to updating that because we know with the success that this area has seen in advanced manufacturing and the attraction of jobs, that economic impact will grow in our next report,” Melvin said.

Michael Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce said it was a positive thing for area businesses to gather and to see how the Ports Authority directly impacts the Pee Dee.

“Having access to ports and being this close to both the Dillon port and the Charleston port presents opportunities for all kinds of businesses for the industries that already exist and those industries yet to be developed,” Miller said.

Miller said Florence will grow rapidly in the next two to three years.

“We have seen moderate growth here over the last four or five years, even through the pandemic, but I believe in the next three years you’re going to see major, dynamic change in the percentage of growth,” he said.

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Taylor Ford is a digital journalist for News13. She joined the News13 team in January 2023. Taylor is a Florence native and covers the Pee Dee out of News13’s Florence Bureau. Read more of Taylor’s work here.