By Betsy Finklea
Harbor Freight Tools celebrated the grand opening of their distribution center and family day Saturday, October 31st.
Robby Roberson, Jr., Vice-President of East Coast Distribution for Harbor Freight, welcomed those in attendance. He said this was a “dream come true,” and it was a vision that was now a reality that began three years ago.
Allan Mutchnik, Harbor Freight’s Chief Administrative Officer, said Harbor Freight was “so proud to call Dillon County our home.” He said Harbor Freight’s CEO, Eric Smith, could not attend, but he was there in spirit, and he was delivering this message on his behalf.
Mutchnik said while they were there to celebrate their two million square foot, state-of-the-art distribution center, they were really there to celebrate people – those who made the building possible and the men and women who make their Dillon operation run so well every day.
Mutchnik said when they came to Dillon in 2002, the community opened their arms to welcome them. He said in the early years Harbor Freight grew quickly and as they opened new stores, they expanded the Dillon facility twice. He said Dillon had been great to them, but at the same time they were focused elsewhere and didn’t do as much as they could have or should have as a member of the community or engaged corporate citizen, but that has changed. He said they are committed to the people in Dillon and to the community.
He said the change for Harbor Freight in Dillon began several years ago when they realized they needed to double their supply chain capacity to support the rapid growth that was coming.
In 2010, they had 335 stores when they put into motion the relocation and expansion of the West Coast distribution center. In 2011, they had 360 stores when they put into motion the project to double the size of the Dillon distribution center.
Mutchnik talked about the people who led the transformation of the supply chain organization and the transformation of the culture and operation of the distribution centers.
The Dillon operation now serves over half of Harbor Freight’s 605 stores and will be able to support up to 1,000 stores. Harbor Freight opens a new store every 3 1/2 days.
They announced their intentions to fund renovations at Academy Street Park and Henry Street Park in Latta and to help maintain it on a going forward basis.
Pastor David Patterson, Southern Grove Missionary Baptist Church, gave the invocation.
Richard Schafer, Dillon County Board of Education chairman, said they built $70 million in new schools in Dillon County. He said he is often asked how this was possible. He said there was no tax increase and no property taxes were used to build them. It was funded by the sales tax.
Schafer said the economic engine in Dillon County is driven by industry and industry drives the economic engine in this county. “We grow because of industry,” said Schafer, “and we build new schools because of sales tax.”
Schafer said people tell him that sales tax cannot be that big in Dillon County. “Yes, it is,” said Schafer. He noted that Harbor Freight retail store as a contributor to sales tax.
Schafer said to make this all work they have to make sure that industry grows. Schafer said this growth gives them a new challenge. He said they were developing a workforce training center. He said this will help industries recruit and train qualified employees in Dillon County, and when industries have employees in Dillon County, it allows the community to grow and these checks are cashed in Dillon County.
Schafer said the sales tax had been “phenomenal.”
Schafer said they were committed to helping Harbor Freight and to do everything they can to make sure they have employees who can be hired in Dillon County. On behalf of the Dillon County School Board, he thanked them for a wonderful job.
Pastor Robert Roundtree from Miracle Temple in Lake View said it appeared that the best is yet to come as an addition is coming at Harbor Freight. Roundtree said a job raises the levels of hope. He said God inspires hope, and a job inspires hope.
Roundtree said one of the needs of a man is significance. He thanked Harbor Freight for giving people in the community an opportunity for a job and a feeling of significance.
Greg Elmore, Senior Director of Human Resources at Harbor Freight, thanked several people including the educators, churches, and members of the Harbor Freight family.
Pete Racine, Vice-President of Operations and Distribution for Harbor Freight, said this was a celebration of the Dillon community and people who live and work in Dillon County.
He said it was a celebration of Harbor Freight’s commitment to the community. Racine said it was also a celebration of the new generation of leadership in the Dillon Operation.
He said they were transforming one of the nation’s largest distribution centers into a place where people can grow and develop personally and professionally.
Racine said in the future the number of shipments at the Dillon operation will more than double; the number of cars in the parking lot will substantially increase; and a completely new building will spring up. Racine said getting to this point required the efforts of many people.
After Racine’s comments, a ribbon cutting was held, and those in attendance had an opportunity to tour, watch a video, and see the operation of some of the equipment.
After the tour, a family day event was held for the rest of the afternoon.
VIDEOS BY BETSY FINKLEA/THE DILLON HERALD
Comments from Alan Mutchnik, Harbor Freight
Comments from Richard Schafer, Dillon County Board of Education
Comments from Pastor Robert Roundtree
Comments from Greg Elmore, Harbor Freight
Comments from Pete Racine, Harbor Freight
PHOTOS BY BETSY FINKLEA/THE DILLON HERALD