Making a ‘smart’ decision

Jason Dandridge

CEO, Jason Dandridge

By Jason Dandridge
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.

That’s why we decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in $200,000 more in median annual revenues than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely. While these smart devices offer plenty of convenience, they are also a smart safety decision to avoid coming home to a dark house or to receive an alert anytime someone pulls into your driveway.

We’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your cooperative is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.

Not a chef — just a great cook

Lessons from mom create a lifelong hobby
By Noble Sprayberry

mark mcroy pic

A longtime cook, Mark McRoy is now hosting “Cookin’ With PRTC” on PRTC Channel 57.

Mark McRoy does not label himself a chef. Consider, however, one recent dish: a dry-rubbed pork roast wrapped in bacon and served with a reduction of figs, apples, brown sugar and sweet red wine.

“Man, it was good,” he says. “I’d probably make an awful chef. They know more about the science of food. But, I’m a really, really good cook.”

His approach is more of a dash of “this” and a sprinkle of “that” to create great food — and a mother willing to help out by phone doesn’t hurt.

In fact, spending time with his mother was one motivation for his cooking hobby, which two years ago had him in competition for a spot on a national television show. And he now hosts a program on PRTC Channel 57, with as many as four new episodes each month.

Meanwhile, McRoy, 52, works 60 to 70 hours weekly at his family’s Walterboro business: BMK Distributors. The company supplies tire shops with a range of tire-related supplies, everything from car lifts to valve stems.

His parents, Bill and June, always kept busy running the business and raising McRoy and his two brothers, Barry and Keith. “If you wanted to spend time with dad, you usually went to work,” he says. “But I was a momma’s boy, and if you wanted to spend time with her, it was usually in the kitchen.”

Her meals ranged from fried chicken to pasta dishes. “It was just good, hearty, Southern food, and lots of cakes,” McRoy says.

Cooking, friends and television


When he’s not cooking, Mark McRoy works at BMK Distributors, his family’s longtime business.

His friends enjoy his food, including Kent and Gale Bosworth, who own The Bosworth Group advertising agency in Charleston.

The couple knew CBS was gathering contestants two years ago for “The American Baking Competition” hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. The couple encouraged McRoy to enter.

He earned his way to a weeklong trip to California, where he eventually faced a surprising challenge against 16 other would-be contestants — cooking biscuits.

“All of the Southerners were in the same corner, and we all just looked at each other and mouthed ‘Biscuits?’” he says. “‘They brought us all the way out here to cook biscuits!’”

Then, each cook presented the results to a panel of chef judges. “They asked things like, ‘What was the texture you were going for?’” he says, laughing. “Well, I said I was looking for a texture like a biscuit. What the heck do you want? It’s a biscuit.”

“I didn’t make the show, but it was fun,” McRoy says. He continues to cook for family and friends, which led to the invitation by PRTC for the cooking show filmed at his home.
He also knows who to thank for his cooking passion — mom. “I learned just about everything from her,” he says. “And if I’m trying to make something like a gravy or a sauce, I can still call her up.”


Fiber work continues in Brittlebank and Cottageville

3d rendering of an optic fiber cable on a white background

PRTC crews are hard at work laying fiber in order to bring lightning-fast broadband speeds to members. The current phase of this ongoing fiber buildout is focused on the Brittlebank and Cottageville areas. The next phase, which will start in August, will focus primarily on Cottageville.

The current phase of the project includes work on the following streets:
Brandiwine Lane
Summerset Lane
Harvey Lane
Rearden Lane
Windwood Road
Cumberland Street
Trevor Drive
Bancroft Street
Brien Street
Delray Drive
Emerald Street
Spring Road
Ashland Road
Locust Street
Capers Road
Boone Street
Sweet Street
Brittlebank Road
Sandy Dam Lane
Charleston Highway
Rodeo Drive
Lonesome Dove Drive
Lagoon Drive
Loblolly Street
White Pine Avenue
Hardwood Drive
Smoak Road
Tika Street
Glenn Street
Tram Road
Our Dream Lane
Peirce Road
Salley Ackerman Drive
Rhode Drive
Spelltown Road
Brocktown Road
Blocker Lane
Miller Williams Lane
Milton Carter Avenue
Cooke Lane
Ohio Court
Womble Lane
Red Oak Road
Hartley Place
Bridge Road
Timber Bay Drive
Starlight Lane
Old Hickory Lane
Clyseville Lane
Gatch Lane
Ginger Lane
Zoyie Lane
Rice Plantation Lane
Kennedy Lane
Mistletoe Lane
Farmer Street
Reevestown Lane
Jenkins Club Road

The Lowcountry is getting a new area code!

PrintCoastal South Carolina will be getting a new area code Oct. 19 as 854 joins 843.
The additional code is necessary because the 843 area, which includes all of Colleton County, has run out of phone numbers due to population growth and an increasing number of mobile phones. Beginning Sep. 19, mobile and landline phone users must enter the area code before the phone number they are dialing in order for the call to go through.

Device of the month

LG Bluetooth Headset Tone Pro HBS-750

LG’s TONE PRO headsets have reinvented the Bluetooth headset, getting away from the early ear-mounted Bluetooth earpieces. The ergonomic “3D NeckBehind” design and lightweight construction gives users a comfortable experience. In addition to comfort, the headsets are powerful, with long talk and music play times for all-day use.

Come check out the headsets and other Bluetooth devices at the PRTC Retail Center.

Tech Tips: Playing the Blue(tooth)


Hi, I’m Cristy Priester. I’m part of the PRTC Tech Crew at the Retail Center in Walterboro. In this column, my fellow team members and I will teach you about technology and give simple tips to get the most out of your electronics. For more tips or help with your devices, please come see me at the store. I’m always happy to help!

How many times have you seen someone in the grocery store talking, but without anyone else around them? Who are they talking to?

It’s not hard to be fooled by the tiny earpiece they are using to talk on the phone. The earpiece uses a technology called Bluetooth to wirelessly and securely link a person’s phone to their earpiece so they can talk hands-free.

But while the earpieces are the original and most common use for Bluetooth, the technology goes way beyond that.

In a nutshell, Bluetooth is a technology that allows you to transmit data over short ranges between devices like cell phones and computers. Bluetooth can be used in many different ways in conjunction with your high-speed Wi-Fi connection. It’s the technology of choice for devices like headphones, speakers, in-dash GPS programs and even some cameras. Certain vehicles are also equipped with Bluetooth capabilities to project a phone call over the car speakers. It’s a safe option to make and receive phone calls during your drive, allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

There are also many personal computers on the market with Bluetooth capabilities. The great thing about those computers is the ease of connecting wirelessly with your cell phone, printer, mouse or keyboard. Basically, Bluetooth technology gives you all the benefits of being “hard-wired” without actual wires! On top of that, all Bluetooth devices work with each other, meaning replacing your computer or phone doesn’t mean having to change out your Bluetooth accessories.

For tablet users, it’s easy to connect a keyboard or mouse to maximize productivity. As long as you’ve got a Bluetooth connection, you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in wires, saving space in your work area.

Mid adult hispanic person with mobile phone and bluetooth headset typing on telephone in the streetIn the last two years, Bluetooth has really opened doors for music lovers. If you enjoy listening to music, there are Bluetooth speakers that can sync with your smartphone to play music anywhere without having to plug into a speaker dock or stereo system. As long as it’s connected via Bluetooth, you can enjoy music from anywhere in your home. If stationary speakers aren’t your style, there are even sunglasses — yes, sunglasses — with speakers that use Bluetooth to connect.

To learn how Bluetooth can take your technology to the next level, stop by our store and ask one of our experts.

Valley Forge brings new vigor to Old Glory


Renea Jackson runs a zigzag machine to applique the star on a Texas flag. Carolina Visuals makes flags for all 50 states.

By Drew Wooley

By all accounts, Betsy Ross was a modest woman. The American icon, probably existing somewhere between truth and legend, humbly worked at sewing the American flag for 50 years after her original design was adopted in 1776.

Cover_4424But even she would have to take some pride in the way Valley Forge Flag Co. carries on her legacy of the stars and stripes. Take a peek into its Carolina Visuals production facility in Smoaks, South Carolina, where the company makes its U.S. flags, and you’re likely to see reams of red and white hanging from the ceiling as nearly 100 employees work at stitching them to starry fields of blue.

Founded about 100 years ago, Valley Forge Flag got its start as a family-run burlap bag business in 1882 and has been passed down for four generations since. The evolution of the company reflects some of the greatest benchmarks in American history.

During World War I it sold surplus, including U.S. flags, and during the Great Depression the company opened its first small sewing factory in Spring City, Pennsylvania, officially giving birth to the Valley Forge Flag brand.

The start of World War II brought an unmatched demand for American flags, so military and other government contracts became the central business for Valley Forge. As the U.S. entered that conflict, the company’s flags flew on the beaches of Normandy and throughout the European Campaign, even serving as the flag of the Pacific Fleet.

Valley Forge flags have covered the caskets of American presidents for the last 40 years, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. They even float in space, having accompanied the Apollo moon missions and several space shuttle launches.
The Smoaks facility opened in 1999, ready to help produce a new generation of iconic flags to fly over the next chapters in the country’s history. In 2005, Valley Forge Flag consolidated all of its manufacturing to South Carolina. The Carolina Visuals location at Smoaks sews flags together, rather than dyeing single sheets of fabric, like many plants.


Margaret Brown sews the band on a big US flag.

Domestic craftsmanship
Today that same devotion remains. Headquartered in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge Flag employs over 300 people at its facilities in Alabama, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, with a commitment to producing U.S. flags made of domestic materials by American hands.
It’s a dedication that means a lot to the company and its clients. VP of Sales Jeff Shaaber has been with Valley Forge for 21 years and still feels a sense of pride in contributing to the production of our nation’s banner.
“You can hear it in their voices; our dealers are very patriotic,” he says. “The other channel is the mass market, and those folks also are proud to have a U.S.-made U.S. flag on their shelf, whether it’s Ace Hardware or Home Depot. It feels good to be part of the distribution and manufacturing of the U.S. flag.”
Of course, while the work still bears the patriotism and workmanship of Betsy Ross’ original endeavor, Valley Forge does get a helping hand from more modern machinery. While some flags will simply have a pattern printed onto fabric, many are sewn together. That requires banks of sewing machines churning out lengths of stripes for various sizes of flag and machines to attach the blue star field (known as a canton, the term for a group of political subdivisions) to the stripes.

Upgrading for the digital age
It isn’t just the process of stitching together flags that the company has needed to update, though. Faced with the need to streamline several aspects of its business for an increasingly online world, Valley Forge Flag turned to PRTC to supply high-speed broadband Internet service in August of last year.


Annie Breland sews a rayon gold bullion fringe on an indoor crown flag.

“We sell through middlemen: flag dealers, promotional products companies, sign companies, folks like that,” Shaaber explains. “So each one of them has their own style and way that they market their product, the fastest-growing being over the Web … outpacing the more traditional methods like retail stores.”

Already the service has impacted almost every facet of the company’s operations. The reliable connection has allowed manufacturing locations like the one in South Carolina to connect with headquarters in Pennsylvania, and has kept salespeople in touch with the corporate office. One of the biggest advantages, according to Marketing Manager and Web Coordinator Rich Indiveri, has been the scale of file sharing that Palmetto has been able to offer, improving the company’s interactions with clients.

“The biggest plus, I think, is being able to move large amounts of data. When we deal with our customers, we can take in large files, large pieces of artwork and manipulate them rather quickly,” he adds.

That ability will prove particularly helpful as the business continues to change. Digitally printed custom flags and banners have become one of the fastest-growing segments for the company’s commercial business, meaning Valley Forge Flag’s ability to work with customer images as quickly as possible is crucial. The company is currently planning to expand its production capabilities on that front at its facility in Kingstree, South Carolina.


Dot Ayer operates a grommet machine that stamps grommets in the flags.

Valley Forge Flag doesn’t live by Old Glory alone. In fact, they also make flags for:
50 – U.S. states
27 – U.S. cities
6 – branches of the U.S. military
13 – Canadian provinces

Sowing the seeds

Colleton High students working on a sustainable garden

By Melissa Smith

Scott Steedley is helping students at Colleton County High School plant a sustainable garden on campus that will feature blueberries and raspberries.

Scott Steedley is helping students at Colleton County High School plant a sustainable garden on campus that will feature blueberries and raspberries.

Students at Colleton County High School in Walterboro, will soon reap what they have sown — in a very literal way.

“Being involved in this garden will help students learn about how to grow food and really bring learning to life,” says Principal Cliff Warren.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability (ICS), approached Warren with the idea. When he talks about planting the garden — which will include fruit-bearing trees, blueberries, persimmons, asparagus, blackberries, broccoli, tomatoes and raspberries — he might as well be talking about the students. “This is a good place to plant seeds that grow to produce a bountiful harvest while at the same time sustain lasting results,” he says.

The goal of ICS is to foster partnerships between businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to combine grassroots efforts with large-scale campaigns to work toward a more environmentally sustainable world.

“This is crucial when seeking to develop relationships that create sustainable results close to the heart of what matters most during these delicate times,” Steedley says.

Christopher Fludd, left, Asher Cox and Daymeon McTeer pitch in to help with the early work on the new sustainable garden at Colleton County High School.

Christopher Fludd, left, Asher Cox and Daymeon McTeer pitch in to help with the early work on the new sustainable garden at Colleton County High School.

Warren welcomed Steedley’s ideas, and the kids at Colleton High will soon be seeing the fruits of their labor.

“He wanted to help get it started and came with ideas; then we started talking, and it’s gone from there,” Warren says.

Steedley, a Walterboro native and current resident, praised the school and Warren for being open to such ideas. “Colleton High School is a state-of-the-art facility with a super principal in Cliff Warren,” Steedley says.

The garden will be located in an open courtyard space between two buildings at the high school.

The best part about the garden is that it’s going to be self-sustainable. Community members have donated soil and some other necessary materials to make the garden possible. Whatever the students grow will either be used in the cafeteria or sold, with the profits being returned to the school for garden upkeep.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability, says Colleton County High is well suited for a garden.

Scott Steedley, co-founder of the International Center for Sustainability, says Colleton County High is well suited for a garden.

“Students in the agriculture class planned it out,” Warren says.

The garden is going to be in a circle design. “You can stand in one spot and be able to get to all areas of it,” Warren says.

Along with the agriculture students, one of the special needs classes will also be able to spend time working in the garden.

Through the project, students will learn about soil health, inoculation, companion planting, mutually beneficial natural relationships, sheet mulching, keyhole garden beds, composting, organic fertilization and pesticides and the interconnectedness of natural systems.

It’s not the first project for Steedley.

“A few years ago we planted Loquat fruit trees, blueberries and rosemary at Colleton Middle School in an area where soft drink machines sat previously,” Steedley says. “Everything, except for the vending machines, is still alive as far as I know.”

Beyond the dirt
There are more ways of growing a garden than out of soil. Aquaponic elements are being discussed as a future addition to the school’s garden.

Students, including Daymeon McTeer, get to learn about landscaping and gardening.

Students, including Daymeon McTeer, get to learn about landscaping and gardening.

Aquaponic gardening is a natural and environmentally friendly way of growing plants that is an alternative to traditional soil-based gardening. Fish waste is converted to plant nutrients via a re-circulating, man-made ecosystem. Some of the benefits of aquaponics gardening are: fewer weeds, less bending and back strain and fewer animals feeding on your garden.

“Colleton High has pond areas suited for future aquaculture/aquaponics development,” Steedley says.

Through grant funding, and continued donations through fundraising and community and business donations, organizers hope to be able to incorporate rain barrels for water harvesting.
“I’ve been to every school in Colleton County once or twice over the years to raise awareness regarding the choices we make as consumers and producers and how that not only affects our lives, but the lives of our neighbors and the planet as a whole,” Steedley says.

He maintains that education is the main driving force behind founding the International Center for Sustainability.

But, really, it’s all about educating kids to provide for themselves in the future. “The key is using the teaching platform to instill essential elements that not only make people productive members of a civilized society, but also allow them to provide for their basic needs like food, water and shelter,” Steedley says.

Warren also hopes the kids will gain more real-world skills and knowledge from building and maintaining a garden.

“I think they don’t realize where their food comes from anymore because of fast food and processed foods,” Warren says.

Students place cardboard on the bottom layer of the garden in order to block weeds from growing.

Students place cardboard on the bottom layer of the garden in order to block weeds from growing.

The kids will certainly be getting their hands dirty, because they will be learning about more than just when to plant and water their garden.

They’ll be learning about compost.

“Probably the best learning experience for them is to find out about that process,” Warren says, “It will be an eye-opening experience.”

Steedley is excited to see what planting the garden can do for the school and the students.

“I feel that Mr. Warren really cares about his school, students and the community at large and that he’s receptive to creative endeavors,” he says. “These are the kind of people I like to collaborate with.”


Cottageville’s camellia turns 70

By Andy Johns

Camelia_4109There are a lot of romantic stories that involve flowers.

But not every flower story involves romance.

Seventy years ago this year, the Ackerman red camellia was given its name, but the story of the flower, which would become the official flower of the town of Cottageville, goes back much further.
Tom Ackerman was a Confederate veteran and shopkeeper in the area that would become Cottageville, according to family research compiled by the late B.F. Ackerman, the great-grandson of Tom’s brother.

Tom Ackerman was known around town for two things: his honesty — he once walked 8 miles to return two cents to a customer he had shortchanged — and his love for Alice Williams, who worked at her father’s millinery shop next door to his country store.

The two sweethearts courted, but according to family lore, Ackerman decided that in the Reconstruction economy, he did not have enough money to raise a child. He and Williams decided to get married after childbearing age.

Williams was also known around town, but for her skills at propagating plants, especially ornamental shrubs like camellias. One red variety in particular drew lots of attention, and at their request, Williams shared it with neighbors in Cottageville, Round O, Walterboro and Ravenel.

Finally, in 1894, when Ackerman was 44 years old, the couple married.

The following years were full of ups and downs, according to the family history. Ackerman, for one, got in a fight with his neighbor and after a church trial, was turned away from the congregation. Accounts say he loved the church so much that he would slip in the back door to listen, despite having been cast out.

Shortly after Ackerman turned 80, bank failures in the Great Depression wiped out the couple’s savings. They were forced to sell all of their camellias — some for an unheard of $200 each. Ackerman passed away a few years later in 1936, and Alice passed away less than three years later.

In 1945, Walterboro horticulturist J.C. Ashley officially named the variety the “Ackerman red camellia” in their honor, and years later, the family obtained an Ackerman red and planted it next to Alice’s grave.

Living legacy

The Ackermans’ legacy lives on today every February and March when the camellias bloom.

“Uncle B.F. gave everybody one of them,” says Charleen Yarochowicz, the niece of the family researcher B.F. Ackerman. “A lot of us have them around the county.”

One of the biggest remaining plants is at Cottageville resident Peggy Thomas’ home. The Ackerman red in Thomas’ front yard was already established when her family moved in 80 years ago.
“It takes a long time for them to grow big like these,” Thomas says.

In an effort to promote the town, Thomas and others once organized a camellia show.

During her time on the town council, Thomas helped designate the Ackerman red as Cottageville’s official flower. “We were looking at how to make the town more beautiful,” she says. “The camellias are very, very beautiful. They’re perfection.”

Device of the month

Adata_3987Adata DashDrive Durable HD710 external drive

The Adata DashDrive Durable HD710 external hard drive not only has plenty of storage, dependable hardware and a lightning-fast connection, but it brings military-grade shockproof and waterproof construction to your data storage.

The drive includes an ultra-fast USB 3.0 interface and can store one terabyte of data, all while protecting your files from the drops, bumps and spills of everyday life.