The year 2007 will be remembered as a watermark for the area business community. Hundreds of jobs were lost when Springs Global closed the last of its textile mills in South Carolina in August, but hope for the future came a few months later when Freightliner announced its intentions to move 340 jobs to York County in 2008. The area also said goodbye to some of its most beloved figures in the business community and welcomed some fresh faces along the way.
Here's a look at seven superlatives for 2007:
Residents in the Cherry Road area were thrilled in 2007 when grocers Bi-Lo and Compare Foods opened new stores along the busy Rock Hill corridor.
Compare, right, a Hispanic grocer, opened in the old Winn-Dixie site near Cherry Park in August, and Bi-Lo closed its aging Northeast Plaza location for a state-of-the-art Super Bi-Lo at the former Rock Hill Mall and Catawba Bingo site. In addition to hiring more than 100 workers, both stores have received overwhelming public support from area residents clamoring for more grocery stores in that part of town.
• Honorable mention: Kohl's and Hobby Lobby opened retail stores in Rock Hill in 2007, giving the Galleria Mall area a much-needed shot in the arm.
Portland, Ore.-based truck maker Freightliner announced in November it plans to move 340 sales and marketing jobs to York County in 2008.
Local officials hailed the announcement as a "benchmark" for economic development in York County because Freightliner, the nation's largest maker of tractor-trailer trucks, will build an office off S.C. 274 near Lake Wylie, signaling the first premium office space built away from the Interstate 77 corridor. There also are rumors that Freightliner's plans eventually will include moving its entire headquarters to the 400-acre site.
Officials expect about half of the 340 jobs will be filled with local workers.
• Honorable mention: County leaders in September confirmed a deal is in the works to bring a Rooms To Go distribution center to Rock Hill's old Celanese site. If finalized, the deal would bring up to 600 jobs over the next several years.
While 2007 saw several large layoffs, it failed to welcome similar hiring waves. Instead, several small niche industries and the expansion of existing companies soaked up the losses.
Air compressor manufacturer AtlasCopco moved its headquarters to Rock Hill in 2007, creating about 150 new jobs. In the spring, L.A. Darling Co., a firm that refurbishes clothing racks, opened a plant in Rock Hill and hired 50 workers. And the Ross distribution center in Fort Mill expanded into another building and expanded its work force by 80 employees.
Springs Global cut about 750 jobs in 2007 when it closed its remaining South Carolina manufacturing sites in Fort Lawn and Lancaster and shipped the jobs to Brazil. The Close plant in Fort Lawn and the Grace Finishing plant in Lancaster County shut down in late summer, ending the Fort-Mill based textile maker's 120-year manufacturing presence in the state.
• Honorable mention: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in March laid off 250 workers from its Fort Mill office because of a slumping housing market. Many workers were offered jobs in other arms of the company. Wells Fargo remains one of the county's top employers.
Leiner Health Products' Fort Mill manufacturing plant abruptly ceased production and laid off more than 600 workers in 2007 after an FDA investigation crippled the California-based company.
A whistle-blower inside the company notified the FDA of manufacturing guideline violations at the Lakemont Business Park site in January. The investigation brought to light an apparent cover-up where the company falsified test data and allowed tainted over-the-counter drugs to remain on store shelves, according to FDA documents. Company officials later blamed workers in Fort Mill and recalled all of its over-the-counter medications. It still has not re-entered the over-the-counter market, and the Fort Mill site is used only for distribution.
Carowinds Boulevard brushed up on its Spanish in 2007 as an Atlanta developer purchased the former Crossroads Mall, spent millions renovating it and in December opened Plaza Fiesta, a Hispanic-themed marketplace of chain retail stores and small businesses.
Plaza Fiesta gave York County a new shopping niche, with its Latin American marketplace design and a place for the area's growing Hispanic population to open small ethnic shops.
Operations Manager Roel Lopez, below, talks on the phone at the opening. The area behind him was the former Carolina Pottery store.
Three influential members of the area's business community said their goodbyes in 2007: Springs CEO Crandall Bowles, Rock Hill contractor Jimmy Leitner and Herald editor Terry Plumb.
Bowles retired in August 2007 after guiding the public sale of her family's textile company on the Brazilian stock exchange. She will be remembered as the last of five generations of the Springs family to captain the company.
In August, Leitner, owner of Leitner Construction Co., succumbed to cancer at age 61. Well-respected throughout the community, the Chester native's company was involved in building many of Rock Hill's landmarks from Glencairn Garden to several structures at Winthrop University.
Plumb, the longtime editor of The Herald, retired in March after 20 years leading the area's local daily newspaper. Plumb oversaw the paper's transition to morning delivery and direct competition with the Charlotte Observer in 1988. Plumb continues to write his Plumb line column on Sundays. He was replaced by managing editor Paul Osmundson.