New laundry processor eyes a growing market

Crown set to open Bishopville plant Nov. 1

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Lee County's newest major employer is looking to tap into both the South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina markets as part of the growing health care linen services sector, according to a corporate official.

Jimmy Tillman, recruiter with Crown Health Care Laundry Services based in Pensacola, Florida, made the comments Friday in anticipation of the company's newest plant/warehouse opening in Bishopville set for Nov. 1.

Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care facilities have been moving toward outsourcing their linen supply and management services during the last decade because of costs and increasingly stringent regulations to maintain hygiene, Tillman said.

Enter the high-volume linen service provider, such as Crown, that owns the linens - to include bed sheets, pillowcases and other items - rents them to a health care facility and subsequently cleans and processes them multiple times per week for that facility.

Tillman described the company's general operational process as this: Crown takes clean linens from one of its processing plants and delivers them overnight by truckload in linen carts to a hospital or similar facility. While at the facility, a Crown driver picks up its soiled or dirty laundry and takes it back to the processing plant for cleaning.

The Bishopville plant/warehouse is in I-20 Industrial Park, which is at Exit 116 off Interstate 20, and was formerly the county-owned speculative building. Construction, which began in May to outfit and upfit the Bishopville facility, is near completion in preparation for a Nov. 1 start date and grand opening, Tillman said.

Crown generally provides linen services within a 250-mile radius of each processing plant, according to Tillman, and already has some regional customers lined up for the Bishopville plant opening. He noted that Crown is the leader in health care laundry services in the Southeastern U.S. and has no direct competitors operating in South Carolina, even though there are some much smaller linen supply companies in place here.

Because of their linen volume, hospitals and clinics are the biggest customer base for Crown, Tillman said.

He's not on the sales side of the corporate operation and couldn't speak to specific customer contracts, but Tillman said he knows there are large health care facilities in the Carolinas that will be working with Crown as soon as the new plant opens.

"There are hospitals in South Carolina and North Carolina that I'm sure want to do business with us," Tillman said. "There are not many places we go where we don't just take over the business for most hospitals."

This week - starting Monday - Tillman said he and other Crown officials will be in Lee County only interviewing candidates who participated in initial job fairs last December in Bishopville and Sumter. Those interviews are being held in conjunction with ReadySC, the training arm of the S.C. Technical College System.

Key plant management officials are already in place, but Tillman expects about 70 more workers will be hired - likely from the initial job fairs - before the official start on Nov. 1. He expects Crown to have about 80 employees when it begins operations.

For other individuals interested in working for Crown but who have not been selected already for this week's interviews, Tillman recommended they come by the new facility starting Nov. 6 and complete an application. If individuals meet the company's qualifications, they will be contacted later for an interview, Tillman said.

He described the work at the textile processing plant as similar to warehouse-type work, and Crown will be hiring front-line laundry workers, Class A CDL truck drivers, electro-mechanical maintenance technicians and production supervisors, among others. Wages will start at $8.50 and up for entry-level positions, Tillman said.

TAKE A VIRTUAL PLANT TOUR

Get an inside look at an existing state-of-the-art Crown Laundry processing facility on the company's website. Go to www.crownlaundry.com and click on the "Plant Tour" video link on the homepage.