Secretary of State celebrates Sonoco Centennial

Jack Sanders, CEO of Sonoco receives a plaque from Mark Hammond, Secretary of State.

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

Sonoco has grown and prospered in Hartsville for over a century. The products coming off their lines has changed over the years but the desire to build a company on principals that mattered never did. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Secretary of State Mark Hammond visited the Hartsville headquarters of the billion-dollar company to celebrate the longevity and success of the homegrown business.

“I am glad to be here and I am very glad that Sonoco is here,” Hammond said. “This is a very special day for the Secretary of State’s Office, for the state of South Carolina and, I think, a very special day for Sonoco.”

Hammond said that he and Jack Sanders, Sonoco President and CEO were talking about the strides South Carolina is taking in the business industry.

“I was telling Jack earlier today that South Carolina is doing pretty well right now,” Hammond said. “Chief Executive Magazine has ranked South Carolina the fourth best state to do business in. Also, the Boyd Company has ranked South Carolina as the number one state for manufacturing; we are very excited about that.”

South Carolina is showing that U.S. manufacturing is making a comeback.

“I used to travel some with Governor Nikki Haley and I always enjoyed her saying that here in South Carolina we make things again,” Hammond said. “I know tourism is still our number one industry but we are making tires, packaging material and we are really excited about all the companies that are coming to South Carolina, that are expanding in South Carolina.”

Hammond said that while new companies are locating in the state, he thinks those who have created the foundation for those opportunities need to be recognized.

“It is nice to celebrate these companies that are expanding and coming to South Carolina but I think that we need to step back and I think we need to recognize companies who are incorporated in the Secretary of State’s office for 100 or more years,” Hammond said. “Sonoco is one of those great businesses. They got started here in Hartsville in 1899. I am really honored that I can go out and thank you for your longevity; thank you for all that you have brought to Hartsville, to this state and now internationally.”
Jack Sanders, Sonoco President and CEO, spoke briefly after Hammond.

“It did begin officially in 1899,” Sanders said. “A lot has changed since then. Matter of fact, our founder Major James Lide Coker, he actually coined a phrase that basically said that change is immutable and you better adapt or you won’t survive. I think Sonoco has done a good job over its history of adapting to changes.”

Sanders gave some insight into how the Coker Family grew its roots in Darlington County.

“Major Coker’s grandfather Thomas Coker actually fought with Francis Marion and was awarded 1,000 acres in Society Hill,” Sanders said. “He later bought farmland here in Hartsville and that’s where Major James Coker was born.

Entrepreneurship ran in the Coker Family.

“It was his son, also named James, who went to school in New Jersey, who was really interested in making paper,” Sanders said. “He saw there was potential if you could make paper out of pine trees rather than hard wood, that it would be a great opportunity, so that is basically what he studied. He convinced the Major to try that, to make pulp. They struggled for a while, eventually they perfected the process but found out it was too expensive to ship it from here to New England which is where all the paper was being made. So they spent $19,000 and bought a paper machine and put it here. That is when they really started to incorporate as the Carolina Fiber Company and produce paper.”

As industries changed, so did the Coker Family business.

“They saw an opportunity to convert wooden cones to paper cones and changed to make cone paper and really that drove the company’s growth into the 1970’s,” Sanders said. “That is when the leadership said that they needed to expand, to do something different. The company then grew to become the five billion dollar company we talk about today.”

Author: Duane Childers

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