Thumbs up to small businesses and to people who support them. Black Friday is seven days away. It is preceded by “Gray Thursday,” which we aren’t crazy about. A few days later comes Cyber Monday. But a week from now is Small Business Saturday. We urge shoppers in the Pee Dee to get with the program. But why limit it to one day? Every day should be Small Business Day. These businesses need support throughout the year. Big-box stores employ local people, so there are reasons to shop there, too. The majority of profits might leave our area, but some of these companies give back to the community. But small businesses are the backbone of our community. The bottom line is to shop local during the holiday season, which already has started. Saturday is the seventh year of Small Business Saturday. This year, the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and American Express are declaring Saturday the kickoff to “Shop Small; Shop Local!” The goal of the movement is to drive shoppers to local merchants. As we have noted previously, supporting local businesses means ensuring jobs in your own market. These might be businesses that employ family, friends and neighbors. When local businesses thrive, they often create more jobs. When you do business close to home with a retailer, you are helping your schools, your fire departments, your police departments. Remember those penny sales tax proposals that passed in 2006 and 2013? The pennies from the first one have gone toward improving roads in Florence County. Pennies from the most recent referendum are going toward many worthwhile projects, including roads. There’s nothing better than supporting businesses that are locally owned. You’re helping other people who are invested in your community – our community.

Thumbs up to McLeod Health, which celebrated its 110th anniversary Thursday. During a nice program, a marker was unveiled on West Cheves Street on the site of the original McLeod Infirmary, established by Dr. F.H. McLeod in 1906. A reception followed in the Florence County Museum, and after that, we were treated to a free commissioned choral symphony performance in the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center. That program featured the Florence Symphony Orchestra, the Masterworks Choir and soloists. Terry Roberts, the music director/conductor of the Florence Symphony Orchestra, can take a bow, but he wrote Friday to express an apology. “I had the very good fortune to conduct a world premiere of the symphonic/choral work ‘It is Well’ by Dr. Brandon Goff last night,” Roberts wrote. “The Florence Symphony Orchestra and Masterworks Choir collaborated to present a free concert to the community funded by McLeod hospital as part of their 110 year anniversary. The work was a great success and very well received. Part of my job as the conductor is to recognize soloist and members of the orchestra and choir. Unfortunately I failed to recognize the composer, Dr. Brandon Goff, during the ovation at the end of the concert. He spent the better part of a year composing this piece and I know that it is always exciting to hear the finished product live. We are blessed to have his talent in our community and at Francis Marion University.Those who know Brandon know of his commitment to everything music and Florence. Please take the time to thank Brandon for this gem of a work he shared with us Thursday night. I can only apologize for my oversight in not giving Brandon the recognition he so deserves.”

Thumbs up to the Francis Marion University board of trustees, which met Thursday and approved the school’s first doctoral degree program. It will be a doctorate of nursing practice. When FMU was born and started to grow, we don’t think it ever intended to give out doctoral degrees. It wasn’t long ago when it started offering master’s degrees, but lately visionary President Fred Carter and others saw a need to meet critical health needs in the Pee Dee. This latest move shows that FMU cares not only about educating its students, but it cares about everybody who lives in the Pee Dee.

Thumbs up to Randy Bridges. The Florence School District One superintendent is an asset to our community. He delivered an inaugural State of the Schools Address on Thursday, and we liked his tone. The overall message was that things are good, but they could be better. He and the district face many challenges, such as a lack of funding, teacher shortages and learning gaps along the lines of race and gender, but that isn’t hindering a push for innovation. Bridges touted a good relationship with Florence-Darlington Technical College, specifically a partnership that allows students to graduate with a high school diploma and a two-year associate degree, plus a partnership with Francis Marion University that will result in a magnet high school for health sciences and/or the arts. Despite the challenges, the district's administrators and teachers are rising to the occasion.

Thumbs up, thumbs down is a regular feature of the Morning News and appears each Saturday on our Opinion page. We seek nominations for both good and bad deeds from our readers. Send nominations to us by email at letters@florencenews.com. Be sure use the word “thumb” in the subject and include a contact number. Thumbs can also be mailed to us c/o The Morning News, 310 S. Dargan St., Florence, S.C., 29506.

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