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Getting from SC to LA is about to get easier

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JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways will initiate the Palmetto State's first nonstop, transcontinental flight to Los Angeles on Friday from Charleston International Airport. JetBlue Airways/Provided

A nonstop link between the Holy City and the City of Angels is set to take flight for the first time Friday.

JetBlue Airways will launch the first uninterrupted, coast-to-coast flight between Charleston and Los Angeles.

Announced in September as daily service, the surge of coronavirus cases has nipped into the carrier's schedule.

Still, it's moving ahead.

"It's operating in both directions but less than daily until COVID sorts itself," said Gary Edwards, a liaison between Charleston International Airport and tourism agency Explore Charleston.

"The schedule changes are pretty fluid with all of the carriers," he said. "It is their intent to ultimately serve the market daily."

Emeline guest room (copy) (copy)

Emeline, a new hotel concept that opened in Charleston in July, is one of three hotels where Expedia is offering a very limited number of two-week stays for $20.20. File/Provided

Work from hotels

For travelers looking to stay overnight in downtown Charleston, $20 usually won't go very far.

But a deal going on sale Monday night from Expedia is offering two-week stays at a high-end Holy City hotel for just $20.20.

Of course, there's a catch: Only two of the deals are available, and it's first-come-first-served. Another four excursions are being sold at the same price — two each at two other lodgings in warm, tourism-centric cities. 

With such a small number available, they're expected to go quickly. Expedia will open the sale at 8:20 p.m. EST on Monday. All of the stays will be in April 2021 and are part of the travel site's "Work from Here" promotion, branded as a way to upgrade remote workers' home offices for a couple weeks. 

The hotels chosen for the promotion are Emeline, which opened in July in the heart of Charleston's tourism district, the Scott Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. and the Parrot Key Hotel and Villas in Key West, Fla.

Selections were inspired by responses to a survey that asked 1,000 U.S. workers about their remote working preferences. Those surveyed "ranked sun and sand" as their "most desired environment" according to Expedia, and more than half wanted their trip to be two weeks. 

The survey also found that the majority of workers, about 68 percent, would leave their family at home to work from a vacation spot, and about two-thirds say they thought a productive getaway would improve their work output.  

Leisure and business travel are still lagging far behind their pre-pandemic levels, and some hotels have been marketing themselves as an option for workers who want to get away from home without clocking out of their jobs.

Joe Hardy

84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy's commercial real estate firm is spearheading a speculative deal in North Charleston. Provided/Hardy World LLC 

Bringing the lumber 

If a new North Charleston real estate project runs short of construction materials, its financial backer has no one to blame but itself.

The developer of the speculative commercial flex-space building on a nearly 5-acre site in Palmetto Commerce Park is Pennsylvania-based Hardy World LLC, which was launched by 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy III.

Triad spec project

Hardy World's North Charleston flex-space project is expected to be completed in the spring. Provided rendering

While he handed off the reins to the building supply business to his daughter in 1992, the 97-year-old entrepreneur remains the CEO of the development business, which has completed buildings all over the country, according to its website.

The company paid $1.18 million for the North Charleston lot, and it appears to be the first commercial real estate venture in South Carolina for Hardy, who started his building supply empire in 1956 as a "cash and carry” lumberyard in the tiny town of Eighty Four, Pa.

The privately held chain, which at last count was approaching $4 billion in annual sales, operates five of its no-frill stores throughout the Palmetto State, in Greenville, Lexington, Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach and Summerville.

Hardy World’s 47,500-square-foot local development is called Triad, and it's scheduled for completion in late spring, according to Ryan Welch and Clarke Attaway of the Charleston office of Lee & Associates, which is tasked with leasing the space.

Skyline Lodge

The Skyline Lodge was built atop Flat Top Mountain in Highlands N.C. The Indigo Road Hospitality Group/Provided

Higher profile

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A Lowcountry company best known for its dining establishments has elevated its fledgling hotel business by sealing its first acquisition at about 5,500 feet above sea level.

The Indigo Road Hospitality Group is now the owner of The Skyline Lodge in the upscale North Carolina mountain getaway of Highlands, according to a recent announcement. The Charleston-based company bought the 47-room property in the so-called plateau area near Cashiers through Mid Century Revitalization LLC.

“A complete renovation and addition of Oak Steakhouse, The Indigo Road’s modern take on the classic American steakhouse, is expected to be completed by the end of April, with a mid-May reopening of the hotel,” according to the announcement.

Steve Palmer, the company’s founder and managing partner, said he and Larry Spelts, who heads up the year-old boutique hotel division, “could not be more excited to be involved in the world-class destination that the Highlands and Cashiers area has become.”

The original structure for The Skyline Lodge was designed by a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright and it was partially constructed near the peak of Flat Top Mountain in 1929 before being sidelined by the Great Depression. The project was resurrected in the 1960s.

The lodging isn’t far from Nantahala National Forest and is within driving distance "from multiple substantial feeder markets" in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Greenville and Knoxville, the new ownership group said.

“This contributed to the Highlands hotel market enjoying a record-breaking summer during the ongoing pandemic,” according to the announcement.

The Skyline Lodge’s previous owner was Robert Nass, who operated it for nearly 30 years. A deed filed with Macon County showed the property changed hands for $2.6 million.

The Indigo Road, which recently moved to a new office building near Line and St. Phillip streets in downtown Charleston, is now involved in four food-and-beverage driven hotels, all out of town. The Highlands deal was its first acquisition, Palmer said last week.

The company's nearly two dozen restaurant concepts span several states. In addition to Oak, they include Indaco, O-ku Sushi, The MacIntosh and Mercantile & Mash.

JW Aluminum expansion February 2020

The expanded JW Aluminum plant in Goose Creek makes flat rolled aluminum for the building industry. JW Aluminum/Provided

Aluminum plant fires

You can't blame employees at JW Aluminum in Goose Creek for wanting to turn the last page on the 2020 calendar and move on to the new year.

Bad luck combined with equipment failures have resulted in four fires since August at the facility that makes rolled aluminum products for about 250 North American customers. No one has been injured by the blazes, with the latest occurring this month.

"We're definitely having a 2020 over here lately, and we all look forward to turning the corner," said company spokeswoman Nicole Snyder.

Two of the fires were related to equipment issues, and representatives from the manufacturers of that equipment have been onsite to help resolve the problems. JW Aluminum also brought in two independent experts on the equipment to provide insight into how to prevent future issues.

"The other two incidents occurred during normal operations and were addressed safely with our standard procedures," Snyder said. Those procedures include daily safety updates with employees and having workers take part in safety incident reviews and reporting.

"We work with molten metal and use machinery that creates high-friction scenarios," Snyder said. "Fires of this nature are not uncommon in our industry. We take them very seriously and we are set up to respond quickly and safely."

JW Aluminum is in the midst of a $300 million expansion that includes new equipment that will let the mill produce a continuous ribbon of flat-rolled aluminum for the home-building industry. The company has kept up production even as the expansion has taken place, something Lee McCarter — the company's executive chairman — has compared to "changing the tires while the car is running 100 mph."

Deadline day

Though the winter season has been full of distractions, the health insurance marketplace's open enrollment has carried on, and for anyone wanting to make a last-minute selection, the deadline has come.

The period during which anyone can file for health insurance subsidized by the federal government on HealthCare.gov opens Nov. 1 and ends each year on Dec. 15.

Enrollments in coverage in South Carolina appear to be down a touch since last year; there had been about 99,000 signups by Dec. 7, compared to 104,000 signups by around the same time in 2019, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

But it's the marketplace's stability in South Carolina that has brought in more insurers than ever. Most people in the state have three companies to choose from this year.

CMS data shows the average premium for South Carolinians more than doubled for plans selected between 2013 and 2018. In the last two years, however, the prices have started to level off as the market has stabilized and competition between insurers heats back up. Newcomers to the market include Bright Health, Absolute Total Care and Molina Healthcare.

The price point varies depending on age, whether the person is a smoker and whether they qualify for subsidies. Most people who use the exchanges to buy insurance receive some amount of government aid. 

Once people sign up, their coverage becomes effective Jan. 1.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and aerospace. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter and co-hosts the weekly news podcast Understand SC.

Mary Katherine, who also goes by MK, is a reporter covering health care and technology for The Post and Courier's business desk. She grew up in upstate New York and enjoys playing cards, kayaking and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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