Local Daimler workers get anniversary gift

The 1886 Benz Patent Motor Car, designed by German carmaker Karl Benz 125 years ago last week, is on display in a museum in Munich.

Workers at the Daimler Vans Manufacturing LLC plant off Ladson Road in North Charleston will find a little something extra under the hood next month.

Daimler AG said last week it will pay a special bonus of up to about $1,370 each to its employees worldwide to mark the 125th anniversary of Karl Benz's first automobile patent.

The Associated Press reported that the payments will total $170 million and will go out at the end of February. Anyone who has worked for Daimler for more than a year will be eligible, and the size of the payments will depend on how long people have been with the company. Daimler has 260,000 employees worldwide.

CEO Dieter Zetsche said the payment is meant to reward the commitment of its workers, "not least the efforts and success of the recent past." Daimler's employees "made a very significant contribution to Daimler's strong comeback last year," he said.

The German company's Sprinter business began operations in Palmetto Commerce Park about four years ago. Workers there reassemble imported utility vans that are shipped in kits. The vehicles are sold under the Mercedes-Benz badge.

Dredge report

In the escalating debate over harbor dredging, some muck is certainly being raked as the number of seats at the table expands.

Comments flew in from South Carolina and Georgia agencies interested in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, including plenty of criticism from this side of the river.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control disagreed with the amount of time allowed for comments and reserved the right to chime in further before proceeding to list, point by point, how the project would degrade coastal resources and habitats.

The Army Corps of Engineers intends to deepen Savannah Harbor to as much as 48 feet from 42 feet, but because Georgia and South Carolina share the Savannah River, environmental regulators in both states must sign off on the project.

DHEC's comments warn that using Jasper County for dredge disposal in deepening the Savannah Harbor could eliminate the opportunity to develop a joint Georgia-South Carolina Jasper terminal later.

The Savannah River Maritime Commission and the Southern Environmental Law Center made similar comments.

Harbor dredging is a critical issue in the shipping industry. The 2014 Panama Canal expansion will bring with it larger container ships that require deeper ports.

Nice work

Not one South Carolina-based business made Fortune magazine's annual ranking of the best companies to work for. But Aflac's Columbia office wrangled an honorable mention among the top 100 employers.

"Insurance firm treats employees, two-thirds of whom are women, to on-site child care and occasional half-day pampering binges," Fortune said in its latest issue.

Aflac is based in Columbia, Ga., and has 167 employees in the Midlands, according to Fortune.

Also making the grade were at least a dozen other multistate businesses that have operations in the Charleston area.

Internet search giant Google, which is expanding its top-secret data center near Goose Creek and is a perennial on the Fortune list, came in at No. 4.

Among the other workplaces that Fortune found treat their employees well: Edward Jones, No. 11; Scottrade, No. 12; Whole Foods Market, No. 24; Publix Super Markets, No. 67; Marriott International, No. 71; Men's Wearhouse, No. 87; Aeropostale, No. 94; Darden Restaurants, No. 97; and Starbucks, No. 98.

The absolute best place to work happens to be from the other Carolina: Cary-based software maker SAS, which is known for its generous employee perks and its near-flawless retention rate.

Plugged in

Companies probably wouldn't put out the results of a customer satisfaction survey that didn't shine a favorable light on them. So Santee Cooper's pat on the back in a press release last week means its self-commissioned study wasn't too bad.

According to MarketSearch, a Columbia research firm that conducted the survey, 97.6 percent of the Moncks Corner-based utility's customers were satisfied with the company last year.

Santee Cooper said that's far and above any of the other utilities in South Carolina, which, on average, garnered 87.3 percent satisfaction. The national average was 83.9 percent, according to the utility.

On the environment, 98 percent of residential customers said they are satisfied with Santee Cooper's conservation programs, which guide customers to use energy more efficiently.

Nearly all, 98 percent, indicated they are satisfied with Santee Cooper's concern for customers.

The company didn't score as high on the price of its electricity, with 88 percent saying Santee Cooper's power is worth the price they pay and that they are satisfied with the utility's rates compared with the cost of other products and services.

License check

Attention employers that generate sales revenue within the City of Charleston: Business license renewal forms that were mailed out Jan. 5 are due back today. Lost it? To obtain a new form, print a blank form from the city's website, www.charleston-sc.gov. Click on "business license information" in the "Where can I Find" drop-down menu on the home page.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.