Alderman's building

Provalus is moving into the historic Alderman's 20 Stores in One space, also known as The Belk Building, in downtown Manning. Provided/S.C. Department of Archives and History.

A company that develops information-technology talent in rural areas of the country announced it is adding an office along the I-95 corridor in Clarendon County and bringing 105 new jobs with it.

Provalus, which is headquartered in Alabama, was founded in 2017 to build up skilled U.S. tech workers that its clients can hire under outsourcing arrangements. 

The office in downtown Manning, the county seat, will be the company's third location.

Chuck Ruggiero, president of Provalus, said the firm gives its job applicants an aptitude test. If they score high enough, they will be offered training in the IT field. Provalus then will hire them to be part of its outsourcing workforce, which provides tech support to mostly large corporations around the country.

"We're strong believers that aptitude is stronger than education," Ruggiero said. 

He said Provalus is aiming to rebuild the middle class in the rural communities where it operates. Ruggiero said he had his eye on Manning when the company was just getting started, but it ultimately decided to target Brewton, Ala., and Jasper, Texas. 

George Kosinski, executive director of the Clarendon County Development Board, has high hopes for Provalus, which has stated that its goal is to "elevate under-served communities by providing technology, business and data positions to untapped talent in the U.S."

"We truly believe this will change the face of downtown Manning," Kosinski said.

He said the economic development project that brought Provalus to South Carolina was assigned a code name: "Gamechanger."

The jobs will range from positions on a help desk to software development and cybersecurity, Kosinski said. The first 30 employees are schedule to begin work on Jan. 1 from a temporary space at Central Carolina Technical College

Meanwhile, a prominent building in Manning will be upfitted for Provalus's permanent home. 

Alderman's 20 Stores in One, also called The Belk Building, was built in 1919. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was the county's first mall and is the largest storefront in Manning, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History. Improvements are expected to be completed by late summer 2020. The city purchased the property in 2017.

Clarendon County is home to 33,700 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income is $35,838, and the unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in September.

Kosinski said Provalus will be a "catalyst for future development" and could revitalize downtown Manning.

"They are excellent corporate partners and plan to work closely with the local community to determine needs and contribute where they can make the largest impact," Kosinski said.

Amazon sellers

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A firm with a growing Charleston connection says a recent acquisition will help it to better serve companies that sell on the Amazon marketplace.

Seller Labs' software can help companies manage listings, data and marketing.

Now, it is buying another e-commerce firm, X-cart. Both companies will operate under the Seller Labs name. The firm also has two offices in Russia.

Hank Harris, CEO of Seller Labs, said the purchase will allow the firm to offer better support to its customers.

"Brands are expanding their businesses into additional channels allowing them to reach their current and potential customers where they shop," Harris said in a press release. "We intend to support our customers in this channel expansion."

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company has its headquarters in Athens, Ga., but the company's vice president of marketing said roughly half of the firm's executive team works in Charleston. It has an office at the Charleston Digital Corridor on Meeting and Mary Streets.

Seller Labs, founded in 2013, has expanded in Charleston and continues to hire here, she said.

Amazon doesn't manufacture the majority of products it sells on its platform. Most are listed on the Amazon website by third-party sellers. More than 100 million Americans have an Amazon Prime subscription, which offers customers free shipping on many of the items sold through the website.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.