While touring the Walgreens Distribution Center on Monday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott praised employees he said "have overcome the odds and are maximizing their potential."
About 40 percent of the distribution center's 500 employees have mental or physical disabilities. Visible from Interstate 85, the cavernous building on Alliance Parkway has an array of features such as work stations that rely heavily on symbols to make tasks easier for these employees to complete.
Scott was led through the center by its human resources manager Larry Kraemer and career outreach coordinator Angela Mackey, who has cerebral palsy. He stopped to chat with several workers as products bound for 770 Walgreens stores sped by on conveyor belts.
"It is an impressive place," said the Charleston Republican.
Scott, who often speaks about his academic struggles in high school while growing up in a single-parent home, said he was inspired to meet employees who have refused to let disabilities sap their desire to be productive.
"It is pretty exciting," said Scott, who heard about the Walgreens distribution center's accomplishments during a recent meeting in Washington.
Scott said he intends to encourage local and state officials in South Carolina to devote more resources to providing job training for workers with disabilities.
Mackey told Scott that such training programs are vital for people seeking private-sector employment.
"It is all about partnership," she said.
Scott's tour of the distribution center marked his first visit to Anderson County since Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to replace Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate.
DeMint stepped down in January to become president of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. He also is bankrolling the newly created Palmetto Policy Forum in South Carolina.
Scott, a former state lawmaker who had been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he is familiar with the political issues in the Senate but learning about the chamber's rules has taken some time.
After staying in session until 5 a.m. Saturday to pass a budget, the Senate is on a two-week recess. Scott, who is expected to run in a special election next year for a full six-year term in the seat that DeMint held, has scheduled a series of events across the state during the break. Later Monday, he was in Greenville to open his Upstate office.
When the Senate returns to work, Scott said, he will continue focusing on efforts to lower taxes, trim spending and promote school choice.