There's No Place Like Home

Do you know where Sumter, South Carolina is located? Eric Fletty and I didn’t either.

The genesis of our adventure began nearly three years ago from a conversation with Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Larry Rocco. Larry informed us of his career change after 25 years and we started asking questions. Thanks to Larry and Jill Williamson for setting up this visit.

We knew the name “Thompson Industrial Services” but really did not understand their foundation, principles, or the multiple options that this company had to the offer our industry.

Thompson Home Photo  Larry Rocco 2


The picture started to come into focus when we met with, who some call, a “Lifetime Serial Entrepreneur” - President & CEO, Greg A. Thompson.

In 1986, Greg left the family business and stepped out on his own. He started with 3 employees, a borrowed truck and a $10,000 loan, and as they say, the rest is history, or in Greg’s case, the Future.

The company has grown to approximately 2300 employees in 20 locations, consisting of the Thompson Construction Group, Thompson Turner Construction and Thompson Industrial Services.

You will get it when you visit their Corporate Offices at 100 N. Main St. Sumter, SC 29150, located in an amazingly restored historic 108-year-old building in Downtown Sumter.

Thompson 3Corporate Office 4Another Office 5


Our specific interest for this article is with Thompson Industrial Services.

One of Greg’s missions is to keep the Family Culture inside Thompson. One of the best examples of this is this Master Chef-style kitchen inside the corporate office. Greg commented that he grew up on a farm and they always met around the kitchen table and discussed their plans for the day or situations that they needed to tend to.

He keeps that same momentum today by having morning meetings with his senior management around this same kitchen table.

One thing he requests from his team is to tell each other one thing they do great and one thing they need to work on. Sounds a little scary but you know that’s what close families do.

Kitchen Table 6

Thompson Industrial Services serves these primary industries listed in order of their business:

  • 1.Pulp & Paper
  • 2.Steel
  • 3.Fossil Power
  • 4.Petrol Chemical & Refineries
  • 5.Nuclear
  • 6.Mining

Their Services include: Automated Hydroblasting, Chemical Cleaning, Cryogenic Cleaning (Dry Ice Blasting), High Volume Hydroblasting, In-Situ SCR Catalyst Cleaning, Combustible Dust Remediation, FINFOAM Air-cooled Heat Exchanger Cleaning, Pneumatic & Hydro-Vacuum Excavation, 40K Hydro-cutting, Wet & Dry Vacuuming and Nuclear Services.

Thompson has introduced cleaning automation to the mills as an extension from work at other industries. This has proven to be much safer and more productive. “We have a world class TIR for our industry and relate a cost-per-ton productivity to the mill’s outages,” he said. “Downtime costs are huge, so we are in the business of maximizing uptime. Our goal is to do the safest possible job and keep your downtime to a minimum.” 

In addition, Greg tells me that their priority is cost containment. They sit down with their customer’s team and spend time detailing the plan for an outage and then they work the plan. It makes the job considerably more seamless.

Over the past 18 months they have added resources to better plan their time, and even developed a dedicated Outage and Project Management Team.

Their strategy seems to be paying off. Because of their attention to safety, their industry-unique high volume pumps and the teams they have put together, Thomson Industrial Services is highly recognized as a leader in cleaning Recovery Boilers to the tune of an average of one every 5 days.

They work with contractors as well as manufacturers. One of their offerings is for “safe dig” excavation utilizing their vacuum trucks in conjunction with air or hydro assist. These trucks are used to prevent underground line breaks by safely exposing sub-surface utilities, which is especially beneficial in older facilities such as our mills. 

Thompson’s teams have 30-40 years of experience in chemical cleaning, recovery and power boiler, Digesters, Evaporators and all types of Pulp & Paper equipment.

Greg’s love for paper mills even led him to marry his wife Danielle. At one time her father was Mill Manager at the Port Edwards Mill in Wisconsin. Danielle was raised in both Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids, and actually worked in a paper mill. How is that for a tie in?

Both Danielle and Greg believe in Sumter, SC. They have invested heavily in the downtown area and currently have a wonderful first class restaurant, Hamptons, a pub called Side Bar and they are getting ready to build another restaurant and a hotel. Now that is what I call really putting your money where your mouth is about your home town.

Hamptons 7


In Greg’s “spare time” his involvement in the local community has been legendary: (to name a few)

  • Chair of the Sumter Economic Development Board
  • A founding member of the Sumter Smarter Growth Initiatives
  • Former member of the Tuomey Hospital Board

Greg says the city’s success comes in the form of a three-legged stool, with cooperation from the Private Sector, City and County.

For more information on Thompson Industrial Services please go to www.ThompsonIndustrialServices.com

For more information on TAPPI please go to www.tappi.org

Remember, there are two types of people in our industry, TAPPI Members and those who should be.

Until next time…………………….Larry