Horry County is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, but job creation isn't moving at the same pace. Tourism is the backbone of Horry County's economy, but local leaders hope the new partnership with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation will bring in more stable and high paying jobs for residents.
The five year contract that county council unanimously approved includes $1.8 million dollars in funding. It also has a clause that says if the Myrtle Beach Regional EDC doesn't create 500 new jobs by June 30, 2013, it can be grounds for termination of the funding.
Councilman Gary Loftus says the deal is critical. "We've been saying this for years, need to diversify, and we've tried that, and with the team that's been put together,I think this is our best chance, probably last best chance to make something happen."
The team he's referring to is headed up by Brad Lofton, newly hired president of the EDC. Lofton says Compass Center, a 65,000 square foot building off Highway 707, is a prime example of space that's perfect for a technology company. "All the broadband technology in place, all the infrastructure here that's needed to locate a company whether their foreign or domestic."
As for the looming deadline to create 500 jobs, that's also in Lofton's personal contract with the EDC. Lofton says he's used to working under pressure. "I'm coming from a community where we averaged nearly a thousand jobs per year. I've got a track record in creating over 500 jobs a year."
Lofton adds he's also working around the lack of interstate access. He's focusing on recruiting companies across the country that don't need it by appealing to quality of life and expanding local companies that are already here. "We want to get out and visit six of seven companies every single month, talk to them about ways that we can help them expand we can help them add jobs, we can help them increase their capital investment in Horry County."
Lofton says the 14 million tourists who visit every year are an untapped market. "In my view at least 40, 50 percent of those folks come from a corporate culture. They may own a business, they may be in a decision making capacity for a business, so I think we need to do a better job of targeting those folks that are already vacationing here."
Funds provided by Horry County will be split into three programs: an operating fund, product development fund, and closing funds, which will be used for incentives to recruit new businesses
Loftis says Lofton has already created leads for the area, and if he and the EDC deliver, "there won't be any question about what we do from then on."
Horry County Council is not funding the new group with a tax increase. Instead, they're pulling money from their general fund, and the Atlantic Business Center fund.