I-73 to bring 22,000 plus jobs to area

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce members were pleased to hear numbers a new economy study about I-73 on Thursday.

"I-73 will bring 22,347 jobs to Horry, Marion, Dillon, and Marlboro counties after the construction is done," chief economist Christine Chmura said.

Construction of the corridor will bring an additional 7,720 jobs over a five year period as well, she added. Those jobs would primarily be in the rural areas of the counties.

That job creation is especially important in those Pee Dee counties, Churma says, because unemployment is so high. The latest March numbers showed Marion County still has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 18.9%, down from 20.2% in February. Marlboro County has the second highest unemployment in the state at 16.7%. Dillon County is at 14%. Horry County is in the best condition of the four at 11.1%. South Carolina's jobless rate was 9.9% in March, compared with 10.2% in February. The national unemployment rate was 8.8% for March.

I-73 has been discussed in South Carolina since the 1980's, but funding has never been available to build it. The South Carolina Department of Transportation applied for a $300 million grant in 2009, but only got $10 million. In November, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told SCDOT the state will get an additional $10 million. The money will be used for improvements on Highway 501 and 301 that will tie into I-73 when the proposed interstate is constructed. The grant money comes is a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

A proposed route for the interstate would start in Michigan, pass through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina near Highway 52. The interstate would then intersect with I-95, head toward Myrtle Beach and connect with Highway 501 before merging with Highway 22, the Conway Bypass. Highway 22 would actually become I-73.

Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president says there is no worry about building I-73 and then having the jobs not come as a result. He says people are already coming to the Grand Strand, this would just make the route easier.

"We're the busiest tourist destination in America without an interstate," he said.

Do you think I-73 will be a good boost to the local job market?