Census change could help Myrtle Beach, hurt Wilmington

Myrtle Beach's gain has become Wilmington's loss.

In February, the US Census Bureau decided Brunswick County, NC should be considered part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan statistical area.

Officials in North Carolina say that bureaucratic move will cost their state jobs and money.

The Myrtle Beach MSA gained 112,000 people virtually overnight, a nearly 25 percent gain, because of the addition of Brunswick County.

Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation officials say that will help Myrtle Beach attract those large companies that pay close attention to population.

"Unless you meet their minimum population expectations, availability of a certain amount of labor within a 50 to 100 mile radius, you're cut before you even knew you were even in the hunt," said Myrtle Beach REDC director Brad Lofton. "It is very important to us, and I think it's going to really help us."

But Brunswick County economic officials didn't really want to join the Myrtle Beach MSA.

"Our industrial parks in the northern part of the county are closer to Wilmington, so that's why we're emphasizing and will continue to emphasize us as part of the Wilmington region," said Brunswick Co. economic development director Jim Bradshaw.

Bradshaw says the county has 3,000 acres of industrial parks located close to the Port of Wilmington. He says many people who live in Brunswick County think of themselves as being part of the Wilmington region.

"94.7 percent of Brunswick County commuters commute to New Hanover, Columbus, Wake Counties or work in Brunswick County," he said.

Bradshaw says Brunswick County and Wilmington leaders are working with their members of Congress, to try to get the census bureau to place the county back in the Wilmington MSA.

But Lofton says the silver lining for Brunswick County is that their economic development agency and Myrtle Beach's can now work together for the benefit of both.

"We have so many things in common. Tourism is really probably the number one ingredient, but quality of life on the coast, just a lot of synergy between the two or three different communities," Lofton said.

Lofton added federal transportation grants are often based on population, so the change might help Myrtle Beach get more funding for infrastructure projects like Interstate 73.