Goodwill Industries on a growth spurt in Horry County

While many local businesses are struggling through a weak economy, one non-profit organization is booming.

Goodwill Industries is on a building spree on the Grand Strand.

As recently as 2007, there were no Goodwill stores in Horry County. Today, there are three, in Little River, Surfside Beach and Conway. A fourth store will open in North Myrtle Beach next month and a fifth is being built at Carolina Forest, scheduled to open early next year.

Goodwill's workforce development director for Horry County said the same thing is happening all over the country and the current economy has much to do with it.

"There was a tremendous need for a thrift store concept, but there's even a greater need because of the unemployment issues in our country, for our services that we provide for the community," said Rick Shelley, who works out of Goodwill's retail location in Little River.

Part of Goodwill's mission as a non-profit is to employ disabled people. Shelley said about 50 percent of its workforce in Horry County is disabled.

But Goodwill also offers skills training and job search services, like computer access, to anyone who needs it.

"We also help them with interviewing skills," Shelley said. "A lot of folks who are unemployed today have not had to sit down and do a job interview in a long time, if ever. So we try to help them to prepare to do that."

The nonprofit also offers employment for people like Brian Geise.

Geise worked in landscaping in the Myrtle Beach area before those jobs dried up. Now, he said, Goodwill offers him something more stable.

"This is the type of work that is always needed and there's a chance to grow," Geise said.

The Little River store employs around 45 people, Shelley said. The Surfside Beach store is larger and has a workforce of about 55 and the Conway store, the smallest in the area, has 32 employees.

The new store in North Myrtle Beach will create close to 50 jobs and will also have the largest job service center in the area.

The weak economy is also why thrift stores like Goodwill, which sells used donated clothing and household items, are thriving.

"One person's trash is another person's treasure," said Shelley. "Here at Goodwill, we have a lot of those."

The Little River store processes about 2,500 pieces of used clothing every day.