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      Google it! North Myrtle Beach receives Google eCity award

      Google announced Tuesday that North Myrtle Beach has been named the 2013 eCity of South Carolina. The eCity Awards recognize the strongest online business community in each state - the digital capitals of America.

      "We discovered that North Myrtle Beach rises to the top when it comes to a city that is wired, a city where people are using social media and online tools to promote their businesses," said Lilyn Hester, Google's Southeast public affairs manager.

      The president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce admits he was a bit surprised to hear that his city had been chosen as the state's e-commerce leader, but he says considering what some local businesses are doing online, maybe it isn't such a surprise.

      "When you hear some of the background and profiles of some of the businesses we have in our community and where their customers are, it would really kind of blow you away," said Chamber president Marc Jordan.

      North Myrtle Beach-based homebuilder Fred Coyne was an early convert to the Internet. He put up his first web site in 1999.

      But Coyne says for many years the site was little more than an online billboard. Then he decided to add features like videos, testimonials and a blog.

      "About 3 years ago, we started getting serious inquiries online," said Coyne, who owns Westbridge Homes.

      Today, Coyne says the web site is a critical part of his business, helping him connect with potential customers all over the country.

      "It gives them an opportunity to look at their own time, do their own research at their own pace, and it helps them kind of get a comfortable feeling," Coyne said.

      Google held its announcement Tuesday at Southern Sunrise Pancake House, which has its own online presence, and where customers often combine an Internet search on a mobile device with their waffles and eggs.

      "We live in a digital world," Jordan said.

      For more information on the eCity intiative, click here www.google.com/ecities.