Horry County Council members take back vote on AvCraft incentive

Horry County Council members voted Tuesday to essentially take back grant money to an aviation company. In December, council agreed to the incentive for AvCraft. In return AvCraft was planning to bring 150 jobs to the Grand Strand.

Now those jobs are still up in the air, while county waits on the vote.

Horry County Council members started off their meeting Tuesday night by bringing back a vote that had previously approved a $100,000 grant incentive to AvCraft technical services. County Council by-laws allow for motions voted on in past meetings to be brought up for discussion in the following meeting at the very beginning, before the county approves its minutes.

"I was an advocate when we were investing," Councilman Jody Prince said as he brought up the motion.

"I do have a fear that anyone who has plugged into a media outlet has gotten a history lesson on this company's name. I think there are certainly other sides to this story. The last thing I want to do is to jeopardize our decision," he said.

Prince added he wanted the option to reconsider it so to give the opportunity "to make us feel all warm and fuzzy."

Prince also requested a presentation for a discussion on AvCraft at a committee of the whole meeting, where the county council will discuss the re-implementing the $100,000 incentive.

"Tell me something about the new AvCraft," Prince said.

The committee of the whole meeting will be held at Myrtle Beach International Airport, where the council also will discuss a approving a lease agreement for AvCraft at a discounted rental price. AvCraft would use the MYR space for a 10 year lease. The 10 year total rent according to council documents is listed at $3,904,050.

Council voted to defer a a third reading on the lease agreement Tuesday as well.

"{I'm} hoping to have a field trip and see what they are working on," Councilman Harold Worley said.

Council members mostly have questions about the background of AvCraft, reports of layoffs, and overall just a lack of information on the company. They said they want this information before giving it money.

"I need to hear what their plan is. What their financial plan is. What their business plan is. What their marketing plan is," Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf, District 8 told NewsChannel 15 after the meeting.

AvCraft was brought to Myrtle Beach by Ben Bartel in 2004. Maple Financial foreclosed on Bartel in 2005 and ran the Myrtle Beach operation for five years. It was purchased by Hill and Indaer in September 2010, according to online publication SCHotline.

In December, AvCraft Technical Services announced their plans to add 150 jobs over the next five years, most of them as aviation mechanics. The company currently employs about 50 people. The new employees will earn wages ranging from $15 to $26 an hour.

"It's a great investment," says Brad Lofton, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. President. Lofton is charged with the task to bring employers like AvCraft to built along the Grand Strand.

"We're something like the number one tourism center in the country, but we also have aviation, marine, and technology jobs with high wage earning salaries that we can draw employers in with."

The Horry County Council will hold a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, January 17th at 9:00 at the Myrtle Beach International Airport in the second floor conference room. AvCraft and the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. are expected to give detailed presentations at that meeting.