Robots, drones, digital stuff on display at the Grand Strand Tech Expo

Technology companies are gaining a foothold in the Grand Strand economy.

Many of them showed off their stuff at the annual Grand Strand Tech Expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center Wednesday.

Robots, drones, iPads, computers and hundreds of other high tech devices were on display.

Does all that digital and remote controlled stuff mean the Grand Strand is really going high tech?

Local economic development officials say the area is getting closer. One big selling point is Internet connectivity.

"We actually have a very robust fiber optic infrastructure in place, so that makes it a big draw and benefit to companies that are looking to relocate their technology businesses here. It's one of our biggest sellers," said Morgan Dendy, Public Relations Director for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.

Digital security expert Mike Schroll, who manned a booth for the collaborative tech firm CoWork MYR, says he would rank Myrtle Beach about a four on a high tech scale of one to ten.

In other words, above average but not quite Silicon Valley.

Schroll says high tech is something that can be done well in Myrtle Beach.

"We don't need highways and railroads, we don't need expensive resources. We already have the high speed Internet."

Schroll says he moved to the area from Boston in large part because of the Grand Strand's abundant fiber optic network.

The organizer of the tech expo says asking whether the Grand Strand is high tech may be the wrong question. He says the Myrtle Beach area is as tech savvy as it needs to be.

"We don't need to be high tech. Everyone has to decide what is technology for. Is it to improve your life, is it to make money?" asked John Sanders, chairman of the Grand Strand Technology Council.

Sanders says the 70 tech expo exhibitors mostly displayed what he calls practical technology, what people need to get their work done.

At the same time, Sanders says the future is in the 1,200 students who participated in the Horry County School's Technology Fair, which was held in a convention center ballroom next door to the tech expo.

The students showed off nearly 400 entries, in categories like animated graphics, robotics and multimedia editing.

Sanders says someday, the kids in the school tech fair will be looking for high-paying technology careers.

"And if we want to keep those kids around, we got to get those jobs."