County votes to pay WestJet if business goes down

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Tuesday night Horry County leaders voted in favor of a resolution to agree to an incentives package for WestJet Airlines. The package entitles the airline up to $1 million if it goes below a 15 percent profit margin in the first six months of conducting service at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

WestJet Airlines will start flying in and out of MYR May 2nd. The airline asked the county to approve an agreement that would pay them up to $1 million if the carrier doesn't make a 15 percent profit margin, Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus said he knew the approval of the resolution at Tuesday's meeting was likely.

"They're a top-notch company, they're the number nine carrier I believe in the world. They're a financially solid company and all they're asking is a safety net just in case things don't go the way everybody thinks they will go," Loftus said.

Loftus said not only does the airline have a positive track record, but it will open up business in the Grand Strand to the entire country of Canada.

If WestJet falls below the 15 percent profit margin, the county will have to make up the difference, up to $1 million. Of the $1 million, the first $250,000 would come from the Accommodations Tax, the money that comes from anyone who stays in a hotel in the county. If more than $250,000 is needed, Councilman Marion Foxworth said the $750,000 would come from the county's reserve funds.

Loftus said he was confident the money will likely not be touched.

"Of the million dollars, we probably won't spend a penny," Loftus said.

But he added, if it's needed it will be worth it to bring the airline to Myrtle Beach.

"I don't think anyone's even contemplated that. Is it in the mix, are we contemplating that? yeah. Can we afford to do it? Yes. Is it worth the risk? Absolutely," Loftus said.

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