Plan to boost industry in Horry Co. could generate billions

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Bringing in big business to Horry County comes at a high cost. A brand new economic development plan is in the works, and it could impact taxpayers' wallets.

The new aggressive approach created by the consulting firm Strategic Development Group Inc. was presented to Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development board members during Tuesday's meeting.

The new plan provides steps meant to enhance what the county has to offer to prospective companies. Leaders with the MBREDC say so far their team and the county have come a long way with economic development. However, say there is major room for improvement. The team says they hit major road blocks when trying to real in companies looking to relocate.

Brad Lofton, President & CEO of MBREDC, says the county lacks in sites and buildings ready for big companies to move in. This new development plan calls for buying land within the county to make room for new business parks, and making upgrades to existing parks like ITAP near Myrtle Beach International, and the upcoming marine industrial park in Bucksport.

The plan would require a $60 million investment, including operational expenses over 15 years. The plan also explains the projected economic impact.

"Moving forward, Coastal Carolina is predicting an 80 to one return. So you look at funding 60 million dollars over 15 years, you look at returning nearly $1.8 billion a year in new output in the community," explained Lofton.

Funding is also detailed in the plan. Tax money would be used in two funding options on the table. Option 'A' would call for a property tax increase. Option 'B' would extend the 1% Horry County sales tax used for road improvements. It's due to expire next year, but the idea is to keep it going for an additional 15 years and change how that tax money can be used to include economic development. With option 'C', the money would come from a combination of state and federal grants.

Lofton says there is still a long ways to go before a decision on funding can be made.

"The EDC board approved the plan that was developed by our consultant and that provided us with the authority to present it to council. So that was literally the first step. Now that we got it approved and our board behind it, we can try to go present it."

According for Lofton, the new economic development plan will be up for discussion during an upcoming Horry County Council meeting on August 13.

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