MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – When you drive into the Myrtle Beach International Technology & Aerospace Park (ITAP), you drive several hundred feet in, then abruptly stop. Barriers have been in place for a while, and there's nothing but an old paved road behind them.
Now, Horry County is moving forward to finish this road, and hopefully finish the plan to bring more jobs. The $3.7 million work that's set to happen will build a ramp and taxiway that will connect ITAP to MYR. It will also lay a concrete apron to park aircrafts.
The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) says the improvements will give ITAP what it needs to be marketed as a true aerospace park for large companies. The plan is to start pushing the park as soon as next week at a National Business Aviation Association Trade Show in Las Vegas. County Leaders say they believe this is what the park has been missing to grab companies' attention.
"It's a huge piece of the puzzle that we need out there at ITAP," said Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus. "To get anything connected with aviation and so forth, having a ramp and a taxiway is critical."
The multi-million dollar funding for this project is coming from an FAA grant. The bidding process is finished, and construction should start in the next couple of weeks. The entire project is expected to last 90 days.
With this latest FAA grant, it brings the total to about $8 million that have been invested at ITAP so far. It's been two years since the groundbreaking, and yet the park still sits empty.
But county leaders tell WMBF News they're not worried.
"If you can get a project going and done in a year, that's almost unheard of," explained Loftus. "So to take two to three years out, it's not uncommon. It doesn't concern us. It shouldn't concern the people."
Part of the reason is because the MBREDC CEO Brad Lofton says there's already an aerospace corridor in the region: With Boeing in Charleston, Honda in Greensboro, and Gulfstream in Savannah. Making these latest improvements could give Myrtle Beach the real chance to step up and join the pack with its own company.
ITAP stretches across 450 acres, and 200 of those are planned for aeronautical projects, which Lofton says is more than enough room for some big-time national companies.
"I think it has the potential to fundamentally change the community with some of the projects we can commit to locate out there," Lofton said.
There has already been interest in the park, Lofton added, but once the work is finished to connect it to the airport, things should really move forward. He expects a new company to move in within 18 months.