MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Brad Lofton, who moved from Georgia to take over the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation three years ago, is stepping down as CEO and returning home.
Lofton told members of the Conway Kiwanis Club Tuesday that he would be leaving the Grand Strand post soon to return to south Georgia.
Lofton had plans to announce his resignation this Thursday, but says EDC board leaders have known and been very understanding of the reasoning behind it all.
"You know I've enjoyed every single second of working in Horry County," says Lofton.
Brad Lofton says he needs to break his contract early for family reasons. He will be going home to Georgia to be there for sick relatives.
Lofton explained the ins and outs of his role as the President and CEO of the MBREDC.
He says he was the central point of contact for companies - he managed the recruitment process, traveled to pursue those opportunities while expanding existing industries, but above all, recruited new jobs to the county. Since Lofton's arrival, the EDC has announced more than 1,500 jobs.
Lofton says he was part of the team that put Horry County on the manufacturing map, and the EDC Board Chairman couldn't agree more.
"He's done a lot of great things here. He's got us off the ground. He's got up and running. I really feel confident that we can move forward, because some of the things that he has done in the past," explains Fred Richardson, Chairman of the EDC Board.
Lofton says the plan that they put in motion has worked and they built a lot of momentum, with a lot of new jobs coming, and a lot of people employed because of the EDC.
"We are going to have 1,500 new jobs here come online in the next eight months, and we're really delighted about that impact, and there are other prospects in the pipeline too, so I'm leaving the EDC hopefully in a lot better hands than I found it," Lofton said.
Lofton explains they already have 500 W2's in and expect more to follow with the growth of StarTek and Accent Stainless Steal in Loris.
One thing Lofton says he is most proud to take away from his three and a half years here is how local leaders and officials backed economic development, even with Horry County cutting back on funding last year.
Lofton says it's still more than what they have ever confirmed in the past.
"They said, look enough is enough, we need to be aggressive. We need to have resources that would allow us to compete against Greenville, Spartenburg, Columbia, Atlanta and other areas of the country. So they've all stepped up," Lofton said. "They've given us the resources - the proof is in the pudding. We've been successful."
The EDC Chairman sees that progress, which is why he knows they need someone to fill Lofton's shoes, but until then, they will still be on their A game.
"We've got all of our components other than the president which we won't have, but I think we will make it work. Certainly it will be somewhat of a slowdown in activity but I think we'll keep it going and we won't miss anyone that's looking to come here," says Richardson.
Lofton did give updates on projects he is leaving behind, but he is confident they are in good hands.
He says before they move forward with forward with ITAP they will need engineering permits. They are currently working to do so.
He also mentions the Carolina Southern Railroads and hints there will be an announcement within the next few days.
"Well the good news is, you know, I think we have the best negotiator I've ever worked for, Doug Wendell, leading the charge to get that settles," Lofton said. "I know we've in the last few days come to some agreements regarding how we are going to move forward, and I think you'll be seeing something come out in the next few days, but I believe maybe a year, year and a half, we're going to see trains running on that track and it will help out existing industries, and it will help us recruit industries that need railroad. We've worked awfully hard to get that up and running and I think it's only a matter of time."
Lofton is sad to say this will be the end of the road in Horry County, but knows the team he is leaving behind is more than ready to close out on projects without him.
"Myrtle Beach will be just as attractive the day I leave - we just have to get closer to home," he said.
MBREDC Chairman Fred Richardson says they will be meeting next Wednesday where he expects the executive committee to name a search committee,and they'll decide where to go from there, but he says they will be moving as fast as possible to fill the position. As for Lofton, his last day will be sometime in mid August.