Growing the Grand Strand: economists target younger demographic

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As South Carolina continues to grow, there is a huge increase in single family homes being built and sold across Horry County. Now, economists are gathering to discuss why and how to keep that momentum going.

On Thursday, economic experts gathered for the 17th Annual Economic Growth Summit. One speaker, Robert Salvino, is a research economist with Coastal Carolina University. He discussed the local growth outlook for the Grand Strand.

He explained jobs, income, and property values are main reasons people are coming to the area.

"We suffered from the housing crash. There was a lot of job loss in construction which carries over into companies involved in the construction trade; banks, mortgage loan originators, realtors, the volume of sales, the price of sales. That goes into the homeowners in terms of the value of your own home," explained Salvino.

While that industry is building back up, so is the local economy.

Part of today's summit included research that more people are migrating to the Grand Strand from the Northeast. Local economy experts are working to determine where the economy is currently, where it has been, and how to push it forward.

"We want to know those things and how to move forward so we don't affect those things in a negative way to mitigate to slow the growth," he said.

He believes northerners are attracted to our lower taxes, growing property values, and more job opportunities.

"Locally, we are a low-tax region. The South Carolina area attracts the 55-plus demographic. We're a low property-tax state. The 55-plus, when they retire, we exempt Social Security income. Most states do that, but when you add in climate, that will bring people here - particularly to Myrtle Beach."

However, there is another age he thinks should now be targeted.

"The thing we want to increase is the 25-35 year old demographic. They're coming for some of those same reasons," he began.

People ages 25-34 are fundamental to the foundation of our economy. The more time and money they invest into the local economy, the more it will continue to grow. In addition, they have growing homes and income.

"A stable household, a growing household, income growth, that when your kid goes to college you'll have the money, when you want to retire you'll be able to live comfortably," Salvino listed as reasons someone in that age group may move here.

"There were a lot of entry level positions open in different industries," shared Bobbei Seay, a transplant to the Myrtle Beach area. Originally from a small town out-of-state, Seay moved here for those opportunities.

Being able to move up within an industry is what is keeping her here. Her fiance is also from out-of-state. He moved here to open his own business.

"That's why he relocated to the area, because of the thriving industry," she shared.

Now, they are planting their roots in the Grand Strand. After their wedding next weekend, the couple is planning to have a baby. Their parents have also relocated here.

It's a trend economists want to see continue.

"Job growth opportunities are important to the 25-34 year olds. We want to make sure we're doing the right things to increase that," said Salvino.

Robert Salvino addressed the topic and said from 1990 to 2000, the Grand Strand only saw a 0.1 percent growth from that population.

"But from 2000 to 2010 almost a 6 percent growth," said Salvino.

Economists are taking a look at what can be done at the policy level to reinforce the growth they are seeing on the Grand Strand.

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