MYRTLE BEACH, SC - It's not just Myrtle Beach's beautiful sand and easy access to the ocean that draws in visitors, but investors from around the globe have found potential in the coastal city. They've put millions of dollars into the economy with new projects, and local leaders hope those kinds of investments continue.
"We're knocking on doors and selling Myrtle Beach," Mayor John Rhodes said.
Rhodes will be flying out of Myrtle Beach Tuesday, leaving behind the city he runs, to hopefully bring in new money to keep the area thriving.
"We have areas that are blighted that I would like to see some outside investor to come in and help us build Myrtle Beach and grow Myrtle Beach in a more positive manner than where we are right now," Rhodes said.
Much of that help could come from China where Rhodes will be promoting the "Golf Capital of the World" as a getaway destination for foreign travelers.
"We know we're not that big name city like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or Miami Beach, but we have something here we can show them that they can't get in these other locations," Rhodes said.
Investors seem to agree and say the appeal is simple.
"We love golfing. We love fishing, and boating is one of the best things we can do. In China we don't have that," Khon Reid with Hong Yang Lantern (SC) Inc. said. "Also the opportunity of investing with restaurants and tourism, it's also the southern hospitality. People are very friendly here."
The Chinese have already laid down roots in Myrtle Beach, buying golf courses, the Waccamaw Pottery Shopping Center, and investments in other restaurants and areas of the city.
"We're growing, and we're growing leaps and bounds, and it's because of the exposure we're getting through our promotional efforts," Rhodes said.
These efforts are being taken outside the United States because, according to Rhodes, the opportunities are just not here right now.
"When you look at, for instance, this $100 million that was spent by the Chinese...there was no financing. That was cash money, so we've only had a few opportunities for our city that we've had Americans make investments that are of any significant value," Rhodes said.
Myrtle Beach is fronting the bill for Rhodes' plane tickets, but it's up to leaders in China to cover the rest of his costs. He estimates the city to spend about $2,500 total for his flights.
He will also be making a stop in Tiberias, Israel. It's soon to be Myrtle Beach's "sister-city" in the Middle East. He will also be promoting the Grand Strand there as a getaway destination, hoping to bring in visitors from around the globe.