Horry County council approves MBREDC 3-year contract, sends SWA recycling contract to I&R committee

Horry County council approves MBREDC 3-year contract, sends SWA recycling contract to I&R committee

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The big resolution Tuesday night for Horry County Council extended the contract between the county and the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. It only passed 7-4, with some council members saying they are concerned that the corporation isn't where Horry County needs to be investing more time and money.

"I just cannot for me see where the return on our investment has paid off..." Councilman Jody Prince told fellow council members.

He said he's lost faith in the EDC, voting "no" to extending the county's contract with the group to three years.

"We've had some failures, but if you look at when the failures occurred since that slump starting in 2009, it's not been a good economic climate for people to be growing businesses," Councilman Johnny Vaught said. "I think it's entirely understandable that we've had some failures."

Failures that some say are overshadowed by the successes.

"It takes a lot of effort to get these types of businesses to move here," Vaught said. "You have to provide them incentives; you have to help them with their moving expenses; you have to help them locate businesses as far as their buildings are concerned...I think it's a necessary thing for Horry County."

One of those successes is R.J. Corman. The railroad company bought 80 miles of railroads in our area, and county council also approved a lease agreement with the company Tuesday night for another 14 miles just within Horry County.

"I think what we're going to see happen or hopefully see happen is as the railroads develop new businesses along their roads that we can maybe make up some for the interstate that everyone wants."

The main reason why many on council approved the resolution was to bring in someone to head the EDC. They're looking for a new and dynamic CEO to recruit companies to put down roots in Horry County.

"It's hard to give someone a future and say this is worth you moving here for and this is worth your effort to come here and develop industry," Vaught said. "Hopefully with us having a three year contract with EDC, then we can promise someone new coming in here a better deal and get a better person because this is not an easy sale to a lot of places."

The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation lost its four-year CEO and president, Brad Lofton, in August 2014. Then, Jim Moore was hired in January, but left in June to pursue other opportunities.

Despite the losses, EDC Board Chairman Fred Richardson said the EDC has proven itself through its mission in Horry County.

"Over the last four years, we've recruited or announced over 1200 jobs," Richardson said.

Richardson said the search process has been going on for about a month now. The EDC has its own search committee, which has accepted more than 30 applications so far from people across the country. The board chairman expects a new leader could be hired by the end of the year.

Richardson mentioned the EDC will make an announcement Wednesday about a new industry coming to the area.

County council also reconsidered a second reading of the ordinance from last week regarding a budget amendment for the Solid Waste Authority's recycling contract with Charleston.

Leaders made two amendments. One sent the item to the infrastructure and regulation committee and the other amendment would require the SWA to give progress updates to the I&R committee if the ordinance passes its third reading.

The item was put back on the table Tuesday night by Councilman Al Allen. He along with three other members of council, voted against the ordinance during the Sept. 1 meeting.

"All four of us want the contract to go forward," Vaught said. "We also want transparency between the authority board, their staff and their council, so that's one of the things we're trying to work towards."

Vaught said the Solid Waste Authority signed the contract with Charleston County to accept the county's recyclables without notifying council. He also said Sonoco in Charleston County gave the Solid Waste Authority only ten days to sign the agreement before ceasing their own recycling operations.

When the agreement was brought up to council in late August by means of an ordinance to amend the Solid Waste Authority's budget, Vaught said it was the first time the council members had heard about it, and therefore, he chose to vote against it during the second reading.

Solid Waste Authority representatives were not available for an interview Tuesday.

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