MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Local leaders gathered for a forum at the Asher Theatre Wednesday afternoon to discuss economic development and infrastructure in Horry County.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce used the forum to assure the community that I-73 is still very much a top priority.
“We’re continuing to work hard. And it really is going to be a local, state, federal approach in terms of securing the funding needed for the interstate," said Jimmy Gray, director of Government Affairs for MBACC.
This comes amid a legal battle between the county and local governments over hospitality fees, which the county says has left them without a funding source for the project. With money for the interstate still up in the air, the chamber says its focusing efforts on securing funds at the state and local level.
“This is going to be an expensive project, there’s no denying that. And we will need to rely on some support from the state and federal government," said Gray.
Despite ongoing disputes between cities, towns and the county, a recent survey put out by the MBACC shows more than 74% of people who live in Horry County said their opinion of I-73 is either favorable or very favorable.
Justin Powell, deputy secretary for Finance and Administration for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said the department is moving forward on right-of-way acquisition in the proposed corridor for I-73.
Existing infrastructure was also a topic of discussion.
The fast-growing Myrtle Beach International Airport saw an upward trend in arriving passengers from 742,000 in 2012 to more than 1.25 million passengers last year.
“In 2018 the airport was one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States. And during our shoulder seasons we were in the top 5 fastest growing," said Kirk Lovell, director of Air Services and Business Development for MYR.
Lovell said the airport has seen recent success with its newest nonstop service to Houston, which brought in an average of 685 first-time visitors to the Myrtle Beach area from May to August.
“There’s still a whole part of the United States that we’ve not even tapped into but we see as huge opportunities in the next several years. so as long as the airline industry stays strong and healthy, there’s no reason we can’t keep growing the airport," said Lovell.